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How to Catch Walleye

Walleye are known to exhibit finicky feeding habits, but there are times when they hit artificial lures with reckless abandon, even Northern Pike sized lures. Most often they have to be tempted and teased using live bait presentations which account for the majority of walleye caught.

Walleye are a schooling fish, find one you usually find others. Most often they relate to structural elements like rock humps, inside turns, break line transitions, and man made cribs. This is why the presentations must be precise, to offer your bait in the strike zone. Other times on large bodies of water like the Great Lakes they scatter or suspend over a feature less bottom following schools of baitfish. This explains why boat control in both applications is such an important part of walleye fishing, whether it be while working a jig and minnow at a consistent depth or trolling with crank baits/spinner rigs.

The following are techniques used for catching walleye

Live Bait:
Fishing with live bait for walleye offers the angler versatility of presentations and can be fished on a slip sinker or a slip bobber rig, pulled behind a spinner, tipped on a jig, or simply fished with a plain hook and split shot. There are three types of live bait used for walleye: Minnows-Leeches and Night Crawlers. Here is a basic seasonal guideline to follow in buying the proper live bait for walleye:

 Spring: Minnows, small suckers (4″ to 5″), fathead minnows

 Summer: Leeches and Night Crawlers

 Fall: Minnows Large minnows, small to medium sucker minnows

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Fishing with Jigs:
J
igs are the most common lure used for walleye. It allows the angler to reach the depths where walleye inhabit. Most walleye anglers tip their jigs with live bait for added attraction and scent. How to work a jig depends on the time of year. When the water is cold and the walleyes are sluggish, use a very slow presentation, short gentle taps on the retrieve works the best. For warmer water walleyes, they become more aggressive, try an intense jigging retrieve. In both cases to work the jig properly, cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, then retrieve with a series of twitches and pauses based on the time of year. After each twitch maintain a taut line while the jig sinks back to the bottom. Walleye usually hit while the jig is sinking. If your line is not taut you won’t feel a strike, sometimes you will feel a distinctive tap, other times you will feel light pressure as if the jig is hung up. Whenever you feel anything different set the hook. When fishing with jigs a must have is a fast action sensitive rod so you can feel even the lightest taps, the fast action gives the power for an immediate hook set.

slip sinkerSlip Sinker Rigs:
Walleye are known for picking up live bait and dropping it as soon as they feel any type of resistance. The slip-sinker rig eliminates the resistance, as a walleye strikes the bait the angler free spools the line allowing the walleye to swim away to eat the bait for a hookset. The slip sinker rig is made up of three components, a hook, sliding weight and a stop. They can be purchased pre-tied at most sport shops or you can make your own. Fishing the slip sinker rig is quite easy, after a cast allow the rig to sink. When you pull the rig the stop catches the sinker as it moves along the bottom allowing the bait to look natural for an easy meal. The sinker is the most important component, it must be heavy enough to get the rig to the bottom.

  • A rule of thumb is 1/8 oz for every 10 feet of depth.

Most anglers use an egg or walking type of sinker, but in vegetation a bullet type sinker works best allowing the rig to slide through the weeds. For hooks the smaller the better, size 6-8 octopus to maintain a natural look. The stops can be a barrel swivel, to make it adjustable a bobber stop or a very small split shot can be used. Most often walleyes relate to bottom structure, leader lengths of 18 to 36 inches works the best.

Straditional-bobber-rig1lip Bobber Rigs:
When walleye suspend at a certain depth on a piece of structure (rock pile, crib, or submerged hump) the slip bobber rig is highly effective by presenting the live bait at a pre set depth, putting the bait right in their face. You can make slip bobber rigs rather easy or buy them at sport shops. To make a slip bobber rig simply start with your stop attached to the fishing line, you can use a piece of string or a rubber band knotted on the line thread on a small bead then the bobber. Add a small spilt shot below the bobber for balance then tie on a hook size 4-6-8 and bait with a minnow leech or night crawler.


Fishing with spinner rigs for walleye is one of the oldest techniques dating back to the strip on days   From the Prescott Spinner slide thru a minnow rig to the newest minnow and crawler harness made today. Spinner rigs must be weighted to get to the bottom. You can add a rubber core or split shot a few feet ahead of the spinner rig for drifting but most anglers prefer using a bottom bouncer or a three way rig to keep the spinner in contact with the bottom. For sinker weights a ½ oz will get you down to about 10 feet add another ½ oz for each additional 5 feet.

Another very popular spinner for walleye is the weight forward spinner primarily used on Lake Erie. Walleye anglers tip the spinner with a piece of night crawler leaving an inch or so trailing behind the single hook. Fishing with weight forward spinners, you simply cast it out and count down to different depths to locate walleyes, then maintain the retrieve fast enough to keep the forward blade rotating.

Trolling:
Trolling for walleyes has been and still is an effective way locating feeding walleyes especially on unfamiliar waters. Trolling enables you to cover a lot of water in minimal time. In the past trolling for walleye was simply done by flat lining, a technique by casting a crank bait or spinner rig off the back the moving boat. Today trolling tools offer a variety of options in presenting the baits.

Downriggers:
Precisely places lures vertically.

Side Planers:
Attached to the line that spreads fishing lines horizontally.

Diving Planes:
A diving device attached to the line that planes down and to the side.

Lead Core Line:
A weighted fishing line that allows walleye anglers to use shallow running lures (spoons & crank baits) to reach desired depths.

Rick Lahrman - Algonquin, IL caught this nice 29" walleye at Wawang Lake.

Rick Lahrman – Algonquin, IL caught this nice 29″ walleye at Wawang Lake.

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UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT WALLEYE PATTERNS

Walleye in Wood and Brush

5045378679_2afff95b5dIn many lakes drowned wood and brush are the main dominate cover that walleye rely on as a food source and shade from the sun. You will find scattered walleye around almost any type of submerged timber, stumps, logs, and trees that have eroded from shorelines. To increase your chances on finding a walleye hot spot of drowned wood and brush here’s a tip, deep water. The best wood is in or near deep water. A tree toppled off a steep river bank leading into deep water will hold more walleye than one laying in shallow water. Find a stump field flat next to an old river bed on a flowage and you’ll find a walleye magnet.

During early spring when the winter thaw occurs and high water floods rivers and flowages try shoreline brush and lay downs as this will harbor small baitfish and insects that walleyes feed on. As the water begins to drop walleye will move back to deeper water.

Drowned wood, lay downs and brush plies composed of fir, pine or maple and typically last for years. By contrast birch and poplar provide cover for two to three years before decomposing. Drowned wood is terrific cover. The more complex branches are below the surface the better fishing. More branches equal more cover for a game fish to ambush prey. Finding “good” drowned wood means finding walleye.

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Finesse fishing in wood and brush requires fine wire weed less hooks (size 6-8) on a split shot rig, brush guard jigs from 1/8 to 3/8 oz., both tipped with live bait. These presentations will increase your hooking percentage and eliminate snags. When fishing deep water try a slip bobber rig. Don’t be afraid to drop your bait into the thickest tangle of brush and logs, the larger walleyes are usually found where the cover is densest, you may lose a few rigs in the process but the rewards are well worth it.

Suspended Walleye
Locating and catching suspended walleye can be a difficult task. Finding suspended walleye requires the use of a graph or LCD (liquid crystal display) depth finder. Once fish are located you must present the bait or lure precisely at that depth. For Wawang Lake one of the easiest techniques to do this is a slip bobber rig set at the depth walleye are found. If walleyes are a few feet from the bottom rather than lowering the bait try floating the bait up off the bottom using a slip sinker rig with a floating jig head or a float attached to the leader. You can also Vertical jigging - 1catch walleyes off the bottom by jigging vertically with jigs, blade baits and tail spin jigs, just keep the line taut to feel the strikes.

On large bodies of water such as the main, deeper sections of Wawang Lake the most effective and popular presentation for suspended walleyes is trolling with artificial lures.


Why Walleye Suspend
Water Temperature: In deep clear lakes walleye  will seek deeper water after feeding to avoid sunlight. On stained lakes they often move more laterally than deeper if the water temperature stratifies into layers. By moving laterally they will maintain in the same temperature layer. Walleye that feed on reefs will suspend off the reef to rest, not to feed.

Forage
Walleye are typically known to relate to the bottom for feeding, this is especially true when they feed on immature insects, particularly mayfly nymphs that hatch on the bottom. But other favorite forage do not necessarily relate to the bottom such as open water baitfish like shad and ciscoes that can be found almost at any depth. At times walleye will be opportunistic feeders by ignoring their temperature and oxygen preferences for an easy meal by suspending in open water just below bait fish schools that dimple the surface.

Oxygen
During the summer on lakes that stratify, the deep water may lack sufficient oxygen which forces the walleyes to suspend or use shallow water cover such as weed beds.

Toxic Gas
In many cases walleyes will suspend to avoid high levels of toxic gases that accumulate near the bottom. This happens during the summer months on calm sunny days when the maximum amount of sunlight penetration promotes decomposition of organic bottom sediments releasing carbon dioxide and methane gas. This moves walleyes higher in the water column, as much as up to 10 feet. On windy days when the water is churning this prevents the gases to accumulate so the walleyes need not suspend.

Post Cold Front Walleye
It’s no question that the toughest time to catch any species including the walleye is after a cold front. Blue bird skies and cool temperatures follow the front’s passage. This results in the walleye tightly hugging the lake bottom or buried into the weeds. Their feeding window is very limited if at all. When they do feed it will be short. Depending on the cold front severity it may take a number of days of stable weather to resume normal fishing activity.

WALLEYES_ON_THE_ROCKS

When faced in this situation here are a few tips that may improve your success.

  • There are two key points for Cold Front Walleye Live Bait & Super Slow
  • Fish very early in the day or in the evening. Cold front walleyes are best active during low light periods or night.
  • Fish deeper during the day: (5-10 feet) than normal as increased sunlight from cold front clear skies will drive walleye deeper
  • Downsize live bait:  Walleye are in lethargic state during a cold front, small live bait will work better than larger ones. Use 2″ fatheads than 4″ red tail chubs

Downsize jigs:  Try a 1/16 oz rather than an 1/8oz tipped with live bait. A lighter jig will drop slower and gives the walleye extra time to strike. Retrieve very slowly. Walleyes will not hit fast moving baits during this period.Attach a stinger hook to the jig: Many times a walleye will just nip the bait and let it go, with a stinger hook you will hook a good percentage of these short striking walleyes.

Go light on line
Cold front walleye are line shy, use 8 lb. clear monofilament or fluorocarbon.

Try Weeds
Some walleye will bury into the weeds rather than seek deeper water. These walleye will also resume normal activity before the walleye  in deeper water.

Murky Water
On shallow water lakes than have murky water stirred by strong north winds that usually come after a cold front, try fishing mid-day and shallower. The water temperature is the warmest and the level of sunlight is not a factor due to the water clarity.

Clear Lakes
If you’re fishing a clear water lake with no luck move to a river or stained lake because they are not affected as bad as clear water

Clear Water Walleye

26" WALLEYE

26″ WALLEYE

Fishing walleye on clear water lakes (Visibility 10 feet or Greater) is quite the challenge. Walleye in clear water are easily spooked by sound or movements (boats). On sunny days they will retreat to depths of 30 plus feet only to move up shallow to feed during early morning and evening hours. On windy chop or overcast days they follow the same dawn dusk patterns but some feeding occurs during the day.

The best suggestion we can offer you for walleye fishing clear water lakes is to keep your set-up presentation in a stealth mode and again keep noise and boat movement to a minimum. If you’re anchored keep the boat as far away as possible from the targeted structure while casting. For trolling use inline planer boards to spread the fishing lines 50 feet away from the boat.

If you’re using a live bait set-up keep the hooks as small as possible and use ultralight 10# test line on slip bobbers and slip sinker rigs. Jigs also produce well on clear water lakes but stay with natural colors black, purple and brown. The same goes for artificial lures, match the hatch that resembles the baitfish, black & silver, black & gold, and perch finishes rather than hot fluorescent colors. Long slender bodied minnow type lures will be the best performer.

Dark Water Walleye:

  • Walleye fishing on stained or dark water tends to be more consistent than on clear water lakes. This type of water is also less affected by weather changes, especially cold fronts. With the lack of sunlight walleyes will stay shallow most of time and are easier to locate and catch. If the visibility is less than one foot try bright and noisy artificial lures which are easier for the walleye to detect. If you prefer live bait add a fluorescent attractor or spinner.
  • The best fishing times on dark water is mid-day between 10:00-5:00 rather than dawn and dusk. The night bite is likely to be poor. Sunny calm days will out-perform cloudy windy days. The best lures for dark waters are crank baits that vibrate and have rattle chambers and inline spinners in fluorescent colors. Jigs will also work surprisingly well even though they do not produce any sound. Use fluorescent and glow in the dark (phosphorescent) colors tipped with live bait.

On stained lakes with visibility of 3 feet or greater, live bait set-ups are a better choice than artificial lures. Add a brightly colored attractor or spinner to your live bait rigs to help attract fish.

Locations
With weed growth on dark water and stained lakes being very limited find the weed edges and cast perpendicular to the edge. Shallow reefs and rock humps will also hold fish regularly.

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Walleye Fishing Tips, Tricks and Techniques

 Use a Light Line – By using a light fishing line such as Berkley’s Trilene Big Game, you’ll get less resistance and drag when using a lure. This lets the walleye suck in the lure more easily and prevents you from getting a short strike. Remember, walleye inhale their prey most of the time and if that flow is prevented you’ll get a short strike.

Try a Bottom Bouncing Rig – An L-shaped bottom bouncing rig is a great way to fish for walleye. As you retrieve your line the rig will bounce up and down off the bottom. This is a great way to attract walleye and give them an opportunity to do a hard strike, just make sure you go slow and steady.

Artificial Lures Can Be Effective – Crankbait is the artificial lure of choice for most Walleye fishermen. But not all crankbait is created equal. You want a brand that accurately mimics that look and movement of real baitfish. We recommend Dynamic crankbait.


Don’t Forget About Minnows
– Minnows are one of the best live baits to use to catch walleye, especially when the water in cool and clear. A 2″ to 4″ minnow is sufficient when hooked behind the dorsal fin or through the lips by a #1 to #4 hook. Make sure to add a few split shots to your line and slowly reel in after you cast, only a turn or two per rep. If you don’t have split shots, then check out the Water Gremlin Split Shot Pro Pack.

Good for: Spring, Summer & Fall


Stealth is Vital
– When fishing for walleye from a boat you need to remember that walleye can detect when a boat pulls up, especially when it’s gas powered. Instead try drifting into your walleye hot spot from 40′ to 50′ out. You don’t want to give yourself away!


Scent Matters
– The presentation of your bait/lure/jig is very important, but so is the scent. Do your best to avoid getting man made and unnatural scents on your rig, this can easily tip off a walleye that something isn’t right. You can also use scent to your advantage by applying this Liquid Mayhem Fishing Attractant to your lure.

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PIKE – Six Proven Lures To Use

White, yellow, and chartreuse are great pike lure colors, probably because they resemble the belly of a struggling food fish.

  1. IN-LINE SPINNER In early spring, before weed growth becomes a factor, focus on covering water. The bigger spinners are a top choice here because the weight lets you cast them farther and the blades throw more flash. Retrieve the spinner steadily, just fast enough to keep it off the bottom. Think Rooster Tail, Mepp’s, and Blue Fox spinners in 1/6- to 1-ounce sizes.
  2. SPOON Start by steadily and slowly reeling, just fast enough to keep the spoon wobbling. If that doesn’t produce, try a “flutter retrieve,” accomplished by imparting a jigging motion as you reel. Spoons are particularly effective along drop offs because you can precisely control the depth. Try Dardevles, Little Cleos, Thomas Buoyants, and Johnson Silver Minnows weighing ¼ to 1 ounce.

  3. 3. MINNOW-IMITATING PLUG Begin with a steady retrieve. If that doesn’t work, try stop-and-start reeling. Early in the season, use a shallow runner. As waters warm up, go to a crank bait or a soft-plastic swimbait that runs in the 10-foot range. You’ve got plenty to choose from here: the Rapala Original or Shad Rap, Rebel Minnow, Rattlin’ Rogue, C.C. Shad, Bomber Model A, Mann’s 1-Minus, and the Storm Wild-Eye Swim Shad.
  4. 4. SPINNERBAIT Draw a spinnerbait past sprouting weeds and stop the retrieve for a three count just as the bait approaches a possible hideout. Add a twist-tail or rubber-worm trailer for action and color contrast. Models abound. If I had to use only one pike lure, it would be a white spinnerbait with a trailer. If the water is a tall off-color, try a bait with a chartreuse skirt.

  5. JIG & a MINNOW or WORM As the temperature in the shallows reaches 60 degrees, pike begin to set up shop along 6- to 10-foot drop offs. These are best fished with a jig in full, 2-to 3-foot hops. Pike often take the jig as it drops; the strike may feel like a nibble or a perch bite. It’s not. Use bucktail and marabou jigs in the ¼- to1-ounce range.

  6. 6. SURFACE PLUG In late spring, fish top-water lures over weed beds in the calm water of morning or late afternoon. Over the years the combination of a slim minnow shape and propeller fuss has been most productive for me. Tie on a large (4½- to 6-inch) Jitterbug, Heddon’s Crazy Crawler or Dying Flutter, Storm Chug Bug, Smithwick Devil’s Horse, Sputter buzz, or Zara Spook.

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Swimbaits for Walleye

If you’re looking to land big walleye and prefer casting over trolling, swimbaits are one of the best baits going to accomplish this goal. When other anglers are working small, twister tail jigs with a vertical finesse approach, casting a swimbait can boat you plenty of fish. This season give yourself an advantage, integrating swimbaits into your walleye repertoire. Here’s what you need to know about these productive baits.

sbThere are two main varieties of swimbaits popular with walleye anglers. One style is unrigged bodies teamed with darter, bullet or shad style jig heads anywhere from ¼- to ½-ounces. Examples include Berkley’s PowerBait Hand Pour Swim Shad, YUM’s G-Shad or Samurai Shad, Mister Twister Sassy Shad, and Northland’s Mimic Minnow Shad. For the best action these baits must be rigged straight. Adding a drop of soft-bait glue to the head of the bait before pushing the plastic tight to the jig head keeps bodies properly rigged, even after landing a few fish.

Another type of swimbait style doesn’t require rigging. They feature soft-plastic bodies poured around an internal lead head and hook. Examples include Storm’s WildEye Swim Shad, YUM’s Sweet Cheeks, Northland’s Slurpies Swim Shad, and Berkley’s PowerBait Swim Bait. These style of swimbaits come pre-rigged in packs. Simply tie them on and start fishing.

The Anatomy of a Swimbait
Typical swimbaits for walleye range in size from three to six inches. Compared to thin twister tail grubs, swimbaits provide a more robust profile resembling a hearty meal as opposed to a small morsel. From head to tail, swimbaits offer a level of realism few baits can duplicate. Even the most natural paint job on a crankbait can’t hide the fact it’s a hard-bait; swimbaits squish in a walleye’s mouth like a soft candy. Many are often juiced up with fish attractant or scent, encouraging fish to hold on once they grab a bait. The natural colour patterns on swimbaits help anglers “match the hatch”, which is important in clear water systems. Bright colour patterns are available as well for turbid water or during low-light conditions. Internal holographic materials are standard in many swimbaits, producing an iridescent lustre for added attraction.
sb1
Tempting Tails

Paddletails are predominant on swimbaits. During retrieves these wide appendages wobble, moving water and putting out plenty of vibrations. The flat sides reflect light as the tail wiggles, mimicking the flicker from swimming baitfish. Regardless of the speed, paddletails add a no-nonsense walleye-attracting action to swimbaits. Curly or flat, tapered tails are the other options available on baits. Their design delivers a tighter, seductive saunter to baits in comparison to paddletails.

Fish Them on Flats
Although there are no wrong places to cast swimbaits, there are spots where they are more effective than others. Flats are one such area. Swimbaits excel at covering water when searching for walleyes. This makes them a prime bait for flats whether comprised of rocks, sand, or mud. I often use a 3/8-ounce swimbait with a casting outfit spooled with 30-pound test superline on flats. The rod’s power lets me cast them a considerable distance to cover large flats without getting fatigued.

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Work them in Weeds
Walleye relate to weeds for shade, but more importantly they’re there for food. Whether ambushing perch or gorging on various aquatic insects, walleye are often willing to bite when you find them in weeds. The up-facing hook on swimbaits makes them ideal for skimming over the top of weeds.

You also can’t go wrong casting a swimbait along the edge of a weedline near a drop off. Concentrate on the edge but make occasional tosses to deeper water. Use the castability of the bait to your advantage and work the entire area until you start contacting fish. Walleye may be in the weeds, but they may also be hanging off the break waiting to invade the underwater forest come dusk. Be on the look out for bays, points, cuts, and old stream beds. These ones concentrate walleye and serve as route ways for their daily migrations.

Don’t Overlook the Classics
Although flats and weed areas are two top spots to cast swimbaits, there are many other classic walleye areas where these baits produce fish. In essence, anywhere you’d consider working a jig and grub can be dynamite for swimbaits. Rocky structures such as reefs, humps and points are prime locations. In most instances reeling baits in a foot or so off bottom will catch fish on these zones. Yet, like weed edges, make occasional casts to the surrounding deeper water.

Swimbaits are taking the angling world by storm for a variety of species. If your walleye tackle box doesn’t have a space reserved for swimbaits, you’re missing out on an effective presentation. Give swimbaits a dip this season and put more head-turning walleye in your boat.

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Vertical Jigging for More Fish

vertical-jigging-1Vertical jigging can be an invaluable technique, especially when it is placed into the mix with trolling, casting and static-line methods. It can be another powerful weapon in the angler’s arsenal, but, unfortunately, it is perhaps not used as frequently as it should be.

The advocates of vertical jigging state that not only is it a fun-filled way to while away the hours, but it is also a highly productive way to fish. Many anglers dramatically increase their success rate when they begin to use a vertical jig.

In fact, in some locations, vertical jigging is not simply one of the beneficial tactics, but it is the most productive method of fishing for walleye. The advantages of vertical jigging are numerous. For example, it is widely accepted as a cost-effective technique. In addition, it only requires a small amount of physical exertion and, most importantly, it is a basic approach that can be adopted by anybody.

The success of vertical jigging is made possible through the accuracy of the technique. Rather than trolling wide expanses of water, it is required that the angler does a little research first. By establishing the structure of the lake or river that you are fishing in, you can locate the positions that are most likely to contain the walleye. Of course, if you have radar equipment, then you will find pinpointing the walleye spots even more easy, but this is not necessary and a comprehensive map of the water should be sufficient.

vertical

There will be times when establishing the position of the fish leads you to the deep sections of the lake or river. If you are fishing for walleye in particularly deep waters, you may wish to consider using a partial glow head and spinner blade on your jig, as this is a great combination for deep fishing or trolling.

In terms of bait, when it comes to vertical jigging it really is a matter of choice. Any bait can be used, so, if you find that minnows, crawlers or leeches work best for you then, by all means, use any of those. Personal preference is such a large part of successful fishing.

More good news for beginners is that vertical jigging can allow for a margin of error. In other words, if you have let a walleye get away, but you know it is still under your boat, the vertical rig allows you to get right under the boat to try for a second chance. With many presentations, you may not expect to get a bite until the bait has reached the lakebed. However, with the vertical jig, you are just as likely to find success as the bait is on its way down. Subsequently, it is always a good idea to be prepared for those walleye.

Vertical jigging, or V-jigging as it is sometimes known, is an extremely enjoyable way to fish. It relies heavily on skill and technique, which is hugely satisfying for an angler. However, that does not mean to say that it is difficult to learn. Even beginners can take to vertical jigging and can be extremely successful with this method.

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The Weed Warrior

silver-minnow1Whether it’s submerged weeds like cabbage, floating varieties such as lily pads, or emergent plants like reeds, bulrushes, or even flooded terrestrials, pike instinctively gravitate to vegetative cover. When conditions are right, the green zone becomes a gridiron to do battle with toothy weed beasts.

Shrewd pike anglers are adept at using lures and techniques to find and extract fish from these sorts of weed-filled areas. While you can often do well skirting the edges, at times there is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and digging them out of the heavy stuff. It’s of little surprise then, that weedlessness is a quality shared by many top pike lures (and lure modifications) of our time.

The Johnson Silver Minnow, introduced in the 1920s, remains a consistent producer of weed pike. Northland Tackle’s new Live-Forage Weedless Spoon, with realistic baitfish-image patterns, and the Daredevle Feathered Weedless spoon, are other options of similar design.

Many have written about exchanging treble hooks for single hooks on spoons, which reduces fouling while still permitting efficient hook-sets. Vegetation that gets hung on the hook typically can be ripped free during the retrieve with a few quick snaps of the rod tip, or on a subsequent snap-cast. Add a texposed softbait trailer for more weed proofing.

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The weedless qualities of many popular bass lures have led them to serve double-duty for pike. When Blue Fox introduced the Roland Martin series spinnerbait, fitted with a then oversized #7 blade, it was an instant favorite for big pike. Today, an expanded range of pike spinnerbaits is available, including the Lindy M&G and Northland Bionic Bucktail spinnerbaits, among many others.

Jigs built for flipping and swimming are another class of weapons for weed pike. Versions of this once exclusive bass bait are now widely available and in larger sizes crossing over to pike. In this category are the J-mac and Lil’ Hustler jigs. Northland’s Jungle Jig, tipped with a plastic trailer, is another good producer for weed pike. Oversize jigs like the J-mac also work well paired with a reaper, lizard, or swimbait, adding unique action, increasing profile, and slowing sink rate.

Anyone who has fished weedless surface frogs can attest to their effectiveness at attracting and hooking pike. While pike tend to damage the softer varieties after a catch or two, newer designs such as the SPRO Bronzeye Pop Frog and Tru Tungsten Mad Maxx are harder than most and put many pike in the boat before needing to be replaced or repaired.

Upsized hollow-bodied swimbaits are among the most recent weed-resistant tools being applied to extract pike from sloppy places. Many varieties run weedless when rigged texposed on an oversized worm hook. Try a Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait, Yum Money Minnow, or Z-Man SwimmerZ. The Fat Minnow by Basstrix, rigged on a Mustad Ultra Lock (38105), is a personal favorite.

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When flying north to trophy pike waters, knowledgeable anglers pack a selection of soft-plastic stickbaits and wide-gap hooks. Effective weedless alternatives when slow is key, Bait Rigs’ Reaper Tail or a 9-inch Yum Dinger can be cast easily on unweighted hooks and worked in and along weedy haunts. Where there’s room to swim in vegetation pockets or through stalks, try texposing an oversized curlytail grub, like a Kalin’s 5-inch Lunker Grub on an unweighted wide-gap hook. The seductive slow swim can be irresistible to pike holding in the greenery.

To improve the longevity of soft plastics, consider using screw locks, which can be clipped to the eye of the hook or threaded onto the hook shaft. These modifications can be applied to in-line spinners as well. For especially dense or stubborn vegetation, clip on a hook with a wireguard like the Mustad W3551, making your favorite spoon or spinner weedless.

It’s not a question of whether you’ll find pike in the weeds, but rather when. Productive people have an uncanny ability to turn challenges into opportunity. Snakes in the grass need not carry a negative connotation, providing you’re equipped with the right tools for overcoming salady situations.

48.5" NORTHERN PIKE

48.5″ NORTHERN PIKE

Lure Classics

Snagless In-line

The Snagless Sally made by Hildebrandt is a classic for combing weeds for bass and pike. “The Snagless Sally is one of the most weedless spinner-based lures I’ve ever used,” says In-Fisherman Managing Editor Rob Neumann. “It works well through submerged weeds, but also through floating plants and emergents like lilies, reeds, and rice.” Sally features a single hook with a wire hook-guard and vinyl skirt. “You also can add a plastic or pork trailer, but that’s often not necessary,” he says. Originally available in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes, the Snagless Sally lineup has been expanded to include 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-ounce sizes, giving pike (and muskie) anglers more options.

Tackle Tip

  • Pegging Plastics

Soft-plastic flukes and stickbaits like Lunker City Slug-Gos and Yum Dingers can be hot tickets to pike in weedy water. Rigged on wide-gap hook, these slow sinkers can be walked, snapped, and paused in midwater to trigger vicious strikes. In-Fisherman John Kolbeck passed along his solutions for rigging these plastics. He was fishing for pike in shallow weedy areas and around fallen timber with Slug-Gos, walking the dog about a foot under water and crawling baits over patches of dead reeds. He connected the hook to a loop in the wire leader to maximize bait action.The problem was that the lure would slide down the hook shank into the hook-bend, preventing solid hook-sets. The first attempt was to peg the lure to the eye of the hook, but this kept the lure from swinging freely on the leader loop. Kolbeck offers three solutions:1. Thread the nose of the lure onto the hook. Double over a short piece of rubber band and thread onto the hook before inserting the hook into the body of the lure. Slide the rubber band piece up past the bait-keeper bend of the hook an tight against the nose of the lure.2. Rig the lure onto the hook, being sure not to cover the hookeye. Insert a toothpick into the bait at a 90-degree angle just in front of the bait-keeper bend in the hook and trim the toothpick ends. 3.  Starting with about a 2-inch section of pipe cleaner, strip about 1/4 inch of the fuzzy material from one end. Attach the bare-wire end to the hookeye, being sure not to foul the loose leader connection. Wrap the fuzzy end of the pipe cleaner around the shank of the hook just above the bait-keeper bend. This option allows you to add a bit of color as well.

Tackle Tip

  • Spoon Modification

Exchanging the treble hook for a single hook on a spoon can make it more weedless. And whatever weeds the hook picks up often can be ripped free with a few sharp snaps of the rod. Lonnie King switches out for single siwash-style hooks where single barbless hooks are mandatory, as is the case in some trophy pike waters in Canada. The Eagle Claw 84 is another good hook option.King suggests installing the hook so its point is on the concave (top) side of the spoon when retrieved. You can also rig a soft plastic trailer texposed to make it even more weedless, and for adding customized actions and profiles. To keep the trailer from slipping down the hook shank, use a clip-on screw-lock like the Tru-Turn HitchHiker ­(ttiblakemore.com), Bass Pro Shops XPS Keeper Spring (basspro.com), or Clinch Spring from First Mate Lures (firstmatelures.com).You can also add an extra split ring, extending the connection and allowing the hook to move more freely.   Use the Fastach Clip from Stringease Tackle ­(stringease.com), which extends the distance between hook and lure and makes hook changes quick and easy.

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