When walleye fishing in less than thirty feet of water, it’s reasonable to say that nearly all of a walleye fisherman’s tools are at your disposal. Once you get deeper, many of the standard techniques aren’t as practical or even feasible. On larger bodies of water or those that have a significant amount of deep water, it’s imperative to have deep-water skills. This is especially the case when summer approaches and crankbaits, flutter spoons, and spinners become the preferred tools.
A majority of the most popular walleye crankbaits have trouble getting deeper than twenty feet without some other type of diving assist. To even reach these depths a majority of those models are large deep diving stick baits, which can cause issues. When the peak of summer rolls around and fish head out to deeper water, they also can be pickier. In warmer water, smaller baits generally rule, no matter where you fish, even on the Great Lakes. This makes it even harder to achieve some of the diving depths that are needed since these smaller baits generally dive even shallower than their larger counterparts.
Here are three ways to effectively cover water to find and catch deep-water summertime walleye.
When your favorite walleye crankbait doesn’t dive deeper than twenty feet but you need to get down thirty feet where the walleye are located, something as simple as adding a snap weight can get you the extra depth needed.
What they offer in simplicity, they can make up for it by being frustrating for some since they aren’t an exact science. Speeding up, slowing down, or just slightly turning the boat can make a now-weighted lure rise or fall drastically in the water column. But when the fish are aggressive or you’re trying to cover a large part of the water column, these simple additions can be magic.
While many charts, formulas, and opinions exist on the internet telling exactly how deep a certain bait, weight, and lead will cause a lure to run, a lot of water time and use is still the best way to understand them. When weighting baits look to stagger the leads or weights to cover the column, since knowing exactly where your lure is at isn’t as important as catching fish.
Leadcore line is a Dacron sheath material with a thin lead core that travels the entire length of the line. Every thirty feet the color of the sheath changes color so you can keep track of how much line you have out without using a line counter. These color changes also allow you to reproduce your results on other rods.
The entire leadcore line sinks, which allows for tiny shallow lures to get to the deepest of depths. Leadcore line is no different than any other weighted system in that it is highly speed dependent. The faster you go the higher it rides up in the water column and the shallower the lures will run. Go slow enough and you can hit bottom just like if you were fishing a heavy jig or spoon.
When trolling with leadcore at approximately 2 to 2.5 mph, a good rule of thumb is that you’ll get five feet of running depth for each color of leadcore out. Leader length and the diving depth of the lure itself can add or subtract several feet in overall diving depth.
The leadcore itself can cause the diving depths to vary. Most walleye anglers use an 18-pound leadcore line because it has plenty of strength to prevent breakage and the thinner diameter means less resistance, therefore more depth. To take this even one step further I prefer Suffix 832 because the sheath material is made out of gore fibers which makes it very strong, but even smaller in diameter for additional depth.
There are two main ways to spool up with leadcore line. First, you can spool a large reel up with an entire core, which consists of ten colors. This method just requires you to flat line out the back of the boat and reel up or deploy more line to change the lures depth. While this works incredibly well, it can be limiting on large bodies of water where multiple lines can be trolled per person.
As an alternate method, anglers can “segment” reels with leadcore. This simply means you spool up a predetermined amount of leadcore (such as 3 colors only) on a real with an ample amount of backing on the reel. This allows for all of the leadcore line to be deployed and a planer board to be clipped on in order to spread the presentation away from the boat. This method helps provide more coverage and rods to be used. While extremely effective, the downside is that it does require a significant number of reels to fully cover the water column.
Dipsy Divers are very popular on the Great Lakes for walleye and salmon when you need to troll fast, yet get deep. Surprisingly, not many anglers use them outside of the Great Lakes. Veteran walleye pro, Todd Frank from Pulaski, New York, was not one of those guys. Nearly twenty years ago, he nearly won a tournament on a Southern Reservoir trolling Dipsy Divers and shallow stick baits on a body of water that surely hadn’t seen these salmon-originated diving devices.
Aside from being able to be trolled fast and get deep, one of the biggest advantages of Dipsy Divers is that they don’t require having a ton of line out. This is a big deal because it makes it that much more efficient to get lures in and out, but also makes it easier to turn quickly without tangling in order to turn on a small pod of fish.
The other unique trait of Dipsy Divers is that they are directional, which allows you to get lures away from the boat to prevent spooking. At the same time, the directional nature allows more space to run multiple lines per side. This is accomplished by adjusting the dial on the back of the diver which shifts the weight, changing the planning angle.
Dipsy Divers don’t require a lot of specialized equipment, but they can require a slightly heavier than normal trolling rod depending on the size that you’re using. A Dipsy Diver also features a trip mechanism to force the dive downwards for additional depth. Because of this, a braided line is highly recommended for strength, additional depth, and much less stretch. Small or lackadaisical fish can require you to manually release the tripping mechanism and lines such as mono with a lot of stretch can act like a rubber band at this time preventing the mechanism from releasing.
Sure, there are more than three delivery methods for deep walleyes, but if you have a handle on these three, you don’t need much more to get small shallow diving lures in front of summertime deep walleyes.