Captain Terry Kunnen of TKO Charters caught this monster walleye
night trolling using crankbaits and Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer boards.
The best boat for night walleye trolling is one that has a place for everything and everything is in that place. On a night walleye fishing adventure just take the necessary gear and nothing else. Keeping things simple is the best way to be successful and avoid frustrations when fishing after dark.
When fishing in the dark an angler is going to need some dependable lighting options. The cockpit lights in most fishing boats aren’t adequate to perform important tasks like tying on fishing lures or monitoring the lead lengths on a line counter reel.
Most anglers use an LED head lamp for these purposes. I keep mine, plus a spare, stored in the glove box of the boat along with plenty of spare batteries.
Adding LED rope lighting around the gunwale of the boat is a good way to flood light onto the floor of the boat and provide enough ambient light for tasks like hooking up planer boards, unhooking fish from the landing net, setting lines, etc.
To really light up the night, anglers might want to consider more powerful LED lighting options. Cisco Fishing Systems produces the Sur-Lok Boat Lighting System that mounts to risers which slide into their track system. These lights can literally be mounted to any flat surface in the boat, turning night into day. Like everything produced by Cisco these lights are high quality and made right here in America. For more details on these very cool lights for night fishing, visit www.ciscofishingsystemsltd.com.
When the sun sets walleye go on the prowl. Trolling
crankbaits after dark is one of the best ways to target
trophy walleye that get conditioned to feed
more at night than during the day.
Like most open water trolling applications a good fiberglass or graphite/fiberglass composite trolling rod matched up to a dependable line counter reel and 10 to 12 pound test monofilament line is the right set up for night walleye trolling.
My set up consists of a 8.5 foot telescopic rod that fishes nicely when extended and fits neatly into my rod locker when telescoped down. A 20 size line counter reel works best for walleye fishing and I can’t express enough the importance of running premium fishing lines designed with trolling in mind.
I fish 12 pound test Maxima in the Ultra Green color and have found this line to be tough as nails when fishing around rip rap and dealing with the abrasion created by putting a planer board on the line and taking it off countless times. Maxima is very popular among steelhead fishermen who know how tough this line is, but for the most part walleye anglers have not discovered this super premium line choice.
Night walleye trolling is a game placed with crankbaits and the brands/models of lures that routinely produce fish is an amazingly short list. Most night walleye fishing takes place at or near the surface so shallow diving stickbaits or what bass anglers refer to as jerkbaits are among the best choices.
The list of “must have” stickbaits for walleye trolling include the Rapala Husky Jerk 12 and 14, Rapala No. 18 Minnow, the Smithwick Perfect 10 and the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow series of baits. Obviously other stickbaits on the market will catch walleye, but this “short list” are the baits the hard core fishermen carry every time on the water.
In some situations it might be necessary to fish a little deeper than these stickbaits naturally dive. The depth of these lures can easily be increased by adding a one ounce Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight to the line about 20 to 25 feet ahead of the lure. A one ounce weight will add about 1/3 to the natural diving depth of a floating/diving style crankbait. In other words a bait that dives 15 feet without weight will reach about 20 feet when a one ounce weight is used.
Notice the planer boards in this picture. They have been
equipped with strips of reflector tape which makes them highly
visible when night trolling. Other anglers prefer to tape a cyalume
stick to the flag of their boards when night trolling.
The Xi5 also features the GPS navigation powers of the Pinpoint Auto-Pilot System which makes it easy to follow a compass heading and keep the boat traveling in a desired direction hands free. Even better, once a few fish have been caught and the location of those fish saved as waypoints on a Lowrance HDS sonar/GPS unit, the Xi5 can be programmed to duplicate a precise trolling track. Thanks to the Xi5 it possible to troll from waypoint to waypoint like a beagle following a rabbit track!
This amazing technology is made possible by combining the GPS features of the Xi5 electric motor with the Sonar/GPS capabilities of any Lowrance Generation Two or Three HDS units. Essentially the electric motor and sonar/GPS unit are communicating using a system called Gateway, that allows the electric motor to be controlled using a foot control, a key fob and also using the touch screen on Lowrance HDS units.
Catching walleye by trolling after dark is about finding fish, but it’s just as important to stay on those fish once they are found. With the Gateway System it’s easy to duplicate a productive trolling pass time and time again.
BOARDS ARE BEST
An angler can long line his favorite crankbaits out the back of the boat and catch a few night time walleye. Incorporating in-line boards like the famous Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planer is the fast track to night trolling success.
In order to see these boards in the dark and detect strikes, anglers use some ingenious tricks. Ordinary cyalume sticks sold at dollar stores are a good value and they also make a great board light option when taped to the flag of an OR12 Side-Planer. The typical cyalume stick lasts for six or eight hours and provides plenty of light to easily monitor boards in the dark.
Another option is to purchase Coast Guard approved reflector tape and place a few strips on the board flag. This tape will reflect even the subtle light produced by a boat’s bow and stern lights and also head lamps.
Another little known trick is to set the bait clicker function on the trolling reels and then to back off on the reel drag until just enough tension in the drag is achieved to hold the boards in place while trolling. When a fish is hooked, the extra pressure on the line causes the line to slip a little and the bait clicker gives an audible clue as to which rod/reel combination has hooked a fish.
WHERE IS THE ACTION
Walleye can be caught at night anywhere these fish are found. In-land lakes, impoundments, rivers and of course the Great Lakes are all great places to try your hand at “night shift” walleyes.