by Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
Working the night shift can help you land the walleye
of your dreams.
But top walleye guide Greg Bohn sees this scene
all the time– taillights at the boat ramp, indicating
all the other anglers are headed home, just as the prime
time for big walleyes is about to begin.
“Lakes go from very busy, with lots of activity, to
boats getting pulled out of the water, just when I’m
just getting ready to fish,” said Bohn, of Minocqua,
Wisconsin. “Many anglers know there’s a good bite
nearing dark. But they leave too soon. The walleyes are
just starting to move.
“They’re really missing the boat by not staying a
little bit longer.”
Fishing at night requires a few added safety
precautions. But, the overtime and care can pay big
dividends. You can experience big numbers of fish, or
“The action can be explosive when you find a spot
where they are coming up to feed,” Bohn said. “You can
have three lighted slip-bobbers going in three different
directions at once. It’s not like one here or there
unless you’re trying deeper water.
“The deeper the water, the bigger the fish, but you
do have less action. You may not get anything at a spot
one night and get two over 8 pounds the next night.
That’s just how it goes.”
Night fishing with slip-bobbers works any time of
year, but the optimum time is summer when the sun rises
early and the morning feeding window is short-lived.
Once sunlight intensifies, walleyes head to deeper water
and bury themselves in the mud or weeds to wait for
darkness when they can take advantage of their
extraordinary low-light vision.
Summer is also the time when daytime boating activity
is at a peak from skiers, other fishermen and personal
watercraft. You may rush to the lake only to find a
pontoon boat already anchored on your favorite fishing
spot, and it may stay there all day.
“After dark, the lake is all yours,” says Bohn. The
most productive nighttime lakes are often ones that
don’t produce well during the day. “Some of our lakes
don’t even wake up until sunset,” Bohn says.
Clear water is a common characteristic. Zebra
mussels have made many lakes and reservoirs crystal
clear. A lack of vegetation is another. Rusty crayfish
have mowed thick weed beds down in many spots.
Wind is a friend. The worst nights follow afternoons
when the breeze dies early and doesn’t return. When
that happens, action tends to come in a surge, last a
short time and stop.
“The wind is really important after dark. On nights
when there’s a chop, the walleyes are more aggressive
and the bite lasts for much longer,” Bohn said.
“Walleyes are smart and cautious. Wind breaks up the
water’s surface. Calm nights can be very touchy.”
Years of experience have also taught Bohn that moon
phases play a role.
“Three days before the full moon are awesome,” he
Pinpointing spots to try after dark is no trick.
Locations that produce during the day will produce at
night. But, they may produce more walleyes or bigger
ones with the lights out.
Bohn’s goal is to have two, three or four places
fixed in his mind before he launches. Don’t wait until
after nightfall to scout them. Visit during the day
when obstructions, like buoys and rock humps close
enough to the surface to damage lower units, are easily
“You don’t want to be running around after dark to
find places to fish,” Bohn said.
If you have a GPS unit, mark key features on those
scouting missions. For example, put a waypoint on the
top of a submerged hump. Trace the breakline around a
point, island or rock pile on the screen. Contact
points where walleyes first arrive as they move from
deep water to feed often become apparent. Set more
waypoints to find them easily later.
Do the same with weed beds. Submerged fields of
vegetation can be massive. Trace the weedline looking
for the points and turns where walleyes gather.
Take the guesswork out. Take time to pre-set the
depth of floats. Bohn has noticed some important
details concerning that topic.
“A weed bed in 10 feet of water may catch a lot of
fish,” he says, “but the weed bed in 18 to 25 feet is
where they’ll show up first. They start at the fringes
of the structure, but they’ll move shallower. When
action slows, try the top of the structure of itself.
When activity stops, think about moving, but check
shallow water first.”
Thermocline also plays a key role. The best
structures and features like weed beds will be the ones
closest to where warm water meets cold.
“The thermocline has a lot to do with what structures
are selected,” explains Bohn. “If the cold and warm
water meet at 14 feet, then the bars at 12 to 14 feet
are very, very important.”
The depth of the thermocline will change over time.
“That same thermocline in August may be at 24 feet.
A lot of spots that produce in June and July will not
produce later in summer,” he said.
One other bit of information he’s collected can mean
the difference between a livewell full of fish for the
table or one trophy for the wall. Bohn said the places
that yield lots of fish are rarely the same ones that
deliver giants. Don’t be surprised if big-fish spots
feature big boulders.
“Bobbers let you fish them,” he says, “where other
techniques would not work.”
The Modern Rig
Bohn, who wrote “Master
the Art of Slip-Bobbering: the Deadliest Method for
Walleye!” with outdoor writer Scott Richardson, has
fine-tuned the slip-bobber rig to perfection over the
years. More recently, he’s helped Lindy Fishing Tackle
maintain its dominance of the slip-bobber market by
helping design the Pro Series Thill Slip Bobber series.
The rig starts with a threaded bobber stop. Slide it
on a main line of 10-pound Hi-Viz, yellow Power Pro,
which is easily seen in the dark.
Floats in the Thill Nite Brite series are the right
choices for slip-bobbers. They come in 4- or 5-inch
models and with lights in three colors: red, yellow and
green. Use at least two different colors, one for you
and a different one for your partner. That helps quickly
identify whose bobber is going under.
Bohn switches to the Thill Nite Brite Finesse float
on really windy nights. The tall bobber is more visible
in choppy water and supports a 1/16-ounce weight and
sinker well. Unlike the center slider Nite Brites, the
line slides through the X-Change line attachment at the
bottom of the stem of the Finesse Float.
Lindy makes snell choice easy by selling fully-rigged
snells tied with two colors of #4 Tru-Turn hooks (PS 401
is red and PS 402 is gold), and two colors of 1/16-ounce
Bobber Bugs (PS 351 is firetiger and PS 352 is perch).
Bohn uses the shorter 4-inch center slide model of
the Nite Brite float to support a hook and the longer
5-inch for the Bobber Bug.
Use rubber-core sinkers or soft split-shot to balance
As for bait, whole nightcrawlers attract big fish.
“Panfish will bother them during the day, but they’re
magic after dark,” Bohn said.
Some people hook the worm midway on the hook and let
both sides dangle. Bohn prefers to slide the point in
the nose, pull it back out and twist the hook before
embedding it in the worm and pulling the nose up over
the hook eye. He does a similar thing with Bobber Bugs.
All that remains visible is the spinner and the head of
Never leave the dock with only one kind of bait.
Jumbo leeches are Bohn’s second choice. The reason: big
bait, big fish. “If you’re going to the trouble to fish
after dark, go for something nice,” he said.
Though Bohn recommends setting bait one foot off
bottom during the day, he suggests trying different
depths at night. Use leeches down low, but set worm
rigs from a few feet down to several feet off the
“That is particularly true with suspended walleyes
over sand bars and rock bars,” he says. “They are off
the bottom sometimes 7 to 8 feet.”
The first couple of strikes will help you zero in on
a productive depth for the night.
On the Water
Make like a Boy Scout and be prepared
before heading out. Take lots of lights, including
headlamps, lanterns and flashlights. A rechargeable
spotlight is a great tool to get bearings while the boat
is in motion and when landing fish.
Keep the floor of the boat clear. No tackle boxes
should be left out to trip over. The net should be kept
out of the way. Everyone should wear a life vest to
keep the trip from turning into a nightmare. It’s just
too easy to fall overboard.
Then, keep it simple. Head to spot number one, drop
a marker buoy on the far side of the structure and
anchor on the other side within casting distance. That
way, the area is targeted. The fish should be somewhere
Start fishing. Nothing? Try shallower or head to
spot number two.
Action can be fast and furious. Or, there may be only
one bite, but the head shakes throbbing through the rod
could signal you’ve connected with the walleye of your