Tournament Day - When Walleyes go into Hiding

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This article was originally printed in the 2014 Nitro Performance Fishing Boats magazine and is reprinted here courtesy of Tracker Marine Group.   


A dramatic look behind the scenes of WALLEYE tournament Fishing.

When four Northern fishing pros from two different generations get together to share what it’s like to fish the walleye circuit, you can count on plenty of colorful memories and a wealth of experience and fishing tips to go around. And plenty of stories too—not so much about the big ones that got away on tournament day…just the big ones that never even gave a bite!

One thing all Northern anglers agree on: walleyes are one of the most fickle fishes around—here today, gone tomorrow. And as skilled as a pro might be, it’s why no angler or team has come to dominate the sport. Chase Parsons, who has fished tournaments as a pro since he was 20, says there’s one thing he learned right away: “Walleyes know when it’s tournament day. You can catch ’em five days straight in practice, but it’s almost a guarantee that the bite’s going to change on tournament day.”

Walleye fishing requires a vastly different skill set than bass fishing. With a wink in his eye and a bit of conviction in his voice, North Dakota NITRO Pro Team Angler Jim Carroll often says in his seminars, “From a walleye angler’s perspective, bass are stupid and easy to catch. With walleyes, there are so many unknowns and unknowables.” He marvels that bass anglers can pre-fish a tournament for two to three days before a tournament and develop patterns that pretty much hold up during the event.

That usually doesn’t work with walleyes because of their unpredictable, fast-changing whims. 

Without a doubt, bass fishing requires a constant honing of casting techniques.

But successful walleye fishing requires a full arsenal of nearly every technique in the book, and then some—precision boat control to stay over the fish in deep water against strong winds and pounding waves, knowing how to present the bait in such rugged conditions, backtrolling, trolling with planer boards, spinners and crankbaits, vertical jigging on structure or pitching jigs to shoreline. Carroll says winning walleyes might be roaming in deep water chasing schools of suspended baitfish, or they might be in just a couple feet of water looking for perch or minnows near a weedline. “Rarely are all the walleyes doing the same thing in the same body of water at the same time.”

Fishing as a pro since 2002, Carroll starts thinking about each tournament one to two weeks out—reading the Internet, checking message boards, learning what kind of bite is going on, monitoring the weather forecasts, water conditions—nothing specific he says, just getting a feel. Once on-site, he advises, you need to filter your past experience and approach each tournament with a blank slate.

Pre-fishing for a tournament takes four to six days. Part is simply the wily nature of the fish. The other reason is that Northern lakes and reservoirs are

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