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Night Trolling for Big Walleye

Dusting off the trolling gear from a long winter’s nap is not for the faint of heart. Spring temps aren’t usually all that forgiving across most of the lower 48, but in Colorado, sitting a mile closer to the sun has some early season perks. Certainly, slathering on sunscreen again isn’t one of them. That’s part of the reason you can find me dropping the boat in the water just as the sun begins its trip around the other half of the world.

It’s no secret that the darkness brings on lots of advantages when you talk walleye fishing. But why? Well, as I tell most of my clients and friends, it’s all really because of the “tapetum lucidum.” Now before you think I’m some literary guru, it really just describes the way a walleye’s eyes are able to reflect light, like a cat. By definition, it’s “a layer of tissue in the eye, lying immediately behind the retina; it is a retroreflector. It reflects visible light back through the retina, increasing the light available to the photoreceptors.” This is what lends to the walleye’s incredible sight at night. 

When we put the boat in gear and head to our first spot there are a couple absolutes in my mind. We are going to use stick baits and we are going to fish them shallow. Long stick baits like Rogues, Rapala’s, and Bombers, all have earned a permanent spot in my tackle locker. Spring walleye, no matter what stage of the spawn, are not moving too quickly. The slow wobble of these stick baits produce more fish than a fast action crank at night, even though our reservoirs are filled with gizzard shad, which carry a smaller profile like a crankbait. Secondarily, the longer profile bait gives the walleye more to look at as they silhouette the bait above them while it tracks through the shallows.In general, I want to build a pattern and repeat that pattern. That is what trolling is all about.

My gear consists of the Professional Walleye 7’ Casting Rod in Medium action (PRO WC 704-1) paired up with a 20 size line counting reel. The 7’ rod allows me to be extremely mobile in my boat. By keeping 7’ rods, when I catch a fish on one planer board, I can simply reel that fish in and rotate all the rods on that side of the boat forward. Then I can easily re-release the bait and set that rod in the now empty last rod holder spot. All this without ever missing a beat on the troll and hopefully tagging a few more fish along with it. The 7’ rods also provide a fair amount of give for the big waves without pulsing or shooting the planer board at the top of the break, and enough power to reel in the board, bait, and potential 25+” walleye.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

Planer boards are a popular way to keep your baits separated and also target the fish that spook away from the boat. Typically, fish will spook out perpendicular to the boat’s direction of travel, making planer boards a good choice all around. You can make them easier to see in the dark with reflective tape and boat mounted LEDs, lights that mount to the board, or just a traditional headlamp. Albeit, you can just as easily catch fish with the proper amount of line out behind the boat. I would recommend, if you fish without boards, to go for a trolling rod instead of a casting rod. The new Professional Walleye 8’6” (PRO WTC 864-1T) or the 2 piece 10’ (PRO WTC 1004-2) Professional Walleye Trolling rods will serve the purpose of keeping your baits separated and providing a little more backbone for hooking fish when a planer board is not in use.

We typically fish anywhere from 1-6 feet below the surface and in depths of 6-30 feet. When we start to build a pattern, we want to try multiple colors, different styles of baits, and varying depths. We may set one bait back 15 feet from a planer board for a shallow run and the next one 30 feet back. If we find one depth is being favored we can quickly match that with the line counters. Then from there, we can dial in a color or action that is working well. Once we catch consistent fish on one single pattern, we switch everything to that exact depth and bait. At this point, we’ve built a fairly good pattern that might be tuned in further by direction or travel, speed (1.4 – 1.8 MPH), or location. 

All things considered, it’s usually not a bad way to spend a weekend night. It’s a bit colder than fishing under the giant solar heat lamp of day but arguably the best perk of braving the dark and chilly is the chance at a fish of a lifetime. A larger female sow walleye will lay roughly 500,000 eggs during the spawn. This expends tremendous amounts of energy, and after a bit of a resting period, the game is on to replenish the much needed nutrition lost during the event. Spring and fall are the best times to target these big fish but please remember how vital they can be to any ecosystem when just one fish produces so many eggs, only fractions of which will survive to become a catchable size. A picture will serve its purpose in securing a great memory and if you like something for the wall, today’s replicas are usually much better quality and a lot easier on the wallet than a traditional fish mount.

So embrace the dark or leave it, but if you haven’t tried it at least once, do. It’s harder to say yes to life’s little challenges as we get more comfortable in what we know. Seek discomfort, and you may just find the biggest walleye of your life hanging on at the end of your line.

 

Photo: Chris Edlin

Blog written by Colorado based TFO Ambassador Chris Edlin. You can find out more about Chris at his Youtube channel here.

Precision Trolling Tactics for Spring Walleye

Spring is an excellent time to catch some trophy walleye, and tactics such as precision trolling with TFO’s new Professional Walleye Trolling series is the ideal method and tool for this scenario. This week, we catch up with Ambassador Will Dykstra (who helped with the design and feedback of the new trolling rods), to discuss spring walleye fishing and how he’s rigging and using the Professional Walleye trolling rods.

TFO: Walleye season opener is coming up for some states, but you’ve already had a head start out west in Colorado. Can you talk about how you’ve been/are fishing for walleye this spring?

WD: This time of year, we’re looking at prespawn/spawn/post spawn fish – the post spawn bite is probably your best trophy bite of the whole year. Precision trolling with crankbaits and big stick baits with planer boards is the hot ticket. This method works especially well right now in Colorado, but will also work in just about every walleye fishery in the country. We also do a lot of night trolling during the spring with 4”-6” jerk baits so we can dial in on those plainer boards and get the fish in. My go-to rod is the new 8’6” Medium Professional Walleye Trolling rod.

PRO WTC 864-1T

When you’re precision trolling for fish right above structure or in the actual strike zone of fish – if it’s too high or too low, those fish aren’t going to take your bait. When you have planer boards that are surging because the rods tips can’t absorb the weight of the planer board, you’re going to spend a lot less time fishing the strike zone. For me, having the forgiving action on the 8’6’ trolling rods allows me to stay fishing in the zone the entire time with minimal planer board surge.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

TFO: What types of baits or lures do you typically use this time of year on your fisheries? Additionally, what type of line and reel setup are you using for precision trolling?

WD: Here in Colorado, we have mostly gizzard shad in our lakes, so we are primarily focused on trying to find the piles of gizzard shad and setting our baits to the current distance behind the boards to make sure we are fishing the strike zone.

I use 10 lb. monofilament line. Basically, every dive chart created for every lure was based off of 10 lb. monofilament line. I prefer to use the P-Line CXX X-Tra Strong series because of its durability. It’s also really important to have some kind of crosslock snap to get the best action out of the bait., and also the most consistent diving action of out the bait, too.

I use an Okuma Coldwater Line Counter for my trolling reel. It really doesn’t matter which line counter you use, but I’ve had some luck using this one particular one.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

TFO: Any other methods besides precision trolling that you like to do in the spring or late spring?

WD: Precision trolling at night is primarily what I am doing in the spring until the fish wrap up their post spawn timeframe. From there, I’m going to be transitioning to a lead core bite. The 10’ lead core rod (PRO WTC 1004-2) and also the 8’6” trolling rod are both of the rods that I’m pulling lead with.

PRO WTC 1004-2

It’s a little unconventional, but we’re pulling small swimbaits with a 3/8 ounce jighead with a 3.5” swim bait – and literally fishing 2-6” off the bottom. Pulling that lead core allows us to dial in on depth that well. We can adjust the line non-stop to where we are just ticking the bottom every 30 seconds to a minute.

If you’re dragging it through the mud or bouncing it off rocks, for whatever reason, it doesn’t trigger fish here like it does in other places like the Canadian Shield where bouncing crankbaits triggers everything – smallmouth, northern, musky, and walleye. For whatever reason, our western fish don’t want it digging up the mud.

Fishing smaller crankbaits and swimbaits 2”-4” off the bottom is the ticket here. Again, the nice think about the Professional Walleye Trolling rods – with the lead and the zero stretch that you have pulling lead core, you have a much more forgiving aspect that allows you to still bury those hooks into the fish.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

TFO: Why fish for walleye at night in the spring?

WD: They’re more active. They’re putting on the food bags once they’ve finished spawning, and they’re trying to gain that weight they lost during the spawn and get those calories back on. I’ve noticed that typically in the last full moon in April (April 26) is when the night bite starts to fade off, and our water temperatures start climbing into the high 50s. As soon as we start seeing 60 degree waters, we stop trolling. A lot of it has to do with vegetation growth. At that point, the fish will start setting up on their summer spots and we’ll switch to casting and jigging.

Stay tuned for Part ll for late spring/early summer walleye tactics…

2021 TFO Conventional Category Products – Available Now!

Available Now! Temple Fork Outfitters has added five new additions to the TFO family of conventional rods: a live bait casting model to the popular Seahunter Series, fast action Mag Bass rods additions to the popular Tactical Elite Bass & Tactical Bass spinning rod configurations, the all new Tactical Surf available in seven models, three variations of the Professional Walleye series specialized and engineered for trolling, and the fiberglass Tactical Glass rods. See below for more information on these new products.

 

 

Tactical Seahunter – Live Bait Casting Rod Addition

The modern center console boat has transformed nearshore and offshore fishing from traditionally passive to an amazingly active, almost athletic sport. Designed by TFO National Advisor Rob Fordyce, the Tactical Seahunter series matches this evolution with cutting edge gear to handle a range of techniques and species while remaining durable and light in hand. Casting, jigging, trolling, kiting, or all the above in concert! Regardless of the demands, these high performance rods allow saltwater anglers to quickly respond to changing conditions and opportunities by offering a wide range of capabilities without the need to change gear. This series is perfect for competitive tournament teams and serious anglers fishing salt-borne techniques and species.

The foundation of the Tactical Seahunter series are moderate-fast action blanks constructed with standard modulus carbon fiber material and a proprietary fiberglass scrim. The blanks are a midnight blue with metal fleck finish topped with braid- and saltwater-safe Fuji® Concept Guides™. The series includes 9 models: 5 casting in 6’0”–7’0” lengths in 20#-50# weight classes and a live bait rod; and 4 spinning in 6’0”-7’0” lengths in 20#-50# weight classes. Componentry includes down-locking reel seats on casting models in aluminum on the #40 and #50 models; up-locking reel seats on spinning models in aluminum on the #50 model. EVA foam fore and rear grips. Fore grips are 7” long in a large diameter for comfort while fighting fish. Rear grips are rocket launcher friendly at 13” in length and all models are equipped with anodized aluminum gimbals.

Every Tactical Seahunter series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original

 

 

 

Tactical Elite Bass – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Additions

The Tactical Elite Bass series of rods are our premier level fishing tools for tournament focused anglers. This series optimizes technique specific rod actions with performance maximizing componentry. When success equates to earning a paycheck, Tactical Elite Bass series rods do not compromise on any aspect of design, engineering, or manufacturing to guarantee anglers consistent performance and durability.

The foundation of the Tactical Elite Bass series are technique specific moderate and fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a gun metal grey finish with PacBay’s lightweight Titaium SV guides. The series includes 18 models: 13 casting in 6’10”–7’6” lengths in medium-light to magnum extra-heavy powers; and 5 spinning in 6’10”-7’3” lengths in medium-light to medium-heavy powers. Componentry includes down-locking graphite feel-through skeletal reel seats for maximum sensitivity with black anodized hoods. All rods include custom Winn® split grips.

Every Tactical Elite Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original

Tactical Bass – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Additions

 

The Tactical Bass series of rods are precision fishing tools for serious anglers. Designed to match optimized rod actions and powers to specific fishing techniques, this series ensures maximum success on the water. From topwater, to crankbaits, to various structure and finesse actions the Tactical Bass series has it covered. And most importantly, TFO’s manufacturing capabilities and quality standards guarantee rod action consistency and durability over time.

The foundation of the Tactical Bass series is technique-specific moderate to fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a natural satin clear coat finish topped with Pac Bay’s lightweight stainless SV guides. The series includes 23 models: 18 casting in 6’9”–8’0” lengths in medium-light to extra heavy powers; and 5 spinning in 6’10”-7’3” lengths in medium-light to medium heavy powers. Componentry includes down-locking feel-through skeletal reel seats for maximum sensitivity. All rods include premium split cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings and all models are one piece.

Every Tactical Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability across a wide-range of fishing situations. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original

 

Tactical Elite Bass Spinning Rods – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Addition

 

Tactical Bass Spinning Rods – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Addition

 

 

Tactical Surf

The Tactical Surf series is designed for the intermediate to advanced angler and optimized for long accurate casts from the beach, that special rock or fishing pier. And because performance is critical when you reach your spot (or the top of your waders), we’ve designed the Tactical Surf series as powerful casting tools that are durable enough to handle the extremes of the surf environment but light enough to fish by hand all day without fatigue.

The foundation of the Tactical Surf series is moderate-fast to fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a satin sky-blue finish topped with braid- and saltwater-safe Fuji® K-Series Guides™ with Fuji® Alconite® inserts. The series includes 7 models in 8’0”-12’0” lengths in medium light to heavy powers. All 2-piece models are 70/30 split for one-piece performance and safe transport. Componentry includes up-locking pipe-style reel seats. All rods include blue/gray fish scale heat shrink grips with black EVA foam and rubber butt caps.

The SUS 804-1 through SUS 1103-2 incorporate longer, softer actions perfect for anglers casting and working artificial baits. The SUS 1065-2, SUS 1106-2, and SUS 1206-2 are for anglers focused on fishing bait rigs and making long casts with either spinning or casting gear. These rods are particularly popular along the Cape Cod Canal where the current requires the use of heavier lures and jigs.

Every Tactical Surf series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original

 

 

Professional Walleye – Trolling 

With a premium on high sensitivity, the Professional Walleye series is designed specifically for pursuing these finicky and notoriously light biting fish. Beginning with the blank, the grip and the reel seat, everything is maximized for sensitivity and the series lengths, powers and actions are engineered to maximize angler success when fishing the most successful walleye techniques.

The foundation of the Professional Walleye series are blanks designed with technique specific actions constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a non-glare gold fleck finish topped with PacBay Stainless SV guides. The series includes 12 models: 6 spinning in 6’0”-7’6” lengths in light to medium powers; and 6 casting in 7’0”–7’6” lengths in medium light to medium powers. Componentry includes down-locking split graphite reel seats for super sensitivity. All rods include premium cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings. Full cork grips are provided on all casting models and split cork grips are provided on spinning models.

The super-fast actions, light weight, and sensitivity of the WS 663-1 and WS 664-1 are perfect for anglers focused on jigging. The longer 7’0” and 7’6” rods are specifically for the sweeping hooksets of rigging. And the slower actions and light weight of the casting rods make them ideal for anglers cranking. And for 2021, we’ve added three rods in 8’6” and 10’ lengths specially designed for all trolling techniques.

Every Professional Walleye series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability across a wide-range of fishing situations. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original

 

 

 

Tactical Glass Bass

The Tactical Glass Bass series is designed specifically for anglers fishing crank baits and who want the hook setting benefits of fiberglass, married to the light weight of carbon fiber. These composite rods are sensitive enough to transmit the lure action to the angler, but also have a slightly damped recovery that maximize hook sets because they allow the fish to consume the bait. The Tactical Glass Bass series delivers a higher level of technique-specific performance to anglers focused on fishing action-oriented lures with light-wire treble hooks.

The foundation of the Tactical Glass Bass series are blanks constructed with 60% intermediate modulus carbon fiber and 40% S-Glass fiberglass material. The blanks are a natural satin clear coat finish topped with PacBay’s lightweight stainless steel SV guides. The series includes 3 casting models 7’2”-7’10” lengths in medium to medium heavy powers. Componentry includes down-locking reel seats and premium cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings.

Every Tactical Glass Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original