fish-cleaning station

How To Troll For Potholes Walleye

By Don Talbot

fish-cleaning station

Potholes State Park’s excellent fish-cleaning station is now closed for the winter, but not before author Don Talbot (right) and a client gave it a good workout. Good walleye and perch fishing should continue into this month. (DONSFISHINGGUIDESERVICE.COM)

The water temp is 58 degrees and the winds are light. Nearby on this Tuesday are 25 other boats on the water – five times the amount of traffic I’d see if I was fishing the mouth of the Methow River in Pateros for steelhead. Don’t get me wrong – my first love is fall and winter steelheading, but walleye fishing may just take half my recreational time this winter, as long as the weather holds out!

Why? The fishing is excellent and super easy to understand – the only problem we have is that the rookies try to set the hook on almost every bite. This isn’t trout or salmon fishing, where you set the hook and hold on. The idea is to feed a walleye when one grabs your bait. I learned this technique while fishing with a Professional Walleye Trail pro in 1999 and 2000. Give the walleye line for about three seconds so that the fish can start to turn the bait in their mouth. Then I sweep the hook with one steady motion until the weight of the fish is solid, and reel slowly up.

In 1999 Royce Dry and I won the Potholes Classic walleye tournament by nearly 15 pounds. Held in the fall that year, we won the event using a 1-ounce slinky weight and No. 2 octopus glo hook rigged with a leech. It wasn’t long after that leeches were banned in Washington state for use in our waterways. That didn’t slow down the fishing and here is why:

We have something more productive than an octopus glo hook to offer the walleye. The Slow Death hook is the biggest improvement in walleye fishing in the last 10 years. This hook allows you to troll all the way through winter, and it uses the worm to create a rotating action while trolling .7 mph and up. Winter trolling needs to be kept at under 1 mph and this is the rig to do it.

I enhance my rig with a Shaker Wing that I developed for MoneyMaker Products. I was the first person to use a Mack’s Lure Smile Blade and packaged and named this award-winning product while I worked as the marketing director for Mack’s from 1996 to 2002. I have been using the blades for the past 19 years until lately. If you know anything about me and the development world, then you can count on improvements to be made that challenge the status quo. I designed the patent-pending MoneyMaker Shaker Wing over 16 months ago to spin faster and shake more at slower speeds. The lopsided design is proving to be extremely effective while fishing side by side against other blade patterns and designs. The Shaker Wing is helping me look better than I am, and that is one reason why I am going to take up walleye guiding and maybe fish a few more tournaments in the near future.
THE GREAT THING about Potholes Reservoir is that the state park ramp is right next to the most popular fishing hole on the lake for walleye. The launch has two lanes and a nice dock in the middle.

With the lake full of walleye, bullheads, perch, bluegill, crappie, bass and rainbow trout, you will likely catch three or four kinds of fish while you are going after the walleye. It is a ton of fun to troll along the 30- to 40-foot shelf straight out from the launch. You can also try to find the secret humps on Fish-n-Map’s Potholes map, available at local tackle dealers, a good buy if you don’t have a depth finder with the chip for Potholes on it already. The info on the map will help you mark spots that are productive.

Shaker Wings

Trolling as slowly as possible is one of the keys to catching fall and winter walleye at Potholes Reservoir, a task made easier with Slow Death hooks and specialty blades, like these Shaker Wings, which follow on Smile Blades and turn at very low speeds. (DONSFISHINGGUIDESERVICE.COM)

Fat perch the size of your shoe are a bonus catch at the reservoir, and there’s a daily limit of 25 with no minimum size. The combined bluegill and crappie limit is 25, and the latter species must be at least 9 inches. Daily limit on walleye is eight, with only one over 22 inches allowed. In season, the state park boasts a world-class cleaning station with electricity and a fish grinder, but it closed as of Nov. 2.

MarDon Resort ( also has a boat ramp, as well as a tackle store; for the latest fishing info, be sure to check with the Mesebergs (509-346-2651).

I can see why Potholes Reservoir has a boatload of midweek traffic during the fall and winter until it ices up, and I will see you there in December, trolling very slowly. I might even take up blade baiting as the water cools off further. I will not be alone if the weather is nice.

Enjoy your fishing journeys as we discover productive and new products and techniques to try together. The next article will be on dressing up your favorite casting spinner to catch more trout and steelhead year-round.

If you have any additional questions about this subject, contact me at Don Talbot’s Fishing (509-679 8641; donsfishingguideservice. com). NS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *