Walleye Trolling Speed: Secrets to Success

Updated on:

Walleye Trolling Speed: Secrets to Success

Updated on:

As temperatures at your favorite fishing spot start to increase, it’s not uncommon for most anglers to make the switch from jigging for walleye, to trolling for them. While jigging can be a very effective way to land big walleye during the spawning month, it’s much easier to find large trophies and bigger groups of suspended fish when you are trolling a variety of rigs and planer boards throughout the summer months.

What Speed Should You Troll For Walleye? Key Concepts

The best trolling speed for walleye planer boards will depend on a few factors. This can include whether or not you are fishing deeper water, the cover or debris at the bottom, the style of rig or lure you are using, and whether or not you are dealing with aggressive fish.

In most cases, trolling for larger suspended walleye will find your boat in the 2 to 3 mph range. However, for those really large walleyes it’s not bad to push the speeds to 3.5 mph. The higher speed you troll at, the lesser chance you will hook small walleyes as they will be unable to keep the same speeds to catch your lure or bait.

In addition to selecting the right speed for walleye trolling, there are other concepts to keep in mind as well such as:

  • Locating the Fish. Before you spend hours trolling crankbaits through the water, it’s important to be sure you know where the fish are hiding. Use a fish finder to locate small schools of bait fish that walleye might target, or pinpoint certain underwater terrain where walleye might like to hide.
  • Cover More Water. When trolling for walleyes, it’s important to spread out your fishing spot as much as possible. Instead of staying in one small area, take advantage of a much larger area to lure in that next big trophy and catch the bigger walleyes in the lake.
  • Move in an S Pattern. Going in a straight line is fine, but following natural contours of the bottom of the lake is even better to catch walleye. If you can’t follow the contours exactly, slowly move your boat in an S pattern. This will help you cover more ground in less time to find where fish are biting.

Trolling Speeds for Walleye By Season

Spring Walleye Trolling Speed

During the spring, when the water temperature is still in the low 40’s Fahrenheit, you will want to keep your boat trolling speed for walleyes under 1 mph. Speeds of around 0.7 to 0.8 mph are a very good choice as fish are still lethargic and reluctant to spend a lot of energy chasing your bait or lure. 

While these low boat speeds may not seem worth it, they can still be very useful for luring larger and less active walleyes out of cover. Your planer boards will still be moving through the water, albeit slowly, and this “fleeing” motion will trigger the feeding response needed for catching walleye.

Summer Walleye Trolling Speed

As the water temperatures warm up and bigger fish become fully active in both deep and shallow water, their hunger will also increase. During this time they will aggressively chase and strike any bait or lure they can get close to.

Throughout the early summer, you can heavily increase your boat trolling speeds up to 2.5 mph. This should be done gradually over the weeks or months from cold spring fishing. At these speeds, large walleye will be the fish most likely to catch up to your bait.

It’s not uncommon for some very large and highly active walleye to be able to catch your bait at speeds of 3.5 mph, though most anglers will stay in the 2.2 to 2.5 mph range. The only caveat here is if you are fishing with large live bait rigs. In this case, it will be best to keep your speeds around 1.2 mph as anything too much faster has the potential to tear the bait off the hook leaving you with a useless walleye fishing rig.

Fall Walleye Trolling Speed

Early fall trolling speeds should be similar to the speeds you used throughout the summer months, with 2.2 mph being the norm. However as the season continues to cool the water temperatures down, your lure trolling speed will have to drop as well.

Mid-fall and late fall speeds should range from 1.3 to 1.5 mph. As water temperatures drop into the 40’s Fahrenheit, you should be trolling at no more than 1.0 mph. During this time, fish will be slowing down and preparing for their winter lethargy so they won’t be as willing to burn calories chasing your lures.

Walleye Trolling Speed for Different Lure Types

When trolling for walleye with crankbaits, a slow speed of 1.3 to 1.5 mph is a good starting point.

Crankbaits

Probably one of the more common lure types to use when trolling for walleye, crankbaits can be extremely effective for catching aggressive walleye. Most anglers will use the Rapala (get one here) or Salmo crankbaits regardless of the type of water they are fishing for walleye in.

Getting success when using crankbaits will require you to use a fish finder in order to determine the best depth around your boat. Crankbaits can work in a range of different depths, but for small bill crankbaits and shallow diver crankbaits you will want to keep them at depths of less than 8 feet. For deep running crankbaits, you can go to at least 15 feet or more to reach those big walleye holding in deeper cover.

When trolling for walleye with crankbaits, a slow speed of 1.3 to 1.5 mph is a good starting point. If you’re noticing fish to be very aggressive and fast, and are pulling in a lot of smaller walleye, you can increase the speed to 2 mph in order to single out the larger fish with crankbaits.

Spinners & Spoons

Both spinner rigs and trolling spoons are very versatile when it comes to the depth they can be fished at. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see anglers using spinners and spoons for the much deeper water ranging from 30 to 50 feet or more.

These lures are great for extremely fast trolling open water++, and it’s not unusual to see them successfully catch fish that are actively feeding when being moved at speeds of up to 3.5 mph. These lures are not meant to be moved slowly, so anything less than about 2 mph will not get the results you are hoping for.

If you’re just starting out and getting a feel for the water and the lure, you can start with a speed of around 2.0 to 2.5 mph and ramp it up to 3.5 mph if the fish are showing eagerness to strike and a willingness to give chase.

Crawler Harness

Trolling with a crawler harness will need a bit more finesse than previous methods. Since these harnesses are somewhat larger and more delicate when it comes to keeping your live nightcrawlers on the hook, a trolling speed of 0.5 to 1.5 mph is the sweet spot for getting more bites.

Many anglers will use a crawler harness when trying to pinpoint the location of active fish. This rig is a great way to cover large amounts of water while also delivering a massive meal right down to the water column where walleye commonly suspend.

While crawler harnesses need to be moved much slower than other lures, they can be very versatile when it comes to water depth. You’ll be able to haul in big walleye whether you fish this harness in 8 feet of water or 40 feet water depth. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Trolling Speed for Walleye

Walleyes are active and aggressive throughout the summer months along weed edges and heavy cover of various water depths, and make an extremely enjoyable fish to land when trolling. They don’t hesitate to take a wide range of crankbait or lures from almost any rig you choose to toss in the water as long as it gets within their strike zone.

Trolling speeds can vary from 0.5 to 3.5 mph depending on the season and type of bait you are using. One of the biggest benefits to faster trolling speed is that you reduce the amount of smaller fish you catch. At higher speeds, only the larger fish can keep up with your moving bait.

If you’re targeting big walleye and want to land that next world record fish, try to increase your trolling speeds slowly until you find the sweet spot where fish will still strike without exerting too much energy. You can increase your speed slowly by about 0.1 or 0.2 mph by using the speed control on your trolling motor.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.