10 Reasons You Can’t Catch Walleye (and What to Do Instead)

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you – you’re targeting walleye at one of your local fishing spots but they are nowhere to be found. After a few unsuccessful hours go by you start to ask your self this question, why am I not catching any walleye?

We have all been there. This happens to not only beginners but even the most skilled anglers. If you are struggling to catch walleye or simply want to learn how you can catch more fish, than this article is for you.

In this post, I’ll share with you the main reasons why you’re not catching walleye and some tips and tricks you can do instead that will help you catch more walleye on your next fishing trip.

Let’s get started.

10 Reason Why You Can’t Catch Walleye

When I first started fishing for walleye I made a ton of mistakes over the years and at times was frustrated with my lack of success. Thought trial and error and with some help form other anglers I’ve learned what it takes to have success out of the water.

I’ve put together the following list that will help you avoid these mistakes that I made and that will ultimately help you catch more fish.

Here at 10 mistakes anglers make that prevent them from catching more walleye:

You’re Fishing too Fast

A common mistake made by many anglers fishing for walleye is that they fish their baits and lures way to fast. If you know you are fishing in the right areas but aren’t’ having any luck SLOW down. This is especially true when fishing with jigs. Many anglers often say you can’t fish a jig slow enough and if you think you are fishing slow, slow down even more. This can help you catch even the most lethargic walleye.

Using the Wrong Colors

The color of your jig or lure might seem like a small thing, but it can actually have a huge impact on your fishing success.

There have been times when I have been fishing almost the exact lure or bait as someone else, just in a different color, and I couldn’t catch anything while others were reeling them in left and right. Your color choice can make a big difference.

After a while if you are not catching any walleye on a particular color try switching to a different one. Preferable a color that is in contrast with your last color choice.

As a general rule I tend to like brighter colors when target walleye however there are certain situations where more natural colors work better like in clear water.

To help you make sure you fish for walleye with the right colors check out this guide: Best Colors for Walleye Lures.

Your Bait Isn’t Fresh

Many anglers targeting walleye opt to use live bait instead of artificial lures. This can be a very effective way to catch fish. However, if you are not having any luck catching walleye on live bait such as crawlers, leaches and minnows your bait probably isn’t fresh enough.

Natural movement from live bait can be crucial and will help you get a lot more bites. Make sure check your bait regularly and ensure your bait is still on and is fresh. Adding additional scent can also be a great way to get more bites.

Trolling too Fast

A common mistake made by many walleye anglers that are trolling is that they are trolling way too fast. A slow pace of 1 to 2 miles per hours is ideal regardless of your body of water or the season you are fishing in.

With that being said the fish may want a different speed within this range depending upon their mood and other factors. You would be surprised on what a small speed adjustment can do. Find a trolling speed that works and maintain in through the day. If it stops working mix it up again until you find what works.

Check out this article for more guidance on how to troll at the right speed: Best Trolling Speeds for Fishing.

Not at the Right Water Depth

Another reason why you aren’t getting any walleye to bite is that you are fishing at the wrong depths. Walleye are generally found between 10-40ft. Their preferred depth will vary depending upon the season, time of day, weather patterns and other factors.

Understanding and knowing what depth the walleye will be at a certain time can play a huge factor in being able to catch fish.

If you aren’t sure if they are shallow or deep, move around until you can find a fish or two and try and find areas that replicate the same spot where you caught some fish. One you have a nice pattern down you’ll be able to catch a ton of fish.

For more tips on where to target walleye check out this article: Walleye Fishing Tips: How to Fish for Walleye and Catch Them.

Fishing at the Wrong Time of Day

If you’re not having any luck catching walleye, you may be fishing during the wrong time of day. I am a firm believer that with a little patience and persistence you can catch fish at any time.

However, there is no denying that during certain times of the day fish are more active and you’ll have a way better chance of catching fish.  

The best time to go fishing for walleye is going to be in the morning, evening or during overcast conditions. Walleye have extremely sensitive eyes, which gives them a hug advantage over them pray at night. For this reason, the night fishing can be extremely effective when targeting walleye.

To learn more about this, check out an article I wrote called: When is the Best Time to go Fishing?

Your Jig is too Heavy

Another common mistake made by many walleye anglers is that they use jigs that are too heavy. As a result, they don’t get the necessary action and tend snag and loose their jigs more often.

If you want to catch more walleye us the lightest jig you can get away with. I recommend using jigs that weight between 1/16 and 1/8 ounce. In windy conditions a ¼ ounce jig is best. If you are fishing in current a heavier jig may be the needed.

Fishing the Wrong Areas

One of the most common mistakes anglers of all skill levels make is spending way too much time fishing in the wrong areas. There is a saying in fishing that goes something like this: 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water.

Walleye can be tricky to target and catch at times. If you aren’t catching any walleye, then you are probably fishing in the wrong area. The most time I would spend in the same spot is about 30-45 minutes. If you haven’t received a bite during this window it’s time to move on and fish new water.

One of the keys in fishing is to be constantly on the move until you can find fish. Once you find them, then you can slow down and take your time fishing that area, but don’t waste time fishing in spots that aren’t holding any fish.

Fishing with the Wrong Lures or Bait

If you are fishing in the right areas and see other anglers catching fish, the odds are you are using the wrong type of bait or lure.

Fishing can be a crazy thing, what worked yesterday or last week may not work today. That’s why it’s important to mix it up. If you’ve been fishing the same lure or technique for a while with any luck don’t be afraid to switch things up until you can find something the fish will respond to.  

I’ve made the mistake of sticking with a lure or bait too long when I could have switched things up and caught fish. Don’t make this mistake. On most days’ walleye will give you feedback in the form of bites and you’ll be able to tell fairly quickly if you are presenting them with the right stuff.

You’re Using the Wrong Lure Size (Too Big or Small)

Another common reason why you may not be catching any walleye is that you are using lures and baits that are either too big/small or they don’t properly match the walleye forage.

Matching the hatch is a term in fishing that basically means using lures and baits that closely resemble what the fish are feeding on. Matching your baits and lures to the hatch can dramatically improve your odds at catching fish.

If your goal is to simply catch more walleye I would down size your lure and baits. A smaller profile will be more appealing to a larger range of fish. On the other hand, if catching trophy sized walleye is your mission upsizing to larger profiled baits will help you get those bigger bites.

Related Walleye Fishing Resources

Other Fishing Resources

Final Thoughts

Let’s be honest – Nobody likes spending the entire day fishing and coming home empty handed. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the walleye won’t bite. These fishing tips you’ll understand why they aren’t biting and what you can do to turn things around and catch more fish. I hope that you have found some value in this content and that you apply it the next time your faced with tough fishing conditions. Best of luck out there.

Tight Lines

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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