PRESPAWN WALLEYE TIPS & HINTS by TJ Hester
The new year is upon us, which means it’s time to dust off the walleye rods and chase some Columbia River Gold! Getting prepared for these isn’t nearly as tedious as the spring chinook laundry list of things to go over, but you do need to have the essentials. Cold weather means you need to find the fish & stay on them.
A 7’ 10” medium fast action Okuma DeadEye rod for trolling worm harnesses has just enough backbone with a soft tip to get the job done and to allow the frigid bites to stick. Now, when searching I try to keep it simple, size 1.1 Mack’s Smile Blade Walleye in Chartreuse or Silver with a couple matching beads, 4’ leader to a bottom walker and a whole nightcrawler. Walleye prefer food size 1/3 of their body so in the pre spawn season the larger the worm the better! On a side note: I have been experimenting with the Columbia River Tackle sliding bottom walker with success.
There is a bit of a learning curve letting the fish eat longer but once you get the hang of it, I believe your hook to land ratio goes up significantly. Once you have found the fish, a 6’ fast action rod to stay on a group is my go-to. Over the last few seasons this has also been one of my favorite techniques and fisheries in the northwest. My bread and butter is the silver Columbia River Tackle Blade Bait. This is one of the most versatile baits out there since you can cast, vertical jig and slow troll it. Remember not to be too erratic in the winter as fish are lethargic.
Scent for walleye can often be overlooked. Most of the winter and spring season we often experience high and turbid water which can be an issue even with walleye’s keen eyesight and ability to track baits through movement/vibration scent can be a deciding factor between fooling a mature pre spawn female and not getting bit. Pro-Cure’s Trophy Walleye Super Gel has been the most popular scent on the Columbia for walleye but some of my personal favorite scents are Shrimp/Prawn, Garlic Nightcrawler, Eel and Crawfish Super Gel. Carrying a variety and running a mixture on different rods is always the best bet, also don’t rule out mixing scents, one of my favorites being half Eel and half Nightcrawler.