If you are going to troll with crankbaits, do yourself a favor, and go and buy the book, Precision Trolling. This book shows all the depth curves for almost every crankbait known. It is about $25.00 and can be found at any Gander Mountain, Wal-Mart, or Cabelas. It is actually cheaper at Val's Bait and Tackle, and that is no BS! Get it there and save some $$$$$$$.
Make sure while trolling, you put a few baits high in the water column. Too many times I see people with all there baits tight to the bottom, and at the end of the day, they have nothing to show for their work. Walleyes will tend to feed up, meaning they will look for food above them, before looking down. If your bait is tight to the bottom, you could be missing a lot of active feeding fish.
On sunny days, try and use baits that are colorful, such as Reef Runners, Flicker Shads, Rapalas, or Wally Divers. The brighter color will reflect a lot of light, and could trigger a strike.
On cloudy or overcast days, use baits that resemble the natural forage of the lake such as perch colored baits, baby bass baits, or baits that resemble gizzard shad. 95% of a walleyes diet is perch shad, so try and use that to your advantage. I like to troll using a #5 Wally Diver, perch colored, about 4-7 feet down on an overcast day.
Never troll in a direct straight line. Always maneuver your boat in a "S" shaped line. This will speed up your baits on one side, and then slow them down on the other. If fish are hitting on one side of the boat only, you need to adjust your speed. Let the fish decide what speed they want, and then make your adjustments.
Do not forget to try and troll the shallow water on the west shore. Walleyes have been known to be tight to shore in as little as 1-3 feet of water. Look for rocky shorelines where the wind is crashing in to it, and try and run some shallow baits here. I like to run crawler harnesses or small shad raps in this type of trolling.
Tip your crankbaits with a piece of crawler on the front hooks of your baits. This will not affect your bait at all, and puts a good scent in the water for the walleyes to look for. Do not use a leech on your baits, as they ball up on your hook, and will cause your bait to not function properly. I found this out the hard way!
Make sure your baits are running true in the water, and not pushing to one side or the other. If the bait is running to one side you will need to tune the bait, by bending the clasp on the lip of the bait. Do not bend it too much, or the bait will now steer too far the other way. I believe Rapala makes a tool exclusively for tuning your baits. I just use a pair of pliers myself.
I like to use Off-Shore Planer Boards. They run high in the water, and if you put the tattle tale flags on them, it is very easy to tell when you have a strike. I would suggest these for anyone. They cost about $23.00 per board, but are well worth the price.
When trolling in the "MUD" run your lures too various depths, and then after you establish where the fish are in the water column, move all your baits to that depth. If you seem to nail two or three fish in a specific location, mark it on your GPS, and continue to go over that spot a few times. I have seen too many people hit a few fish in a short period of time, and then just keep going in one direction. This is a huge mistake. The fish are there for a reason, so go back there and get a few more.
When trolling crawler harnesses use larger blades such as NO. 5 or NO. 7 in colors of brass, firetiger, silver or nickel.
Make sure to get your planer boards away from the boat. I have seen it where guys are trolling, and there first board is about 10 feet away from the boat. Planer boards are meant to place your baits away from the boat noise and the wake of your boat. I place mine at 40, 80, and 120 feet away from the boat almost exclusively.
TIPS ON JIGGING FOR WALLEYES ON LAKE WINNEBAGO:
On windier days, go to the reefs, and find the very top of the reefs. This is where the active walleyes will be. Cast a 1/16 or 1/32 oz. jig tipped with a leech or crawler. If you find nothing in a few minutes, move around the reef to find active fish. If they are there, they will bite. If they do not bite, move to another reef and try the same thing. The waves will crash into the reefs, stirring up the bottom, and this will get the food supply going in full swing. If you stay at one reef all day, you could be missing a lot of fun fishing on a different reef.
On calmer days while fishing the reefs, locate the top of the reef and back away from it, and cast towards the top and allow your jig to fall to the bottom, and then slowly bring it back. We usually use a buoy marker to mark the top, and then fish around the marker. If we get nothing we move to a different reef. We also use 1/16 or 1/32 oz. jigs while fishing like this. Do not use too much crawler on your jigs. Too much will allow the fish to suck in the crawler but not your jig. Use just enough crawler to cover your hook. This will force the fish to eat your jig as well.
When drifting over a reef, make sure that your jig is straight up and down. Do not allow it to get out at an angle. Most of the fish will hit your jig , when the bait is falling down towards the bottom. If you do not feel it hit the bottom, get ready to set the hook. If your jig is not going up and down, switch to a heavier jig. Most of the time while drifting or vertically jigging, I use a 1/8 oz. jig.
If the wind is pushing your boat too fast over the reefs while vertically jigging, you can use a wind sock to slow you down, or just throw a 5 gallon pail over the side. This does the same thing as a pricey wind sock.
HERE ARE A FEW OF THE POPULAR SPOTS TO FISH WINNEBAGO WALLEYES:
Stevens Reef: This reef is located on the north end of the lake about 1.5 miles to the east of Payne's Point. Most people anchor on top of one of the many humps here, and either fish it with slip bobbers and leeches or they bounce jigs tipped with crawlers or leeches. If you are going to fish this popular reef, be prepared to move around allot and hunt for the fish, as the walleyes tend to move around the numerous reefs in this area.
Mansur Reef: This reef provides hot action in early spring. Fish around the edges of this reef, in the rocks bouncing jigs tipped with a half a crawler. Try to locate the shallowest part of this reef, and work it over and over.
Haystack Reef: This reef is located approx. 1/2 mile north of Mansur and can provide hot action all season long. We fish this reef in the early part of the day, and then again later in the evening. Cast small rapala shad-raps or wally divers for bigger fish on the edges of the reef, and remember to throw out a crawler under a slip bobber, for a live bait presentation.
Little Blackbird Reef: This shallow area holds a lot of bigger fish, but they seem to be tough to get to bite. Try casting Wally Divers and Rapalas tipped with crawlers to try and trigger a strike. Early morning seems best for this spot.
Garlic Island Reefs: One of the most productive reefs on the northshore. This area has numerous ledges and humps all over the place. We like to drift fish, bouncing jigs in every nook and cranny we can find. This area seems to hold fish all season long, and the bite can be hit or miss anytime during the day. Crawlers and leeches both work well. If the bite seems to be slow, try tipping your jigs with a twister tail, or a tube jig to spark some attention.
Asylum Point: The long and narrow finger that extends out from Asylum point can produce nice walleyes throughout the season. Work the rocky shorelines, and go back over them time after time. Locating this area can be a little tricky, but when you do find it, you can be in for some great action. Things seem to pick up here, when there is a little wind in the air. Seems like late evening to dusk is the best time for this area.
Rasmussens Reef: Located straight out from Doemel Point's Boat Launch,goes from 16 feet up to 7 feet, and is a well known spot for people to fish with slip bobbers, or bouncing jigs. It is a small reef and locating it can be tough.
Horseshoe Reef: Located straight out from Menominee Park in Oshkosh, is this little gem of a reef. The best bet for fishing here is to drift with the wind, bouncing jigs off the bottom. Fish tend to range in the smaller size, but there are occasionally nice fish taken from here. This is a great spot to bring the family to learn how to drift fish, and bounce jigs. The bottom is rather hard, and there few snags here.
Mouth of the Fox River in Oshkosh: This popular spot is well known by most people that fish the lake. Try to locate the steep ledges and anchor on top of them. The water can go from 25 feet to 4 feet very quickly, and these ledges seem to be a hot spot for holding walleyes. This is a popular spot all season long, and it seems to be real popular when the fish are returning from spawning. Try using jigs or zip lures here, tipped with shiners or crawlers. I know a few people that use Wolf River rigs with rapalas and Wally Divers here too.
Gehrkes Reef: This small hump in Oshkosh is well known for holding fish throughout the year. Fish tend to be on the smaller side here, but if the conditions are right, the action can be outstanding. We like to use chartreuse colored jigs, tipped with leeches or half a crawler here. Best time of the day seems to be right before dark, or right before sunrise.
Paukotuk Reef: This area goes from a depth from around 15 feet up to 7 feet in a hurry. Late season walleye and sauger frequent this small hump. Trolling over this small reef has proven to be an effective method for harvesting a few fish. If you are going to slip bobber this spot, make sure to keep your bait active in the water, by twitching it on a regular basis.
Outer Bar: Located on the north end of the lake has two very different humps to it. One seems to be rather long and narrow, the other is bigger and very round. Try drifting these two humps paying attention to keeping your jig presentation straight up and down. Shiners and night crawlers seem to work best here. I have seen people fish this area at any time of the day.
Lighthouse Reef: This rocky reef can get a little hairy if you do not watch your graph, or pay attention to where you are on the reef. It is a long and narrow reef, located on the north end of the lake. I see people bouncing jigs with twister tails here, and have also seen people troll this area with crawler harnesses late at night. If you go here, be prepared to lose a few jigs, and be careful not to hit the jagged rocks in the area.