Ever been out on the water trolling crankbaits at the typical speed of 2 mph or so when another angler rocks your boat with the wake they leave as they motor past you?
Ever been a trolling a river system in the traditional upstream manner when somebody comes sailing downstream at twice your speed?
Clueless anglers? Hardly. Chances are they are working a pattern that is putting fish in the boat. As water temperatures warm during the hot summer months, a walleye's metabolism increases and so does the energy required to find and ambush baitfish. That means the fish are often scattered, but it also means they feed more frequently and are often willing to chase a swiftly moving crankbait.
Summer means a wider variety of forage and clearer water than the turbid spring months, and that makes it tougher to fool old marble eyes with slow-moving baits. By picking up your trolling pace, you can trigger reaction strikes that can put fish in your boat while others are simply treading water.
There are no firm and fast guidelines that tell you when to get moving. Sometimes, it's another angler who tips you off by flopping walleye after walleye into the bottom of the boat. Sometimes, it might be a pattern of strikes on your outside Off-Shore planer boards, which will pick up speed while the inside boards slow down as you make a turn.
Other times, it's a matter of experimenting. When the hot-weather trolling bite isn't as fast as I'd like it to be but my Lowrance X-19 sonar unit tells me there are walleyes in the vicinity, I throttle up my four-stroke Mercury 9.9 Bigfoot kicker and make a few passes at 4-5 mph. It's a great way to cover water quickly and pick off the most aggressive fish. I’ve got my kicker set up on a Panther Marine jackplate that allows me to raise it or lower it from the driver’s seat. It’s in the water and ready to fish by the time I shut down my 225 Merc, or I can raise it up while I get the big engine warmed up to relocacation.
There are a few conditions that must be present for speed-trolling to be effective.
Foremost is water with several feet of visibility. If you are moving quickly, the fish needs to be able to see the color and flash of your crankbait, as well as sense its vibration and movement. Since these fish are usually scattered over large flats or along extended breaklines, they may have to travel a considerable distance to eat your lure. In dirty water, they can't always get a good fix on a fast-moving bait.
Secondly, it’s been my experience that trolling at wake speeds works best during periods of stable weather when the fish are active. Cold fronts tend to put walleyes in a negative mood and push them tight to structure where the best way to catch them is by wiggling live bait in their faces.
On the other hand, water temperatures aren’t always a good indicator of when to pick up the pace. In general, it’s a warm-water pattern, but it shouldn’t be overlooked any time when walleyes seem to be active and aggressive. That