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Try long-line trolling for walleyes

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As I motored my Champion 190 out onto the flats of Mille Lacs, I noticed numerous boats anchored or back-trolling along the drop-off areas. This isn’t a bad approach, and many times I look for the edges to find active walleyes.

The trouble was most of the boats were not catching fish; only sitting on drop-off areas hoping to get the occasional fish that would move up on top of the flats to feed.

I decided that instead of joining the rest of the fishermen, I would try some long-line trolling for walleyes.

The first pattern was to see if any fish were present on top of the flat. A couple of quick back-trolling runs across the six-10 foot areas produced a couple of fish. I knew that the fish were present but probably spooky with all the pressure from other fishermen.

The key was a slow and silent approach to my presentation. The outboard was shut off and the MotorGuide trolling motor was lowered into the water. I replaced my terminal tackle from walking sinkers and spinners to a single hook and split shot with a #8 hook. The hook was baited with a nightcrawler and allowed to dangle so the tail of the nightcrawler could float off the bottom.

I released about 45 yards of line and back-trolled, back and forth, with this long-line presentation.

The long line reduces feel but allows time for the boat to pass overhead and for the spooked walleyes to regroup. When the boat finally passes by the fish, they hit it with a subtle gentle tug rather than smashing the bait.

A couple of hours of fishing produced 24 eating-size walleyes up to 2.5 pounds. Nothing fantastic, but I had my limit while the other fishermen were still sitting on the drop-off areas.

Long-line trolling is very effective method to use on summertime walleyes. Not only you can use live bait but crankbait fishing also is very productive during the summer months.

To many anglers, trolling means tossing out a crankbait, throwing the rod in a holder, then sitting back and soaking up the sun.

Rather, trolling success usually depends on how well you fine-tune your presentation. Simple things that will help you trigger fish might be pumping your rod, or allowing your crankbait to stunt.

Pumping a trolling rod is not a new technique. In fact, it’s likely you have been using the method for years. The trick is doing it right.

I have found, through experience, that you should sweep your rod in a 30-degree arc with a pause at the end. The lure speeds up through the sweep and triggers the fish that there is an escaping prey (although more strikes might occur as the rod is returned to the original position because it is at the end of the fall).

The stunting that you might want to try is to use a deep lip crankbait like a deep diving Storm Thunder Stick and troll this in an area that has a soft bottom like mud or sand. The long bill will dive deep and stunt into the soft bottom. This will cause an erratic motion to the fish, plus stir up the bottom and fish will move in to investigate.

Again, the pause-surge-pause motion of your rod will encourage more strikes than just trolling with a dead rod.

If you happen to be on a weedy lake and the weeds are emerging, try long-line trolling on top of the weeds with live bait on small lipless crankbaits, just ticking the weed tops.

Any way you try this approach, it probably will produce more fish than the guy sitting and waiting for his bobber to go down. Allow yourself to experiment and use long-line trolling this summer to give you an edge—a walleye fishing edge.

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