Trolling Tips on Lake WinnebagoBy Scott Ehricke - June 1, 2009
If you are going to troll with crank baits, do yourself a favor, and go and buy the book, Precision Trolling. This book shows all the depth curves for almost every crank bait known. It is about $25.00 and can be found at any Gander Mountain, Wal-Mart, or Cabelas.
Make sure while trolling, you put a few baits high in the water column. Too many times I see people with all their baits tight to the bottom, and at the end of the day, they have nothing to show for their work. Walleyes will tend to feed up, meaning they will look for food above them, before looking down. If your bait is tight to the bottom, you could be missing a lot of active feeding fish.
On sunny days, try and use baits that are colorful, such as Live Target Lures, Reef Runners, Flicker Shads, Rapalas, or Wally Divers. The brighter color will reflect a lot of light, and could trigger a strike.
On cloudy or overcast days, use baits that resemble the natural forage of the lake such as perch colored baits, baby bass baits, or baits that resemble gizzard shad. 95% of a walleyes diet is perch shad, so try and use that to your advantage. I like using a natural perch colored Live Target Lure, about 4-7 feet down on an overcast day.
Never troll in a direct straight line. Always maneuver your boat in an "S" shaped line. This will speed up your baits on one side, and then slow them down on the other. If fish are hitting on one side of the boat only, you need to adjust your speed. Let the fish decide what speed they want, and then make your adjustments.
Do not forget to try and troll the shallow water on the west shore. Walleyes have been known to be tight to shore in as little as 1-3 feet of water. Look for rocky shorelines where the wind is crashing in to it, and try and run some shallow baits here. I like to run crawler harnesses, Scootchie Rigs, #5 Flicker Shads or #5 Shad Raps in these type of areas.
Tip your crank baits with a piece of crawler on the front hooks of your baits. This will not affect your bait at all, and puts a good scent in the water for the walleyes to look for. Do not use a leech on your baits, as they ball up on your hook, and will cause your bait to not function properly. I found this out the hard way!
Make sure your baits are running true in the water, and not pushing to one side or the other. If the bait is running to one side you will need to tune the bait, by bending the clasp on the lip of the bait. Do not bend it too much, or the bait will now steer too far the other way. I believe Rapala makes a tool exclusively for tuning your baits. I just use a pair of pliers myself.
I like to use Off-Shore Planer Boards. They run high in the water, and if you put the tattletale flags on them, it is very easy to tell when you have a strike. I would suggest these for anyone. Make sure to get your planer boards away from the boat. I have seen it where guys are trolling, and there first board is about 10 feet away from the boat. Planer boards are meant to place your baits away from the boat noise and the wake of your boat. I place mine at 40, 80, and 120 feet away from the boat almost exclusively.
When trolling in the "MUD" run your lures too various depths, and then after you establish where the fish are in the water column, move all your baits to that depth. If you seem to nail two or three fish in a specific location, mark it on your GPS, and continue to go over that spot a few times. I have seen too many people hit a few fish in a short period of time, and then just keep going in one direction. This is a huge mistake. The fish are there for a reason, so go back there and get a few more.
When it comes to gear for trolling there are a lot of different combos to choose from. I get asked this question a lot, so I thought I would list here what I use for trolling and how to contact the manufacturers.
I use all Okuma's in model # CGL-C-802M. This is an 8-foot rod and I love the way it feels and they are priced right. These rods are two-piece. Visit www.okumafishing.com for more information on these rods.
I use Okuma Convector reels in model #CV30L. These reels are great to handle and the clickers on them are fantastic. I suggest these reels for either the beginner or the seasoned pro. Visit their website at www.okumafishing.com for more information on these reels.
I use Viscious fishing line on all my trolling rods. I use 10# monofilament on my rods because this is what the book Precision Trolling is based on, and that is why most people who troll on Lake Winnebago use 10#. Visit www.visious-fishing.com for more information on their fishing line.
I use Off-Shore Planer boards only. When you team these up with the tattletale flag they are simply the best board on the market. Visit www.offshoretackle.com for more information on these boards.
I hope this article gives you a few tips on trolling and it helps you place more fish in the live well. Remember as you troll more and more, you will start to develop your own method as well. Feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns you may have. Have fun while trolling and remember to take a kid fishing.