If you’re a walleye fisherman, whether experienced or not, you may need to rethink your current strategy for backtrolling. The fact is, right now, it seems that the most useful trend for good walleye fishing is to use larger boats with larger motors that afford console steering for more precise operation and handling. While control may be an issue with larger units, I’ve found that you can use bow and transom-mount electrics with kicker motors to maintain accurate and detailed movements. Then again, a number of walleye fisherman have found great success by simply sitting in the back of a larger boat with a tiller handle. The fact is, however, that using your boat’s console and sitting in the back are both great ways to catch the big ones if you know how your vessel operates and if you have the right gear and knowledge.
Personally, I’ve found that a 9.9 four-stroke in conjunction with a 72-pound thrust transom-mount work best for my personal style, especially when I incorporate the autopilot 42-pound thrust bow-mount. Of course, this will depend on the spots I’m hitting. I’ve also learned that walleyes are known to hug structures rather than hover around them. Essentially, walleyes find reefs and other structures and they stay close to the bottoms, only coming out to feed if a seemingly easy meal comes by. This means that you need to not only be patient when seeking out walleye, but you also need to stay close to the bottom of the body of water and structures you’re fishing.
To do this accurately, I suggest you use a depth finder to not only identify structures in the area but also to investigate the bottoms. Both jigging and live-bait rigging seem to work well, but it will be your personal preference as to which method works best for you and the lake you’re in. You should also keep your back to the wind when backtrolling in order to keep from being blown sideways. In these situations, you want the wind at your back at all times if possible.
During the process of backtrolling, keep a close eye on the depth finder. As soon as you notice you’re drifting into shallower waters, turn your vessel right back around. You’ll also want to slow walk your jig or rig. Your main goal is to ensure that your boat stays over the structure you’re fishing so that you can continue to attract attention. During windy conditions, I use my 9.9 motor with an autopilot on it. This gives me the chance to use the autopilot feature to follow the contour of the structure, allowing me to ultimately stay with the walleye.
I also rely on my hand controls to ensure that I stay on top of the target. In very windy conditions, I can also use my Minn Kota autopilot with a bow-mount 9.9 kicker. When using the kicker and autopilot, I’ll often fight the fish by setting my system to get out into deeper waters. This keeps me from stirring up other fish without getting snagged in deeper conditions.
When you receive a bite, don’t forget to enter it into your GPS, or if one is not available, toss out a marker buoy. Your goal is to not only stay in the same place where the walleye are, but also to remember the exact location if you need to move for whatever reason. This is especially difficult when landing a fish, so keeping the area marked by GPS or buoy is helpful in the long run if you want to keep hitting the same hot spots.
Finally, keep in mind that backtrolling has been proven to be an effective method of fishing for walleye. With that said, the methods presented here take practice, persistence, and patience. You may also need to test out various jigs and rigs to not only find the solutions that work best for you, but also for the lakes you’re fishing. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t successful the first time out. With practice, you’ll build up an arsenal of knowledge and tools to conquer even the most difficult structures, walleye fish, and lakes.