Drifting for Walleye 101

Posted on August 25, 2011


Rick Luchini of Team Surra Outdoors, June - 2011

Drifting is an excellent way to catch your limit of walleye if you are good enough to find your targeted species and patient enough to make it work. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veteran, drifting is not a complicated technique to learn and it is easy to execute making it an effective technique for schooling walleye. Needless to say it is a “must have” in your bag of tricks and it is usually the first technique I attempt once I have located a holding pattern of eyes.

In order to set your drift you must first find a group/holding pattern/school of walleye, which begs the question “how do I find a holding pattern”. Start by searching for specific floor structure like ledges, drop-offs, and channels but don’t neglect other forms of physical structure near edges like boulders, submerged trees, or weed beds. Physical boundaries between shallow feeding areas and deeper water are perfect ambush areas for hungry walleyes, this is a place where walleye will group and this is where you want to drift. If you are having trouble finding fish just keep asking yourself where are the baitfish? And what structure are they using for cover? When you find the answers to these questions you will find the ambush areas where walleye school.

Set your drift by gauging the wind direction so your boat will float directly through the holding pattern. Send your bait to the bottom, sit back and watch the fish finder, but don’t forget to adjust your line according to changes in the depth. You’ll want to keep your bait at or just off the bottom so it glides through the holding pattern slowly so that the Walleye is presented with an easy food option. The ideal drifting speed is 0.5-2.0 mph. If the wind is moving your boat too fast, then your bait can slip past the holding pattern suspended above the walleye without ever enticing a strike. When dealing with days containing high winds, the use of a drift bag can assist you in slowing your boat, but can also be used to help control drift direction.

As with all fishing, presentation is king. Your bait presentation while drifting should depend upon the specific structure that you have selected to fish over. If the holding pattern is directly below you and concentrated, then you can find success using a live bait jig combo that keeps your bait at the depth the fish you have been seeing appear on the fish finder. If the structure is an underwater weed bed then you may have to keep the bait moving in order to entice bites and keep from collecting weeds. Drifting is used by many anglers to locate fish, especially if you do not have a GPS or sonar system. One of the best side effects of drifting is that it will allow you to cover a lot of water which could help you find a hotspot. Walleye usually school near fish of similar size so if you catch a keeper drifting do your best to replicate the speed and direction on your next pass over the holding pattern.

Drifting is a good way to catch a trophy walleye. It is silent and deadly when properly used. Try drifting for walleye on your next outing.  Use your own drift variations and let us know how it works by emailing us at teamsurra@gmail.com.