Understanding what any fish feeds on is a key to being able to use the right lure or bait to fool them into feeding. For example, in the spring when water temperatures are cold there is very little forage for Walleye to feed on. This makes sense since Walleye are spring spawners which they did their heavy feeding in the fall and also through the winter building up fat reserve. That fat reserve is then used when their focus is on spawning rather then feeding.
This doesn’t mean they fast, they will indeed gobble-up an easy meal or well presented jig, but their focus in not feeding aggressively as they do after post-spawn recovery where they are literally swimming “feeding-machines” gorging themselves on most available forage fish. For example that’s one of the reason why many Walleye are hooked very lightly and even foul-hooked when jigging early season Walleye in the Detroit River, ON. The fishing can be amazing since Walleye mostly have anglers jigs to strike. If these walleye are checked for stomach content, in most cases there will just be bile in their intestine/stomach.
Walleye can swim up to 30mph when they are in hot pursuit of baitfish. This is not the case in March through April. Gobies & small perch at this time are very lathargic and holding in deeper water. Once water temperatures start to increase both Gobies and small perch will venture into the same areas that Walleye are feeding and Walleye will predate on the as much as they can. That’s when Walleye will have full stomachs of Gobies and small perch.
I have always use the formula that when Walleye are not aggressively feeding you can still make them strike. That’s when using a vertical presentation like a heavy jighead in current and fishing it extremely close to the bottom works well. Also using “loud” unnatural colors like chartreuse, hot pink, yellow, etc. to draw them close to a jig and even adding a “rattler” in the soft-plastic to get their attention. This is the time where a “stinger” hook can make all the difference in getting hook-ups or just missing light-hitting Walleye.