Illustration by Ryan Kirby

In May, most walleye waters are still cold, and the bulk of the big girls will be in their postspawn stages. That means you have a prime shot at hooking the ‘eye of a lifetime.

The giants are fairly easy to find at this time of year, as they often stack up over areas with muddy bottoms. Though crankbaits are often put into play when the water warms, they can be lethal now if you know how to use them properly. The trick to getting a bite starts with slowing your trolling speed to a crawl and making sure your crankbaits are tracking true.

Tune Precisely
You can have the hottest-color lure in your area, but it won’t do you any good if it’s out of tune. Even a crank that ran well last week can be off this week simply from the weight of a thrashing fish, or perhaps you were overzealous with your pliers when removing a hook. To check your tuning, put the lure in the water and pay out a rod’s length of line. Pull the rod forward as the boat moves. The lure should dive straight down. If it shears off to one side, bend the line-tie eye in the opposite direction of the way the lure is tracking with needle-nose pliers. The trick is to bend it slightly, readjusting until it runs true. Don’t twist it like a pretzel, because you risk making the lure permanently un-tunable.

Get Lazy
Walleyes are often found in the sun-warmed top 10 feet of the water column, which also happens to hold the most baitfish. If this is where you’re marking them, it’s all the better to opt for a crankbait attack because their position suggests they’re actively feeding and hunting for bait. Start pulling your cranks at 1 mph in lazy S pattern. Your lures will speed up on one side of the boat and slow down on the other, giving your presentation a little variety. Every once in a while, stop the boat completely. This can get walleyes to hit when all else fails. The Rapala Husky Jerk and Reef Runner 800 are two of my favorite lures for this approach.