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Category Archives: Lures

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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Using Leeches & Worms + VIDEO

 LEECHES AND NIGHTCRAWLERS

DSCN0821Leeches and night-crawlers are favorite foods of the walleye because they are natural offerings in most waters and walleye are accustomed to feeding on them.

When presented properly they are irresistible. A stretched out, wiggling leech bouncing  along just over the bottom of a gravel bar or weed bed, will make even the most finicky walleye take a second look, turn around and zero in on target,   mouth open and taste buds tingling.

Hook the sucker end of the leech to the first hook of a spinner rig and place the tail section on the last hook. Place it in the water and pull it at the same speed you are   going to troll or retrieve at and look for the size, movement and or roll of the leech. It should run straight not roll up into a nondescript little ball; this does not attract walleye. When you have the leech trailing the way you want it’s time to add a few light split shots to get it down to the desired depth. By placing the split shot about eighteen inches to two feet in front of the hook you should be within six inches of bottom with the leech as you troll or retrieve, and you won’t have to run a whole lot of line out behind the boat.

Night-crawlers are attached to your spinner rigs in the same way. Again, make sure they are stretched out along the rig so they trail out on the retrieve. Choose the   largest and fattest worms available.

COLOUR

The spinner rig can be purchased at a local tackle shop and comes in many variations of size and  colors.

A simple rule to remember when faced with color choices is: bright days + clear water = silver spinner is a very good choice.  Darker water or cloudy days try a fluorescent or gold spinner are other good choices

The beads most often used are red with white, or yellow; try mixing the colors until you come up with the pattern that works best for you.

SPEED.

Try slow trolling or retrieving the leech at a fairly fast pace at first to take advantage of more aggressive fish.   Remember that you should troll according the weather system.

Meaning:
Bright, clear day:  troll slow or even jig
Cloudy, rainy day:  Troll faster and a willow leaf blade is a very good choice

A rate of about half again the normal trolling speed usually works well.  Keep track of where the fish are hitting and come back over these same spots again but a little slower this time to take   advantage of the less aggressive fish. Remember that it is not always the larger fish that are most aggressive and by fishing back you can add considerably to your stringer.

CASTING

Having reached the place you are going to fish, maybe a shoal or weed bed that you have had some luck on before, try fan casting. Start at a right angle to where you are standing facing the water. Throw the first cast to the right and keep working  to the left until you have gone in a complete arch to the other end. This will allow you to cover every bit of the water facing you. Now move down until you are at the edge of the spot you covered last and start the same procedure over again. When you have worked your way to the end of the area that you wanted to fish, you will have covered the area correctly.

Inlets are a good place to practice this pattern of casting, especially early season as the walleye are quite often in this area looking for small, early baitfish or crustaceans. By fan casting you can cover this entire area of water.

The above methods have consistently proven to be successful for opening season walleye.   So get your live bait and be ready for a fun day on the lake.

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Pike Top Water Lures – How to Use

Many species are a blast to catch using topwater lures, but northern pike frequently charge baits with an unbridled aggression that are fascinating. Willing participants, pike are often eager to take a bait off the water’s surface because the presentation appears to them to be an easy meal.

Here are three preferred topwater baits and tips on using them for pike.

Cigar, Or Walk-The-Dog, Lures

A favorite topwater for pike is a walk-the-dog bait, such as Heddon’s Zara Spook or Rapala’s Skitter Walk.

Best fished with a stout baitcasting rod, you must impart a side-to-side swimming motion to the bait. Do this by twitching the rod tip down, then immediately raising it again. This causes the bait to jerk to the side. Raising the rod gives the lure slack line to pull as it glides. After a split-second pause, start another twitch to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other direction. Continuous twitching results in side-to-side surface motion that causes a lot of commotion. The sight is often too much for pike to pass up.

topwaterA Topraider is a trophy-hunting topwater prop lure.

To share some tips on using these baits, one effective tactic found is mixing up the tempo of the twitches throughout the retrieve. Slowing it down or speeding it up often triggers hits. If a fish swipes at a bait, but misses it you can often get a pike to hit again. One method is prolonging the pause between twitches. After some practice you can get the bait to dance in the strike zone for a while. This conveys an injured and disoriented fish. Pike will often return to hit again with this tactic. Another option is continuing the retrieve and then casting back over the area again.

top-water-mainProp Baits
These baits are easy to work. Simply cast out and reel it in on a steady retrieve. The lure’s metallic tail spins as you pull it through the water. This prop appendage creates a plopping sound and leaves a wake on the surface. The steady rhythm and straight path make it easy for pike to hone in on. A word of advice when working these lures: don’t retrieve them too quickly. The best tempo is often a pace just fast enough for the blades to be continuously turning.

An alternative to a steady retrieve with these lures is using a twitch-pause pattern. This is particularly effective for lures with blades in the front as well as on the rear. The metallic sputtering caused by the twitch is extremely effective at attracting pike.

This pike hit a prop bait worked over a river weed bed.

Buzzbaits

Unlike the above lures, which often feature treble-hook clad models, buzzbaits are a single-hook lure. The up facing hook point makes a fairly weedless presentation. Buzzbaits have either metal or plastic blades attached at one end of a wire form, which has a dressed hook at the lower end. These lures excel at fishing the shallow, weedy haunts pike frequently inhabit.  Cast them on the edge of lily pad bays, among sparsely growing rice or reed areas, and sunken wood zones. In fact, anywhere you think might hold pike are good places to cast buzzbaits. Bring it in on a fairly steady retrieve, but keep in mind twitches in the rod tip or changing the bait’s direction can trigger strikes.

When targeting pike with topwaters, remember that calm to slight ripple conditions are best. Don’t be afraid to try topwaters in small waves though because big fish often hunt in the turmoil caused by waves, and will still take surface lures. Pike are always surveying their habitat for easy meals; often, a topwater is one of the best lures to portray vulnerability. Not to mention that watching a northern hit a surface lure always gets the adrenaline flowing!

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The RAP’s Get The MONSTER PIKE!

IMG_0551 (300x400) Trolling Tactics

When it comes to trolling  for Monster Northern Pike, the following lures are a must have for any fishing enthusiast.

While the Northern Pike can easily be caught from shore, or casting from a boat, there is another tactic most often ignored by the fishing enthusiast. Trolling for monster Northern Pike is one of the most proven methods for covering large bodies of water (the preference here at Wawang Lake) and increasing a fisherman’s chances of success.

Northern Pike are Active All Day Long
Because the Northern Pike are active throughout the day, it really is quite easy to tie into one of these lunkers. The trick is to make sure you have the proper drag setting, a wire leader and the right trolling lure. After that, it’s simply a matter of covering the right territory and waiting for that violent attack.

Northern Pike are notorious for quick strikes, long fights and deep dives. They are one of the most sought-after freshwater game fishes worldwide. Considered by many to be the freshwater’s version of a barracuda, these fish are determined fighters and voracious eaters. So, what are the best lures and trolling tactics to catch these fish?

Rapala “Husky Jerk” Suspending Minnows

$(KGrHqNHJFYFD1kCnVlqBQ9,mhoVlQ~~60_35Rapala is world renowned for their full line of balsa minnows and is considered by many fishing enthusiasts as the pre-eminent lure designer. After all, they’ve been making balsa wood minnows since 1936. Their best lure for trolling is the Rapala “Husky Jerk” Suspending lure and it comes in a variety of colors from gold, silver, perch color, bass color and even clear.

These lures can be tolled at controlled depths of 4-8 feet below the surface. In addition, the lure includes a rattle chamber that increases the likelihood of a strike.

Rapala X-Rap XR10 Jerkbait1408862_290

Much like the Rapala “Husky Jerk”, the X-Rap XR10 Jerkbait is a perfect trolling lure for Pike. In this case, it’s all about the X-Rap’s darting and cutting action through the water. When trolling this Rapala, make sure to vary speeds and add some extra motion. The lure is intended to suspend itself and dart once retrieved.

Rapala XRAP Magnums & Jointed Minnows

Both the XRAP Magnum and the Jointed Minnow offer Northern Pike enthusiasts the opportunity to go a little deeper than the two previously mentioned lures. In this case, depending upon the size, the lures can go as low as 30 feet down. However, most effective lures for Pike should stay around the 5-10 feet range, so be sure to purchase the appropriate size.

While many of these lures, including the Magnum and Jointed imagesMinnow Rapalas, are considered saltwater lures, they are still extremely effective when trolling for Northern Pike in freshwater lakes. In addition, because Pike share so much of their territory with Walleye, it’s not uncommon to nail a trophy walleye as well. Either way, make sure to match the rod and line strength with the depth these lures will be fished at.

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How to Catch Walleye

27" walleye

Diane Rohl – Buffalo, MN caught this nice 27″ walleye and
10 more trophy fish during a week at Wawang Lake.

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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15 Top Lures For Pike Fishing

2
When the stars align and the feeding window is open, a big  pike will hit anything that moves. Your bait selection doesn’t matter and all you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience this feeding-frenzy action once or twice a season. The rest of your time hunting trophy pike will be spent cranking, casting, and waiting. The right presentation will make the difference between a bite and a follow-up. So, don’t waste all of your effort pitching second-rate lures. Here’s our round up of the best pike fishing baits on the market right now.

Heddon Rattlin’ SpookPMlures_01The Spook’s renowned walk-the-dog style has long been a pike pleaser – especially over grass. The Rattlin’ model’s tungsten BBs emit an intense sound that mimics fleeing baitfish. These rattles also serve to enhance the bait’s walking retrieve. ($6.99, Lurenet.com)

Booyah Pikee

PMlures_02Strong and durable, this ½-ounce double willow leaf spinnerbait boasts a tough Vibra-Flx wire frame that stands up to powerful jaws with lots of teeth. The Pikee comes with a 12-inch steel leader for added insurance against big biters. ($5.99, Lurenet.com)

YUM DingerPMlures_03
The 7-inch version of this flexible stickbait does a good job of presenting a baitfish profile for pike and musky. Rig the bait Texas style over weeds or wacky style when working open water. ($5.79, Lurenet.com)

Eppinger Daredevle SpoonPMlures_04a

The 00 size of this classic spoon has seen plenty of teeth mark, and for good reason. The wiggling, wobbling action puts out a lot of flash and vibration to resemble a fleeing baitfish. Trolled or cast, the Daredevle tempts pike and musky in a broad range of depths. ($9.70, Eppinger.net)

Blue Fox Super BouPMlures_05
Big on the visuals and big on fish-grabbing ability, the size 10 Super Bou imitates mature baitfish and sprouts double trebles to snare the toothy predators that seek them. Tandem blades, combined with Marabou, Hackle and Flashabou fibers create a lifelike undulating action, while the free-turning brass gear emits sonic vibration and rattles when it strikes the outer shell. ($21.69, Rapala.com)

Mepps H210PMlures_06
There’s nothing modest about this heavyweight tandem spinner, but big muskies don’t do modest. Nine inches from eye to tail, the 3-ounce H210 emits big-time thump with its twin brass Indiana blades, while a bright 100-percent holographic tail is hand-tied to tandem 7/0 VMC cone cut hooks. ($39.80, Mepps.com)

Suick Weighted Holographic Musky Thriller Jerkbait

PMlures_07
The weighted version of the original Musky Thriller carries its unique shape and enticing wiggle deeper. Holographic finishes shimmer like real baitfish. ($27.70, Suick.com)

Tackle Industries Super D Swimbait
PMlures_08

A whopping 14-inches long with its tail extended, this sturdy swimbait is built around a full Body Lock coil harness that keeps the soft plastic body in place, while connecting two underside trebles to the frame linked to jig head. The 5-ounce Super D counts down at about a foot per second. Jig it, jerk it or crank it; the Super D’s rocking motion and curly tail put on a big show for big muskies. ($13.99, TackleIndustries.com)

Mepps Double Blade Aglia (Size #5)

PMlures_09
The popular Aglia design gains enhanced visual appeal, along with maximum sound and vibration from a second blade. Whether it’s flashing metallic blades or contrasting colors, the dual spinners provide added lift for fishing over weeds or other structure. Vividly colored hand-tied bucktails help make this bait easier for fish to spot. ($6.99, Mepps.com)

Mepps Syclops (Size #3)
PMlures_10a

A real pike pleaser, this sleekly contoured spoon casts easily and trolls effectively at most any common speed. Jig it vertically over deep spots or through the ice. ($4.75, Mepps.com)

Grandma Jointed Lure
PMlures_11b

An old-school classic, the flat body and jointed design yields a wobble and shimmy that drives big muskies crazy. When cast, the bait reaches 3-6 feet; trolled, it goes to 12. Made with high-impact plastic and a tough diving lip, a Grandma will withstand the fiercest attack from a toothy giant. ($17.99, Grandmalures.com)

Northland Fishing Tackle Bionic Bucktail Jig
PMlures_12

Hand-tied with genuine bucktail, this jig features a versatile double line tie that affords the option of vertical jigging deep water or casting and trolling shallow cover. A stinger hook secured to the jig’s Mustad Ultra-Point hook snares any short strikers. ($5.99, Northlandtackle.com)
Cisco Kid Topper
PMlures_13

A torpedo profile body with stainless steel propeller blades on the nose and tail create a big topside disturbance that gets the fish looking in the right direction. Effective for pike and muskie, the Cisco Kid Topper works well at a variety of speeds. ($17.95, Suick.com)

Bass Pro Shops Thump N Deal Swimbait
PMlures_14a

Equipped with a pair of 4/0 short shank trebles, this big bait swims with a slight side-to-side wobble that can be altered by bending and adjusting the internal non-slip body harness. A steady retrieve works best, but an occasional pause or twitch can turn followers into biter. ($17.99, Basspro.com)

Koppers Live Target Jointed Yellow Perch
PMlures_15

Incredibly realistic body shaping, coloration and fishy detail makes this a hard bait for big predators to ignore. Effective for casting or trolling, the jointed body creates an erratic tail kick that closely mimics the swimming motion of a real perch.  ($12.99, KoppersFishing.com)

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TIPS for Walleye Fishing

No matter what your preferred fishing technique is;  jigging spoons or trolling baits you’re bound to find a bit of knowledge here that will help up your walleye fishing skills for the upcoming season.

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TROLL DIRTY
Vertical jigging is probably the most productive technique for walleye fishing, but high winds or rains that dirty the water can put the fish off the jig bite. When water conditions change for the worse, try trolling near bottom. Use a three-way swivel and tie a sinker on a 6- to 12-inch dropper, or use a bottom-bouncing rig and trail a floating/diving minnow. Troll upstream and cross-current.

Three WayDOUBLE DOWN
Three-way swivels allow you to double your trolling offerings. Attach a deep-diving crankbait to a 2-to 3-foot leader tied to the bottom of the swivel. Then add to the top of the swivel a leader twice as long as the other and a floating/diving minnow-style bait or a light, thin spoon. When putting the baits out, drop the deep-diver in the water first and let it start diving before letting go of the second leader. This will keep them from tangling and ensure a proper presentation of both baits.

SINK SPOONS
Trolling spoons is an effective way to catch walleye, but getting them deep enough can be a challenge. Use the same techniques that big-water salmon anglers employ to attain appropriate depth—downriggers, snap weights, in-line sinkers, diving planers or lead-core line. Walleye are often gear shy, so increase the length of the leader off a lead-core line or the distance behind the cannonball on a downrigger. Fluorocarbon leaders will help, but be careful, as they have no stretch.

DOWNSIZE THE BAIT
One of the toughest times to catch walleye is during a significant mayfly hatch. To increase your odds, use what guides call a mayfly rig—a small spinner with a portion of a night crawler on a small hook. Cast the rig out and count it down, then retrieve it slowly, experimenting with depth until you find the strike zone; walleyes often hit mayflies as they’re on their way to the surface to emerge. Keep the rig small; mayfly larvae are rarely longer than an inch.

BE VERSATILE
The rule of thumb for jigging is to use minnows in cold water and night crawlers, leeches or soft-plastics as the water warms.   BUT you’re making a mistake if you don’t take all types of live bait with you. Although leeches and crawlers may be hard to find in the fall, they’ll sometimes out produce minnows in cold water, especially if it’s dirty. Other times, even in the heat of the summer, fish want minnows more than other offerings.

HIT THE WHOLE COLUMN
Walleye fishermen usually concentrate on the bottom, but often the most active fish are suspended in the water column. When trolling, vary the depth of your offerings by changing your diving bait or adding weight to your lines if trolling with spinner rigs. Sometimes the ‘eyes are out on the prowl, foraging on minnows or shad that are schooled somewhere between the top and bottom. Watch your depth finder for clues to their whereabouts and fish accordingly.

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JIG A PLUG
Spice up your jigging offering by substituting a chatter bait—such as a Rat-L-Trap—for a spoon. Cast it out, let it drop to the bottom, then yo-yo it back to the boat. Don’t snap it up as high as you would a spoon, as the hooks can foul on the line. Rattling baits fall more slowly than spoons, but you can fix that by adding a slip sinker to your line before you tie on the bait. The extra weight tightens the plug’s wobble on the fall.

WORK THE SHALLOWS
Most walleye anglers concentrate on moderate to deep water, but there are fish in shallow water that are generally ignored. This is especially true during periods of high water when the predators move shallow to forage. Jigs tipped with live bait produce in the weeds, often in water not much deeper than a walleye’s back. Jig spoons near cover. Night crawlers on harnesses with spinners work when cast around the edges and in cuts, but they’re tough to fish in thick stands of vegetation.

HEAD DEEP
One of the toughest bites walleye anglers face is immediately after a weather front passes. With a high, clear sky, the fish often sulk in the depths. The key is to concentrate on deep water structure and fish with live bait, either slowly trolling or drifting around humps and break lines, usually right where the bottom begins to flatten out.

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PLANE OUT
Planer boards that carry lures or bait away from the boat are especially important in ultra clear water. Anglers who troll many lines usually use large boards that are tethered to the boat, and they clip their lines to the tether line. Anglers in small boats can easily fish up to three lines per side with small in-line planers. The key is to set the far-running lines first and position those rods closest to the bow; set near-running lines last and toward the stern. Allow more line out before you attach the outside boards, so the baits trail farther behind the boat. That will let you reel in fish on an outside line without getting tangled.

LOWER A LEECH
Leeches are a terrific bait for walleyes, especially when presented on slip bobbers or jigs. To make them easier to grip, carry a rag or rub them against your pant leg to remove some of the slime. When hooking them, insert the point of the hook into their suction cup—this will let them swim freely instead of balling up on the hook. Keep the leeches in some sort of container in the live well to acclimate them to the lake temperature before you bait up.

LURK, DON’T JERK
Floating/diving minnow lures are known as “jerk baits” because they’re fished with a dramatic, erratic action. A quieter retrieve is often more productive for walleye, which tend to trail baits rather than simply lunging and striking. Neutrally buoyant baits are especially suited to walleye, as they sit still or rise ever so slowly when you stop working the bait. Walleyes take these lures during a pause in the action, so stop your retrieve often.

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GIVE ‘EM OPTIONS
When it comes to trolling with artificial lures, increase your odds by adding soft-plastic trailers to your crank baits. Use small twister-tail grubs or short plastic worms. Attach a 2- to 3-foot length of monofilament to the back hook of the crank baits, tie on a hook and attach the grub. Make sure the hook is exposed, and if you’re using a worm, run the hook through at least three quarters of the soft-plastic; that way you won’t miss short-striking fish. Don’t add any weight to the leader or you’ll interfere with the crank bait’s action. And use opposite colors when trailing crank baits—dark grubs with light-colored plugs and vice versa.

TRY A NO-SLIDE BAIT
When jigging with live bait, try adding a piece of plastic to the hook shank. A body from a grub or a section of plastic worm helps keep the bait on the aft end of the jig and prevents it from sliding up the hook shank. That way, when a walleye grabs the bait, it’ll also get ahold of the hook.

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