The most sought after gamefish in Ontario is the Walleye. Their meat tends to be sweet and savoury, while being simple to filet. Walleye are also known as Pickerel in Canada, they are the largest member of the Perch family. Catching Walleye can be challenging for beginners fishing throughout Ontario’s many watersheds. Yet, learning how to fish for them in rivers is greatly rewarding.
Before discussing further, this guide assumes you have a basic understanding of rod handling and etiquette should you fish with a friend or guide. If you need a beginner’s guide to fishing, see the Experience Fishing program we offer for more.
Just like a rod for bass fishing, you need the right tools for the task. If you have only one choice for a Walleye fishing rod – select a Medium power rod with a Fast action. Medium power rods are the most versatile fishing rod for fishing freshwater situations.
“Power” refers to the rod’s rigidity. The heavier the power, the more pressure required to bend a rod in relation to its action rating. Power also determines line and lure weights the rod can use.
Medium power rods have the strength to handle larger game fish like trophy Walleye. A stiffer rod makes it easier to reel in a fish during a fight. Though, you lose some of the feeling of the fish fighting during the intense moment. You also have more versatility in lure selection as you find your preferred method with a medium power rod.
The “Action” describes the amount the fishing rod bends from the rod tip. The faster the action the less it bends. With less bend, you have better sensitivity and quicker hook sets while casting. A Fast rod will flex around the top third while a Moderate action will bend near the upper half.
If you plan on trolling more than casting, select a Moderate action. The speed of the hookset is not important and allows better signal when a fish is on the line.
Rod length will vary for an individual’s own heights and uses. The average recommended sizes are between 5.5 to 7 feet for Walleye fishing. Ask your local sports shop dealer if you’re uncertain what would best fit your height.
There’s a whole selection of various types and materials to choose from. Lots of proprietary blends with newer designs and techniques discovered every year! For simplicity of choice, stick to graphite rods with an IM7 rating.
While Bamboo and Fibreglass rods are a choice, Carbon Rods are the most common currently. Invented in the 1960s, Carbon-Graphite rods have been an affordable standard since its inception. Carbon rods are lighter and stronger than Bamboo and Fibreglass. They can come in a variety of blends of fibres and polymers as well.
Fishing rod manufacturers also label the material quality of Carbon-Graphite rods in Modulus or “IM”. Like golf, the lower the number the better. A IM7 will be a higher quality than IM8 and more expensive. Yet, the advantage of a better quality rod is its longevity.
This subject can be subjective to personal preference and budgets. The three main choices of fishing line material are Monofilament, Braided and Fluorocarbon.
The cheapest and most versatile choice for Walleye fishing is 6 – 8lbs Monofilament.
You can use heavier lines, but you lose some of the feeling of a Walleye striking your bait. Monofilament does stretch when you are setting a hook and fighting fish. Some anglers do not like this along with Mono developing a “memory” with use. Overtime, it will become harder to cast with as it becomes prone to tangling. The life of Monofilament can vary with how often and long you fish. The average is 1 – 2 years of use before needing to respool.
Recommended braid tests are 6 – 12lbs.
Braided fishing line originated from natural fibres like cotton and silk and twisted together into a “braid”. The fibres today are mostly made from polyethylene – Dyneema which is a kevlar like substance. Braided line does not stretch, is very UV resistant and stronger than either Mono or Fluorocarbon. Also Braided line is difficult for fish to see while casting or jigging since the line is thinner than Mono for similar line tests.
6 – 10lb line test, Fluorocarbon, is enough for any Walleye.
Fluorocarbons are unique. They’re more wear resistant than Mono of a similar diameter. Also they’re water and UV resistant. This means it will last longer than Mono and has more sensitivity while fishing. Another unique trait to Fluorocarbon is its ability to refract light like water. Thus, making it invisible to fish in clear water conditions. Like Mono, Fluorocarbon does stretch. It is a “low-stretch” line and requires more force than Monofilament.
The Spinning Reel is the most popular choice for many seasoned Walleye anglers. The best all around choice is a size 35 (3500) Spinning Reel. Reels of this size allow you to experiment with many different tackle types from jigs to soft plastics and lures. You also benefit from having more line to fish should you need more room to fight or fishing deeper water.
Another recommendation would be a lighter 30 (3000) size for Walleye reels. Going lighter will lessen your bait selection but allows you to have more feeling for fish nibbles and strikes. A lighter reel is also better paired with a lighter rod such as a Medium-Light power.
All fishing reels have a gear ratio to represent the amount of revolutions per crank of the handle. Typically slower ratios are used with live baits while faster ratios are used with lures. While this is good to know, you also have the ability to choose the pace. You control how fast your retrieve is or just jig. By slowly reeling in, you can make faster reels mimic slower ratios as a result.
Ratios also affect the duration and feel of a fight. Though, not something you should be overly hooked on when it comes to Walleye.
The most common and versatile ratio would be a 6.0:1. Yet, you are welcome to choose a faster (9.0:1) or slower (4.0:1) ratio.
Typical classes of Reel Ratios are:
With everything discussed in the article, you should have a better understanding of how to select your next Walleye Rod and Reel combo and fishing Line. Choosing a good fishing rod can last you a lifetime and produce Walleye bragging rights on the French River, Ontario.
Article by: Joe Barefoot, M.B. – Published Outdoor Writer and Photographer with over 15 years of experience in the outdoor tourism industry.