Jigs with bait are standbys of the early season — heck, they’re stalwarts for the entire year. with a minnow or a crawler tipped on the back of the jig, walleyes eat regardless of a green head or a blue. They snatch it when it’s falling, moments after casting. In other words, jigs with bait are fundamental to walleye orthodoxy for a reason — they work because of, and in spite of, themselves.
The jig gets livebait to the fish zone, and often the fish eat it even if the color or the jigging stroke isn’t quite right. Why would they want anything else?
Increasingly, however, walleye anglers are wanting for bait on a less than all-bait, all-the-time basis. The reason is soft plastics and other softbaits, which have come a long way in recent years, inspiring confidence and acceptance.
“Compared to three years ago, there’s much more of a comfort level using soft plastics,” says In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) pro Gary Parsons, Glidden, Wisconsin. “With on-the-water time and what plastics are capable of doing, I’d say they’re being accepted by far more people — maybe 80 to 90 percent of them. That would have been totally unheard of just a few years ago.”
One reason is the conventional wisdom at the time: Use livebait until the water reaches 50F, then consider switching to plastic.
“It was absolutely, completely backward,” says PWT pro Scott Fairbairn, Hager City, Wisconsin. “The thing about plastics, like crankbaits, is that you must be fairly precise with action and color.”
Precision with action and color is one emerging area of expertise. Also becoming apparent is a wider range of times and places — more than a simple rule of livebait till 50F — for plastic’s utility. Here are the new rules of no tipping from Parsons, Fairbairn, and fellow PWT pro Mark Courts (Harris, MN), all of whom give plastics a wider range of latitude than ever.
Action is paramount to the new discipline of plastics, so let’s discuss the three applicable categories. First is low action — baits most effectively fished slowly, generally with straight or uniformly shaped tails. Next is moderate action — examples such as Berkley’s 3-inch Tournament Strength Walleye Power Grubs, as well as shad bodies. Finally, high action — here, Power Grubs with a bigger profile and thicker consistency that fall outside the Tournament Strength Walleye category.
That said, according to Fairbairn, a single plastic tail can cover all three categories with nuances of retrieve, providing the tail is soft and has good movement — an accomplishment sometimes hard to find among plastics, since many of them are fairly inflexible and, correspondingly, not quite as effective. A lift-and-glide motion is low action. A lift-and-drop is moderate. Aggressively snapping, indeed, is high action. “The Berkley Power Minnow is a good crossover bait for figuring out what the fish want,” Fairbairn says.
Continued – click on page link below.
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