Searching large expanses of water for winter walleyes can be a daunting task, especially when the fish are scattered across relatively featureless basins. But the rewards are great for those who put together successful plans of attack.

Lindy pro-staffer and veteran big water guide Jonny Petrowske breaks down big water fast with time-tested search patterns that work wonders on lakes across Lindy Land.

“When I’m hunting walleyes in wide-open spaces, I typically drill holes 50 yards apart and leapfrog across the ice,” he says. “It might feel like you’re throwing lawn darts at an 80-acre pasture, but that’s how you cut a big basin down to size.”

Sometimes, however, special situations call for a more sedentary approach.

“Right now on Upper Red, for example, walleyes are in roaming mode,” he explains. “Wheelhouses get hot and cool off in succession as schools of fish work their way across a flat. When this happens, you’re better off hunkering down and waiting for the fish to come to you.

“Get as far from the crowds as you can, punch a few holes and quietly wait them out,” he continues. “One thing I’ve noticed so far this winter, with the fish in a relatively neutral mood, is that keeping the lights down in your fish house can help a lot, too. Guys using their headlamps instead of the shack’s normal lighting system have been consistently doing the best.”

To boost his odds of a hookup, Petrowske uses noisy lures to call walleyes to his location. “I use sonic baits like the Lindy Darter, Perch Talker or Rattl’n Flyer Spoon to bring walleyes into range, just like I’m rattling in bucks from a deer stand,” he quips.

Similar to deer hunting scenarios, he cautions not to overdo the audio. “Don’t get too crazy or you’ll do more harm than good,” he says. 

Petrowske also keeps a deadstick line nearby. “I always have a small minnow, tail-hooked on a small Lindy Frostee suspended about six inches off bottom to pick up walleyes that come in but don’t hit the more active lure,” he says.