Nicole Stone’s Walleye Fishing Setup

Walleye fishing isn’t easy.  With such great depth variabilities, presentation options, and varying techniques, finding the right gear isn’t easy either. 

Walleye are elusive, finicky creatures who respond to more than just a moving piece of steel.    Maybe that’s what makes them so desirable: they never stop being a challenge.

On social media, I often get asked about the setup that I use to take on this challenge: i.e. rod, reel, line, and presentation.  These, of course, will vary from scenario to scenario. However, I normally only prepare for two main walleye techniques (and use what I have for the others). These two are:

  1. Classic jig and a minnow (both pitching and vertical jigging)
  2. Trolling at 3 to 4 mph with crankbaits (on a clear water lake, in the shallows, under moonlight)

I use spinners occasionally, but it’s far from my favorite.  I blame it on the snags and messes.

Although there are numerous setups I’d like to own, there are only a couple I have money invested in at the moment, which I discuss in further detail below.

Walleye fishing with a Jig and a Minnow

Rod

When jigging, rod sensitivity is incredibly important.  Take it from someone who tried to get away with a medium action Ugly Stik before upgrading: if you don’t feel the fish good luck trying to catch it.

I now sport a G. Loomis IMX SJR 720. I’m sure you are super impressed with the “fancy name”, but unless you are a diehard walleye angler, you probably have no idea what that model indicates.

It’s actually a 6’ extra fast action, mag-light rod that holds 4 – 8 lb line. This rod is light enough that it doubles as a quality panfish rod. It’s also great for vertical jigging.

It’s probably not many people’s first choice when it comes to walleye fishing, they might suggest a slightly stiffer rod for casting and more turbulent situations (like the 721 and 722 in that model).  However, at the end of the day, I can rig it how I want (meaning pushing beyond its specs) and it will get the job done.  Plus, I’d much rather be too light than too heavy in these situations.

Keep in mind, rod ratings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. It’s important to understand the sensitivity and the recommended line weight, but some of the details won’t be standard across the board.  However, for the scope of this article, here is why these parameters are important.

  • The rod is extra fast action: meaning the rod will bend at its tip (rather than farther down the shaft) and subsequently be easier to feel in time to set the hook. Normally “fast” to “extra fast” action is adequate for jigging.
  • It’s a mag-light: this is the rod’s stiffness or backbone (termed power).  Much of the time you’ll see rods designated as light, med-light, etc… However, mag-light is a bit different. “Mag” is like a “1/2” power almost. Essentially, the end is light but the butt of the rod has more substance. Almost closer to a med-light than a light – but with a different taper.
  • 4 – 8 lb line is the suggested line weight to use on the rod and therefore pretty self-explanatory.

In summary:

  1. Brand: G.Loomis
  2. Model: SJR 720/6’ Mag Light
  3. Weight: 4 lb to 8 lb test
  4. Action: Extra-Fast

Reel

My open water reel actually doubles as my ice fishing reel.   It’s a Shimano Sahara SH1000.

This reel is SMOOTH.  At the $80 price point, it’s tough to beat.  The SH1000 model/ Perfect for walleye, but I wouldn’t take it out chasing anything bigger (look at the higher numbered models for that).

Walleye fishing with Cranks

I love trolling with crankbaits for so many reasons.  There isn’t anything finesse about it, gear is cheaper, and when there is a fish on I KNOW it’s on (none of this finicky B.S.).  Most importantly I can cover ground.

Rod

I see no point in investing in an expensive casting or trolling rod. I’ve been plenty happy with my Ugly Stik and am in the process of investing in a couple different versions for this year (one for muskie and one for walleye trolling). For the record, I can buy 6 different Ugly Stiks for the price of my G. Loomis.  Something to consider.

Most of the time my walleye trolling setup is the same as my pike setup: a medium action 6’6″ Ugly Stik. My last ugly stick has handled lightweight trolling and multiple 40-inch pike with ease. When you are on a budget it’s hard to beat.

Of course, there is always something “better” out there. However, I’ve found you can get by with about any stiffer rod for these scenarios.

Reel

I exchange reels regularly.  Sometime’s I’ll leave my Abu Garcia baitcasting reel (cheapest model you’ll find on the market) from pike fishing on. Other times I’ll trade it out for my husband’s Scheels Dominator baitcasting reel with some lighter line (normally sporting 15 lb test) if I decide to play the casting game.

The Scheel’s Dominator has a 7:0:1 gear ratio which indicates how fast it will retrieve line (and partly the reason why we bought it). Most cheaper baitcasting reels come in around 5:1 which means 5 revolutions per 1 turn for those of you that aren’t familiar.  This is the fastest reel we own.

What You Should Know

There is literally a setup for every fishing scenario you can think of. This tends to lead to “shiny object syndrome” where you become easily convinced that the right “rod” or right “reel” will make you catch more fish. This leads to spending more and more as you hear about the latest and greatest.

However, nothing can make you catch more fish than spending time out on a quality body of water. Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself on what’s needed while keeping your budget and expectations reasonable.

About The Author

Co-founder of Ladies of Angling. Can be found chasing walleye, pike, and the occasional sunfish. Find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Watch me on YouTube.

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