We know that many a walleye angler has spent time dreaming of owning a walleye boat "like the pros run". Reality is, most fishermen never will. But there are things that walleye pros like ourselves do to rig their boats that "avid weekend warriors" can incorporate in their own boats to make their fishing more productive and efficient.
Lets start with the simplest of rigging options...the placement of rod holders. With trolling being a major player in walleye fishing presentations, rod holders are an integral piece of a walleye boat. Not just the holders themselves, but their placement in the boat can make a big difference. Take into consideration how many rods will be used in most walleye trolling situations. Usually two or three rods per angler are the norm (check local regulations on number of rods per angler). In most cases, provided you fish with a buddy, you'll be trolling with at least four rods out. If you look at how the pros do it, there are usually twp rod holders placed on the back "splash" wall to run rods off the back of the boat, and two more about three feet forward, for rods that will be run with in-line planer boards. If you plan on fishing six rods at any time, consider putting a third set of holders near, but forward of, the second set for additional board lines.
Moving to the bow, it's a good idea to have rod holders placed within easy access to the bow seat for times when you would be drift fishing, jig-trolling, etc. Rig two holders in the bow area of the boat for these presentation options. This may seem like a lot of rod holders, but you can save a little cash by purchasing four or five holders then a few extra mounting brackets to be placed on the boat. Then you just move the holders to the appropriate brackets that fit the presentation you are fishing at the time.
Another important aspect of any good walleye boat is it's power source. Without a good set of batteries to power such accessories as fish finders, trolling motors, GPS units or marine band radios, you are basically dead in the water as far as walleye fishing goes. The number of batteries you run will depend on the accessories your boat is rigged with. If you run a 12 volt trolling motor, it's a good idea to have two batteries wired in parallel to insure having enough power on any given day on the water.
Most electronics, such as fish finders, GPS units and the like, are powered from the boat's starter battery. This can put a real drain on the battery, risking the unfortunate event of the battery not starting your outboard when you need it to. For this reason, we rig our boats with a battery wired in parallel with the starter battery to handle the extra load.
If you're rigging up like many pros do, you'll no doubt be looking at a 24 volt trolling motor system. That means you'll be running at least two trolling motor batteries. Many walleye veterans rig four batteries for the trolling motor. With two sets of batteries rigged for 24 volts, you don't have to worry about running out of juice while relying on the trolling motor to catch fish. Depending on the boat you run, carrying four trolling motor batteries may not be practical.
Your choice of batteries is an important consideration too. Batteries like GNB's STOWAWAY is a great battery for the angler looking to get reliability, power and easy maintenance. The STOWAWAY is a true dual-purpose battery, capable of being used as a trolling motor battery and/or a marine starting battery. Because of the larger Mercury 225 EFIs that we run, the superior starting power that a battery like the STOWAWAY has comes in real handy. This is also our battery of choice for running the 24 volt MinnKota trolling motors we use on our boats.
One of the most essential pieces of equipment any walleye boat must have is a good locator. Without a locator you're blind to what is going on under the surface. For that reason, it is important to get a unit that will give you the best possible "picture" of what's below your boat. That takes Pixels...Vertical Pixels. The more vertical pixels a locator has, the better definition the unit will give you. The units we use are Lowrance's LMS 350A and the new X-85. For the past couple of years the 350 has been the unit of choice for most of the top walleye pros playing the game. The 350 has 200 vertical pixels, the most offered in the industry...until this year. Now enters the next generation of locators with the Lowrance X-85 and the Eagle Optima. These units feature 240 vertical pixels making them the state-of-the-art in fish finding electronics today. With definition like this, it is much easier to distinguish things like fish size, separation and bottom hardness.
Choosing the right transducers for these locators is also an important consideration. We rig our boats with a 45 degree transducer on the transom for viewing deep or suspended fish along with 20 degree transducers on both the transom and the bow for general use.
As important as fish finders/locators are in helping you to find fish, a GPS unit will bring you back to the hot-spot again and again. You won't find a single boat on the pro circuits that isn't equipped with a GPS unit. We typically rig our boats with one on the console and one on the bow. Why would we need a GPS on the bow you ask...because many techniques have us fishing off the front trolling motor. It's great to be able to map out structure, throw out icons on hot spots and stay on productive areas...all of which a GPS will provide. Units like the GlobalMap 2000 are great because they show you an actual map of the area you are fishing. This helps in navigation as well as letting you know where you are in relation to particular landmarks, points, islands, etc. A GPS can not only let you mark the hot spots where you catch fish, but by laying a plot trail, you can follow productive trolling paths to stay on fish. This is especially important when trolling in larger open water like the Great Lakes or large inland lakes like Winnebago in Wisconsin or reservoirs like Lake Oahe in South Dakota.
An economical way to go for many anglers is to invest in a hand-held GPS like the Lowrance GlobalNav 200, GlobalNav Sport, Eagle Explorer or AccuNav Sport. These units are portable and relatively inexpensive, while being no less effective than the larger permanent mounted models. A bonus to the hand-held models is that they can be mounted in your vehicle to aid in finding your way to that "out-of-the-way" lake, or carried into the field to help you find your way back to hunting camp. Hand-held mapping units are also available, like the Lowrance GlobalMap Sport and the Eagle AccuMap Sport.
All of the mapping units, whether mounted or hand-held, can be made even more effective with the addition of IMS SmartMap mini cartridges. These cartridges simply plug into the back of the mapping GPS unit (or a special Map Link option for the GlobalMap 2000's) and give the unit significantly more detail of a particular area than the map that comes in the base unit. Just purchase the IMS SmartMap cartridge for the area you fish or hunt most often, and you can pinpoint details many road or lake maps won't give you.
An essential piece of GPS equipment is the antenna. The LCG-1's are your link to the satellites that make the GPS function. We mount our LCG-1's on the top deck of the boat, although with the new Rockwell 12 parallel-channel receivers for the Eagle View and Lowrance GlovalNav 310 GPS units we have been able to mount them on shelves below the console and still get great performance.
Of course rigging a walleye boat doesn't have to stop there. There are many other accessories like a compass, VHF radio, maybe downriggers or even an AM-FM/CD player that can be added to customize your rig to fit you and the way you like to fish. If you do a lot of trolling, and your main outboard is a 90 hp model or larger, you will want to look at getting yourself kicker motor. The 4-stroke 9.9 hp models from Mercury are a great choice. They're quiet, smoke-free and very fuel efficient. If you like an electric motor on the transom, you've got to check out the MinnKota models that feature KotaStow mounts. Finally, a transom mount electric that stows with the convenience of a bow mount. And speaking of bow mount trolling motors...features like AutoPilot, Remote Control, Composite Shafts and "All Terrain" construction make the new MinnKota bow mounts the "Pros Choice" for trolling motors.
For some anglers rigging the ultimate walleye fishing boat may mean keeping it simple, while for others it means a boat with "the works". However you choose to rig your boat the goal should be a simple one...to make the boat as fishable as possible. Walleyes are among the most versatile and adaptable fish that swim and a good walleye boat needs to be rigged so that you as an angler can adapt to the conditions to put more fish in the boat.