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Trolling for Walleye like a Pro

Before opening a marine supply business, and before sailing around the world as a superyacht Captain, I earned my sea legs on the waters of Lake Erie and during that time I worked as mate on a walleye fishing charter boat.

When customers were paying big bucks for a day out on the water, it was important to always be hauling in the fish - and that we did. Previous working on that charter fishing boat, I fished for walleye like most people do and I cast erie dearies. While that works, I quickly found that if you really want to haul in a full cooler then trolling is the only way.

You'll need to gear up for trolling, but getting new fishing gear is fun anyway. Here is what you'll need:

A good set of offshore planer boards

Planer Boards for Walleye

Planer boards will allow you to run multiple fishing lines off of both the port and starboard sides of your vessel, rather than just two or three straight off the stern. Small boards will have problem in the chop that is common on the Great Lakes, so make sure to get a good set of planer boards that are made for offshore conditions.


Planer board reels

Planer Board ReelsYou could just attach your planer boards to the sides of your boat with a thick monofilament line and adjust the distance by hand but a set of reels mounted to the sides of the vessel will make taking them in and out a much simpler process and eliminate the chances for entanglement. These reels will mount to either a rail or mount on a flat surface and are what we used on the charter boats.


Line release clips

Planer board line release clipsThese clips attach your fishing line to the line that attaches the planer board to your boat. The metal ring will run down the planer board line, and the yellow clip will hold your line. The friction on the clip should be just enough to hold the line in place until you have a fish strike, at which point it will release your line and allow you to reel in dinner.


Rod Holders

Rod HoldersSince you'll be fishing with multiple rods at once, you'll need somewhere to put them all. When I worked the charter boat we would often run 16 lines at once (and you can too if you have enough people aboard)! Outfit your boat with enough rod holders so that you have one for each rod you want to fish.


The right bait

Walleye fishing lureEvery fisherman knows that the right bait is everything. On Lake Erie, fishing for walleye and the occasional steelhead, ALL of the charter boat Captains would strictly use Storm Hot 'n Tot #5's. Period. Their dive depth is predictable, they do well next to other lines when you have a full planer board, and the walleye can't resist.


The right tactics

Trolling for Walleye - THE BIBLEThis is not just a book, it's a reference, a guide, and as the mate on a walleye charter fishing boat it was my bible. You need this book if you're going to be planer board trolling, not just on the Great Lakes, but anywhere. It will help you with the mathematics of trolling. How much line do you put out before the planer clip in 35' of water when you're running a Hot 'n Tot? This book will tell you.


With all the right gear, the next thing to do is just get out there and fish it! Walleye move in schools and can sometimes be hard to find, but once you do find that school you'll be sure to land them with the setup I described above. There is no replacement for running through a school of Walleye and watching your lines pop off, one after the other. Good luck out there, and stay safe on the water!

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