Skip to main content

Surprising Tips from the Cabela’s Walleye Classic Professionals [PICS]

walleye classic feature
Facebook/Danny Thompson Outdoors

Have you ever wanted to know the juiciest, most secret walleye tactics from the pros? The Cabela’s Walleye Classic offered just that.

Professional National Walleye Tour tournament anglers gathered at Cabela’s to reveal some of the techniques and gear they use to stay in business. And some methods were surprising. But when your livelihood depends on it, you have to try new things to be successful or you’ll go hungry!

The Walleye Classic event featured several seminars, ranging from vertical jigging, river fishing, and trolling tactics. There was also a treasure trove of fishing knowledge at a panel session with the top anglers.

So what were the best techniques and gear choices presented during the Walleye Classic? Check them out below.

Live Bait Rigging

Bjorn Horgen spoke about live bait options at the Walleye Classic and had some very interesting tactics. He started as a fisheries biologist, which certainly adds some more credibility to his walleye experience. The highlights from his seminar started with line choice and rigging.

He recommended using 4- to 8-pound fireline as the main line, with a 6- to 10-foot leader of 4- to 8-pound fluorocarbon. The braided line resists memory issues, and the fluorocarbon is close to invisible.

When using this system, he also recommended fishing with the bail open and your finger on the line, since the braided line has almost no stretch. The upside to this, of course, is that it’s very sensitive so you can feel exactly what’s happening below the water. As soon as you feel a bite, you should let line out.

Walleyes prefer to kill their prey before eating, so you need to allow time to really grab the bait and ensure a good hook set. With braided line, it’s also important to set your drag very light.

walleye classic bait
Lindy Fishing Tackle

Regarding bait choices, he shocked the audience with this walleye fishing secret. If not fishing leeches or crawlers, he uses redtail or creek chubs. What’s shocking about that is that he’ll often use minnows that are 6 or 7 inches long!

He has the best luck inserting the hook through the mouth and out the nostril. The minnow stays lively and can swim this way, instead of through the dorsal fin or tail.

Inland Lakes

The Walleye Classic pro panel discussed how to best target walleye in inland lakes, and recommended the following tips:

Bottom bouncers work well if trolling, but ensure you don’t drag it across the lake bottom. Instead, keep only enough line out so that you feel it just making contact with it. The entire pro panel agreed that a three-way swivel system with bottom bouncer and Mustad Slow Death hooks work even in the summer lull period.

walleye classic slow death

Crankbaits work great for pitching toward shore to catch walleye hanging near the weed bed edges. Though they’re not ambush predators like bass, they still forage in these areas. However, many anglers tend to ignore the weed beds in favor of trolling points and humps.

Otherwise, jigging is very effective in inland lakes. Simple fireball jigs tipped with live bait are a deadly combination. Scale your jigs and use light line to keep your presentation a few feet above the bottom. Leeches work well in clear water, but minnows should work in most situations. If you have trouble with perch or panfish stealing your nightcrawlers, try a Berkley Gulp! crawler which will stay on the hook much longer.

Great Lakes and Reservoirs

When fishing the Great Lakes or reservoirs, the Walleye Classic pro panel had several suggestions. First, when it’s windy and there’s a good “walleye chop” on the water, bait fish tend to get pushed up against wind-driven points and get trapped. This triggers predators like walleyes to move in and feed, making it a great place to fish.

Speaking of the “walleye chop,” it turns out there’s some real science to back it up. When the water surface gets rough in the wind, it breaks up the UV light that can make it down into the water column. Walleye typically hunt most during low-light hours, and so this reduction in UV rays triggers feeding activity.

Generally, the top walleye forage species include minnows and perch. Troll crankbaits that mimic these species (e.g., colors, shapes, etc.) to first find the fish. Once you locate a school, you can switch to spinners or vertical jigging. The pros all recommended tying your own spinners, and having a variety of blade types and colors available so you can find something that works.

walleye classic spinners
Sioux City Journal

With many fishing seasons opening soon, now you have the tactics the Walleye Classic pros use. Get out on the water and try them out!

Follow me on Twitter @rjlisson

you might also like

Surprising Tips from the Cabela’s Walleye Classic Professionals [PICS]