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How to Fish for Columbia River Walleye: Crankbaits! When, Where, Why and How to take your Walleye game to the next level. Part 1: Winter – Early Spring

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Columbia River Wallere

How to Fish for Columbia River Walleye: Crankbaits! When, Where, Why and How to take your Walleye game to the next level. Part 1: Winter – Early Spring

Welcome to our second installation in our how to fish for Columbia and Snake River walleye series. Our first article titled “How to Fish for Columbia River Walleye: The Easy Way” was a detailed introduction to what we consider the easiest, and most basic way for the beginning Walleye angler to get into fish. All that information is still valid and the things we discussed there are still very much part of what we do. This part and the following articles are meant to add more tools to your walleye fishing toolkit and give you an added advantage over the other anglers around you. The following is Part 1 on how we approach fishing crankbaits for Columbia River Walleye. This is the hard earned knowledge we have gained from running a full time guide business, and you will often find us utilizing these techniques to put fish in our boats even when the bite gets tough.

When talking about fishing crankbaits on the Columbia River for walleye the four seasons of the year dictate when, where, and what style of baits we fish. Our approach in the winter will be very different from July and the baits we use will vary as well. The following is part one of a four part series breaking down how we fish crankbaits throughout the year.  Welcome to the insanity inside our brains.

Part 1: Winter – Early Spring

This period of the year is often referred to as the pre spawn. During this time of the year large female fish will be traveling to, and staging in, areas adjacent to where they will spawn later in the year. Walleye on the Columbia River spawn in the spring of the year when the water is between 42 and 48 degrees. Spawning often occurs in April and is done in areas of current over rocks. Walleye are broadcast spawners and spawning most often takes place at night in shallow water. During the pre spawn the smaller males will stage near the large females, but won’t necessarily be with the large female fish. Fishing for the smaller “eater” size fish takes a different approach than fishing for large “trophy” fish, as they are often in different locations. The one constant during the winter is cold water. When the water temps are in the low to mid 30’s the overall objective is to go SLOW.

During the cold pre spawn period you will generally find “eater” size fish grouped up in areas of deep water.  January – early March we often find these fish in 70+ feet of water. It is possible to fish stickbaits, such as the Rapala F11, on three way rigs, but there are other more effective methods for fishing these cold water walleye in deep water. January, February, and March are arguably the absolute best months of the year for a chance at catching a true Columbia River giant, and this is where we focus our energy in the early season.

Large pre spawn walleye (mostly females) will be found much shallower than their smaller male counterparts.  The large fish are still actively feeding on whatever food sources are available to them as they try and pack on as many calories as possible to support the growth of their eggs.  The predominant food sources during this time of year are the young of the year minnows from the previous year, including suckers, juvenile shad, juvenile Pacific Lamprey, and the ever present sculpins that inhabit the rocky areas of the Snake and Columbia Rivers.  These minnows have had an entire summer and fall to grow, and by January – March most of them are 3-5 inches in length. During winter and early spring we find large mature females in less than 20 feet of water. During daylight hours most of these fish will be in the 12-20 foot range, and at night they often move very shallow to feed.  Our preferred method to target these fish is to SLOWLY troll with our bow pointed upstream against the current.  The goal here is to troll upstream at less than 1 mph, and oftentimes as slow as .6-.8.  Remember that on the Columbia we are fishing in areas with current and if your speed on your GPS says anything less than .5 mph there is a good chance you are actually drifting back with the current. The goal here is to present our crankbaits as slowly as possible while still being able to cover some ground in search of fish.  In this situation we favor long bodied deep diving walleye plugs such as the Bandit Walleye Deep, Bay Rat LXD, #11 Berkley Flicker Minnows, as well as #10/#12 Rapala Deep Husky Jerks. Not only are these plugs an almost exact size match to most of the available forage present, but they are also all capable of diving to our targeted depths when flatline trolled. Our standard procedure is to troll these plugs with long setbacks with 30# power pro braid to get them to run just above the bottom.  Resources such as the Precision Trolling APP which can be downloaded on your IPhone or Android device really help in knowing approximately how many feet of line to run using a line counter reel. Remember that when targeting trophy walleye it’s not a numbers game, but at any time a rod goes down during the winter / early spring it has the chance to be a giant. Walleye in the 12-16 pound class are common on the Columbia, and fish over 18 pounds are caught ever year.  

Make Sure to subscribe to our blog or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @jonessportfishing, so you don’t miss out on the future additions to this series on How to fish crankbaits for Columbia River Walleye! 

Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye

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Columbia River Walleye Trolling Tip: Check your line counter reels

We all have been there before. Why is this rod or that rod not as productive as the others? Why is that rod always tangled? Well have you checked to see if you line counter reels are reading similar to the other rods?

Below is a video tip we put together showing just how much this issue can impact how your lures are fishing. Please make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel.


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Columbia River Wallere

Columbia River Walleye Report

To say that the past few days have been a challenge would be an understatement.  Due to recent heavy rains the flows on the Columbia River have changed greatly in the past week.  As I write this the river is currently dropping and the conditions are getting “better.”  I put that last statement in quotations because although things were a little difficult, after a few adjustments we found the Walleye very willing.  I have wrote before on how we approach fishing for walleye during high flow periods on the Columbia, so when flows came up we changed from primarily pulling deep diving crank baits to trolling bottom bouncers and worm harnesses.  Our key to catching fish in these conditions was to find areas out of the main flow and troll downstream as slow as possible.  We also played with a bunch of combinations with beads/floats and blades before we locked into what these fish seemed to want.  The color combo that worked the best the past two days for us is Gold and Black, and in particular we did well with a black fish pill and a Gold Smile Blade.

Although we kind of stumbled onto a working color combo, our biggest key to success was simply fishing hard.  We barely had one fish by 11am on Friday and we ended with 10, and again on Saturday we didn’t really get into fish until after noon and managed to end up with 15 including a monster 12.35 pound beast!  Walleye fishing is all about paying attention to minor details.  Pay attention to the details, make adjustments, and when you find a groove ride it until it goes away.

The Walleye Spawn is currently on and the spring weather is improving, with that said we have openings over the next few weeks and going all the way through July.  Walleye have become a favorite fishery of ours, so if you would like to see why we like it so much, or to just learn how we go about it get in touch with us and book a trip.


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Columbia River Walleye

Columbia River Walleye Guides

At Jones Sport Fishing we have absolutely fallen in love with chasing tasty Walleye on the Columbia River. Our Walleye season starts in full force during the month of March, and we chase these fish hot and heavy all the way through July. The Columbia River is known both as a place to catch monster Walleye as well as large numbers of great eating size fish. On any given day you could find us pulling crawler harnesses, dragging crankbaits, vertically jigging, or casting swimbaits for these incredible tasty fish.

At Jones Sport Fishing we are full time fishing guides that pride ourselves on working hard to make sure we both put you on fish, and make your day as enjoyable as possible. We have years of experience and have assembled a great team of guides that all share our philosophy. We hope that after you book your first trip with us that you will come back for years of fishing fun. To Book your next Columbia River Walleye adventure give us a call at 208-669-1569 or click on the green Book Online button at the top of the page.

Thank You,

Kyle Jones


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Columbia River Walleye Report.

The water is high and the Walleye are on the bite. Water temp was 55 today and we had consistent fishing all day for 18-24 inch Walleye. These are great sized Walleye. Fishing will continue to be good all the way through June and we have lots of space open.

Our key to catching fish today was the exact method we wrote about here.


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Columbia River Walleye Fishing

We had another good day of Walleye action on the Columbia river today. We had two customers put a total of 15 Walleye and a few bass in the boat! We have openings for Walleye fishing on the Columbia through June.


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Columbia River Walleye Report

A slow morning of salmon fishing turned out to be a very good day of Walleye Fishing we ended up with 17 today plus a pile of bass. All our fish were caught today fishing bottom bouncers and worm harnesses. Our number one color today was Chartreuse. We have some open dates for Walleye fishing over the next few weeks. Get with us now to secure your dates.


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Columbia River Walleye Report

Today was a bad day to be a Columbia River Walleye or Smallmouth Bass. My self and a buddy hit the river for a few hours today before the wind blew up and had some great action. These fish were all caught on bottom bouncers and worm harnesses. We have openings this Monday and Tuesday to get in on some of this great Walleye fishing. Give our office a call at 208-669-1569 or Book Online Online at Jonessportfishing.com

If you want to know how we have been catching these fish check our our write up on How to catch Columbia River Walleye


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Columbia River Walleye

We had another great day today chasing Walleye on the Columbia River. The bite was plenty consistent and we also added a bunch of smallmouth bass to the mix today. The Walleye fishing will be good now through June. We still have openings this weekend. 3 seats are open Friday and 2 seats are open Saturday. Give us a call at 208-669-1569 or Book Online at Jonessportfishing.com.


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Columbia River Walleye Fishing Report

We had another good day of Walleye fishing today on the Columbia River. The water level has come up the past couple of days and the bite slowed just a little for us, but we still ended up with a good pile of fish in the cooler plus a few catfish as a bonus. We have Walleye trips open this week and next, plus lots of available dates during May and June. Get in touch with us now to get your Columbia River Walleye trips booked.