One of the greatest things about fishing is that it can be enjoyed at so many levels, whether you take it up as a “weekend” angler, or go at it “full bore” like the pros. This is especially true for walleye fishing. You don’t need the big boat and every piece of gear we use to successfully catch walleyes on most waters, but it does help to be equipped with a few essentials. In fact we like to categorize walleye gear into two groups … the “Must-Haves” and the “Wanna-Haves”. “Must-Haves” are those items that any walleye angler shouldn’t be without, while “Wanna-Haves” are things that, while not absolutely needed, can be very helpful, particularly for the more advanced angler. In this article, we’ll be concentrating on the “Must-Haves” for walleye fishing.
Let’s begin with one of the most important pieces of gear to any fisherman; fishing line. Of course the line you choose has a lot to do with the technique you’re planning to use it for so we’ll break this down that way. For jigging, the “Must-Have” would be to spool up with 6 pound test Berkley FireLine. This no-stretch “Super-Line” has the diameter of 2 pound test monofilament, and offers the angler great sensitivity to help feel every bite. Trolling calls for a little different line choice. You need to have a good strong mono like Berkley Trilene XT in 10 pound test. This line stands up to the abuse a trolling line is subjected to, like attaching and detaching planer boards and trolling weights, plus is has just the right amount of stretch for fighting in big fish especially when you’re reeling them in with a lot of line out.
When it comes to lures, there are plenty of “Must-Haves” there too. Every walleye angler needs a good selection of jigs, but what sizes and colors to stock up on is always a big question. “Must-Have” sizes would be 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 ounce as these will fit most common jigging scenarios especially for pitching, vertical jigging or jig trolling presentations. Jig color is always a debate starter, but the basic necessities would be Chartreuse, Orange and Green.
With the vast array of crankbaits available on the market today, it’s always a tough chore to pick the ones you want to grace your tackle box, but here too we believe there are “Must-Haves”. Few crankbaits on the market have caught more walleyes over the past few years than the Berkley Flicker Shads. Available in 4 sizes (4, 5, 6 and 7 cm) and a wide range of colors, these lures have the action and attraction that just drives walleyes nuts. If you walleye fish, you need a good supply of Flicker Shads in the box, period.
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Building your walleye rod and reel arsenal is all about having the right tools for the tactics you fish the most. When it comes to walleye fishing, the “Must-Haves” will be rod and reel combos for jigging, rigging, bottom bouncer fishing and trolling. A good walleye angler needs to learn and become adept at all these tactics in order to be versatile enough to fish walleyes on any body of water at different times of the year.
A walleye angler needs a good jigging stick (at least 2 of them actually). A 6 foot, medium to medium light action spinning rod will handle most jigging techniques from vertical jigging, pitching jigs or jig trolling. A rod like the Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Signature Series model WA60ML-HM85 will give you great sensitivity at a reasonable cost. Team that up with a light spinning reel with features including instant anti-reverse and a smooth drag and you’ve got a good set-up to get you started. For live bait rigging, the same combo will work, but a rod with a little added length can often be an advantage for getting a good hookset with more line out, and for fighting bigger fish on light line. A 6’6” to 7’ rod works well here.
Bottom Bouncer fishing has become a mainstay tactic for walleyes on many bodies of water throughout the country. Whether you’re pulling spinners, or rigging plain snells in deep water, bouncer fishing is a key presentation option that all walleye anglers need to be geared for. That’s why another “Must-Have” rod we’d suggest is a 6’6” to 7’ medium action baitcasting rod like the Walleye Angler Signature Series Bottom Bouncer Rod model . Paired with a good quality-medium priced baitcasting reel, you won’t have to break the bank to have the tools needed to bounce up a bunch of walleyes.
More and more, trolling is becoming the “go-to” tactic for many walleye fishermen. The rods you choose should be designed for trolling … 7’6” to 8’6” long are standard, with “forgiving” tip sections and strong backbone like the ones found in the Walleye Angler Signature Series. The secret to being a good troller is being able to repeat successful trolling patterns and a big key to that is using line counter reels. That way when you find a particular length of line out on a specific lure is catching the most fish, you can easily duplicate it with another rod.
Of course, if you troll, there are a few more things you’re going to need to be successful. Planer boards are as much a part of the trolling tactic as anything else, and the Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planers are the board-of-choice among the vast majority of walleye anglers for good reason. These boards have been around a long time because they do the job right. They are properly weighted and balanced to perform in any water condition and can easily be rigged in a number of different ways to fit various presentations. Another trolling “Must-Have” from the folks at Off Shore Tackle is a good supply of OR-20 Pro Weights. These versatile trolling weights can be rigged in-line or as “snap-weights” to fit the technique needed to land more fish.
So whether you’re making out a Christmas list for yourself, or looking to stuff the stocking of your favorite angler, consider giving a “Must Have” walleye fishing gift that will surely help you or your favorite walleye angler get the Next Bite this upcoming season.