Trolling Speed Walleye | The Ultimate Guide

Lake Erie Fall Fishing
Lake Erie Fall Fishing

Why Trolling Speed for Walleye Matters

Walleye are notorious for being picky biters. One of the keys to triggering more strikes is dialing in the perfect trolling speed. Walleye trolling speed can make or break a good day of fishing. Sure, there are days when they are biting good and it doesn’t matter much, but those are few and far between. Many factors come into play when trying to dial in your trolling speed. But why does boat speed matter so much?

  • Depending on water temperature, walleye prefer a specific speed range for chasing lures
  • Going too fast or slow puts lures out of the strike zone. Especially snap weights.
  • Matching lure speed to water temp and walleye activity is crucial
  • Precise speed control keeps baits in front of fish longer
  • Trolling speed impacts lure action and depth

The right trolling speed puts your lures in front of the most active walleye and keeps them there. Get the speed right and you’ll get bit way more often. Sometimes it just takes some experimenting, but you can get close just by following this walleye trolling speed guide.

How Fast to Troll for Walleye?

So what trolling speed should you aim for? While every situation is different, there are some general guidelines. Here are the best MPH ranges to start:

SeasonWater Temp (°F)Trolling Speed (mph)
Early Spring35-450.8-1.2
Late Spring45-551.3-1.8
Early Summer55-651.8-2.5
Summer Peak65-752.0-3.0
Fall Turnover50-601.3-2.0
Late Fall40-500.8-1.5

These are just starting points. You’ll need to experiment to see what the walleye want on any given day. But sticking to these ranges will keep you close. Each presentation or technique has a trolling speed range. For example, some crankbaits can only be trolled up to a certain speed. Make sure you check to see what the optimal trolling speed is for the presentation you are using.

Factors That Impact Walleye Trolling Speed

While water temp provides a baseline, there are several other factors to consider when dialing in trolling speed. The most important include:

Time of Day

  • Walleye often prefer slower speeds in lowlight periods
  • You can get away with faster trolling during midday
  • Always start slower at dawn/dusk and gradually speed up

Weather Conditions

  • Walleye may require faster speeds to chase in calm weather
  • Slow down your troll in rough seas or windy conditions
  • Falling barometric pressure can necessitate slower presentations

Forage Type

  • Match trolling speed to prevalent baitfish when possible
  • Crankbaits mimicking fast prey like smelt can be trolled quicker
  • Slower speeds are better for sluggish live bait rigs

Crankbait Trolling Speed for Walleye

trolling speed for walleye

Crankbaits can be effective from .8 to 2.5+ mph depending on the type and water temperature. Each crankbait has its range of speed it works best. Some crankbaits spin out if trolled too fast. Make sure you check with the manufacturer before trolling too fast with a crankbait.

Trolling Speed for Walleye Worm Harness

Trolling speed for a walleye worm harness varies due to the type and time of year. For example, willow blades can be trolled faster at speeds up to 3 MPH. Colorado blades need to be trolled a little slower due to the shape. The time of year plays a large part in how fast you will troll a worm harness. In the late spring when the worm bite heats up, .8-1.5 MPH works best. In the summertime, worm harnesses can be trolled with inline weights or Dipsy Divers at speeds 3+ MPH.

The key is adapting your trolling speed to conditions, forage, and lure type. There’s no one perfect speed, so stay flexible.

How to Control Trolling Speed for Walleye

Okay, so now you know the best trolling speeds for walleye. But how do you control and finetune your speed? Here are some tips:

Use Your Electronics

  • The GPS speedometer on the fishfinder provides real-time speed data
  • Many units allow you to set speed alerts if you drift out of range
  • Precision motor controls like MotorGuide Xi5 or Minn Kota Ulterra lets you set the cruise control to an exact tenth of an MPH

Consider Current Speed

  • Rivers or wind-swept areas may require faster trolling
  • Anglers often troll upstream slower and downstream faster
  • Experiment with speed changes after turns based on the current

Using Snap Weights for Walleye Trolling

  • Adding snap weights or lead-core lines slows down lures
  • Using lighter, thinner lines allows for slightly faster trolling
  • In-line weights can help dial in precise depth and speed combos

Watch for Followups

  • If you see multiple walleye following but not striking, speed up
  • Slow down if you feel light hits or see swirls behind the lure
  • Adjust speed any time you mark walleye to trigger reaction bites

The following fish can be seen on forward-facing sonar. It has become popular in the past couple of years to run a forward-facing sonar on the transom of your boat while trolling. Play around with these different speed control options until you figure out reliable patterns. And don’t be afraid to make on-the-fly adjustments.

Trolling Speed Mistakes to Avoid

Even experienced walleye trollers make common mistakes with speed control. Here are some big ones to watch out for:

  • Trolling too fast in cold early season or late fall conditions
  • Not adjusting speed gradually throughout the day as conditions change
  • Trolling too slow during the summer peak feeding windows
  • Forgetting to factor in wind or current speed with boat speed
  • Not varying trolling speed after a turn or course change
  • Trolling too fast for the forage base (e.g. fast for smelt, slow for perch)
  • Sticking to one speed rather than experimenting with subtle variations

The biggest mistake of all? Getting stuck on auto-pilot. Actively think about your trolling speed and adapt to the conditions for more walleye success.

Quick Tips on Walleye Trolling Speed

While we’ve covered a lot of ground, here are a few final things to keep in mind about walleye trolling speed:

  • It’s more of an art than a science – trust your intuition and experiment
  • Talk to local anglers and bait shops for intel on the best speeds for the area
  • Invest in quality gear like line counter reels and precision trolling motors
  • Log patterns in a journal to refer back to each year
  • Have multiple rods ready to go at different speeds to quickly adapt
  • Start every trip slow and gradually ramp up speed as you rule out patterns
  • Take pictures of your fishfinder speed any time you catch a walleye

Put in the work to find the best trolling speeds each day and your walleye catches will increase dramatically. Tight lines!