Gear & Accessories Lures Spring Walleye Fishing Tackle Choices Steve Ryan February 19th, 2017 | More From Steve Ryan Share0 Tweet Email Share on Facebook.Share on Twitter.Share on Google+Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas. The typical scene consists of boats packed tightly into community fishing holes, anglers slowly jigging or slipdrifting livebaits. The jigging cadence is consistent among the anglers. So long as fish are being caught, morale is high and the presentation continues unchanged. What goes overlooked, however, is that a faster presentation of pullin’ baits that create thump can elicit more strikes by targeting aggressive fish and covering more water. Pullin’ Hardbaits Rattlebaits: Instead of rippin’ a #7 Rippin’ Rap across a flat for walleyes in 40°F water, scale back to the #6 and work it more deliberately. The #6 Rippin’ Rap has a slower fall rate and creates more vibration when pulled slower. At 1/2-ounce, the #6 still has enough heft to maintain its action and track true, even in areas with moderate current. rapala.com, yo-zuri.com, sebile.com When working slack water less than 15 feet deep, consider pullin’ small lipless cranks like the Dynamic Lures HD Ice and Sebile Action First Vibe Machine. The HD Ice measures just 2 inches and 1/5-ounce, with a tight nose-down wobble on the pull, while the Sebile Vibe Machine comes in 13⁄4 and 21⁄4 inches, weighing 1/8 and 1/4 ounce, respectively. These lures are ideal for pullin’ as they sink relatively slowly, with a slight shimmer on the fall. They vibrate wildly on a fast pull and maintain a good swimming action on a steady retrieve. After casting, wait for the lure to hit bottom before commencing a pullin’ retrieve with the lure being drawn forward 2 to 3 feet at a time. The lure occasionally makes bottom contact between rod sweeps. Follow with a straight retrieve for several feet to get the lure swimming. Allow it to contact bottom again, and give it a few aggressive hops as it approaches the boat. This change in cadence helps determine the activity level of fish. Fishing these lures on superlines like 8-pound-test Sufix 832 Performance Braid or 6- to 10-pound Berkley NanoFil maximizes feel of the lure’s action. Tie a 30-inch leader of 8-pound-test Sufix Fluorocarbon to the mainline with a double uni-knot. Fish can inspect the lure on pauses between pulls and the fluoro leader helps fool discriminating fish. Bladebaits: Compact bladebaits like the Wolf Big Dude, Vibrations Tackle Echotail, and Johnson Thinfisher in 1/8- to 1/2-ounce sizes offer the right amount of thump and vibration when pullin’ for early spring walleyes. They are among the most versatile lures along the entire rippin’, pullin’, and pokin’-around spectrum. Bladebaits are fished in the same manner as lipless crankbaits, with a few variations. Because of their thin body, blades fall faster and are more effective in current. They can be cast cross-current and allowed to swing downstream before being gradually retrieved upstream. Walleyes react differently to lures depending upon what direction they’re presented, so varying retrieve angles can help identify patterns. cabelas.com/thinfisher, reefrunner.com, vibrationstackle.com In rivers with minimal snags, blades can be walked downstream to fish that are laying nose-first into the current. Pullin’ gives the lure action. A quick pull raises the bait 6 to 18 inches off the bottom before it drops back downstream a foot or two each time the rod is lowered. As the rod is raised, strip a couple feet of line off the reel to cover more territory downstream. Eventually, bottom contact is lost in fast current, or the bait stalls in slow current. Repeat the process as soon as you lose contact with the lure or it stops thumping strongly. For more thump, fish a Vibrations Tackle Echotail with a 3-inch curly- or paddletail added to the built-in bait keeper. Trimming the body of the softbait by about an inch allows greater lure control. Too large of a plastic dampens the lure’s vibration. For tighter action on a quicker retrieve, attach the line with a snap to the front holes of the lure. For a wider action on a slower pull, attach the snap to one of the back holes. Blades work equally well in lake and river settings and are excellent search lures. They cast like a bullet and can be fished quickly at any level in the water column. They also take on a different action, depending on whether the rod is worked in an up-and-down jigging motion or swept to the side between cranks of the reel handle. Softbait Systems Pullin’ options with softbaits are limitless. The technique is similar to fishing bladebaits or lipless crankbaits—variations depend on rigging options and softbait body styles. Some of the better early-season pullin’ plastics are in the 3- to 5-inch range and have limited bulk and maximum thump. Good options include the Zoom Swimming Super Fluke, Berkley Havoc Beat Shad and PowerBait Hollow Belly Swimbait, and B Fish N Pulse-R Paddle Tail and Moxi. These can be fished on a 1/16- to 3/8-ounce leadhead jig, but the magic comes in matching specialty jigheads with soft-plastic bodies based on fishing conditions. bfishntackle.com, northlandtackle.com, berkley-fishing.com The Zoom Swimming Super Fluke has enough weight for pitching into flooded cover. At 4 inches long, it has an exaggerated kicking action delivered by its wide swinging paddletail. Coupling it with a Northland Jungle Jig Loc in 3/32- and 1/8-ounce makes it more effective in cover. The Jungle Jig Loc has a corkscrew bait collar that is integrated into the backside of the jig’s cone-shaped head. The line tie at the tip of the jig helps reduce fouling by weeds or debris, and the oversized hook accommodates any plastic bait. It also leaves adequate hook gap for sticking big walleyes. Cast the Swimming Fluke into flooded cover and allow it to free-fall to the desired depth. Then pull it back to the boat with 1- to 2-foot sweeps of the rod held low to the water. Strikes vary from weightless as a walleye inhales the bait, to a definitive strike when a walleye hits on the pull. Hook-sets should be deliberate to drive the hook home and to pull fish out of cover. When walleyes are holding on the face of wing dams, ring worms and other softbaits like the Berkley Havoc Beat Shad can account for quick limits. The Beat Shad’s narrow, tapered body enhances thump and side-to-side action of the boot-shaped paddletail. It offers a small profile unless bulked up with a sizable jighead. From an anchored position upstream and off the outside edge of a wing dam, fish a 4-inch Beat Shad on a Gulp! Bait Delivery System jighead for a more natural horizontal presentation. The pointed jighead allows the Beat Shad to be pulled in current without rolling as it swings across the face of the wing dam. Compared to lead, the lighter composite material of the Bait Delivery System jig increases the size of the Beat Shad presentation without adding too much weight that would kill the bait’s action. Cast toward the intersection of the shoreline and wing dam. On a tight line, allow the bait to swing away from the shoreline and tick across the rocks as it works out to the tip of the wing dam. Visualize the lure’s location as it swings in the current, and occasionally pump the rod to speed the bait forward before allowing it to fall back with the current. With each cast, work a different depth or portion of the wing dam. Try various combinations of jig weight and Beat Shad color. Wing-dam fish are generally aggressive and a quick pullin’ approach works well. In small rivers with a lot of submerged wood, rippin’ lures with multiple treble hooks, or pokin’ along casting standard jigs isn’t an option due to snags. Here, pullin’ with thumping baits can rule the day. Snag-free jigs like the B Fish N’s Draggin’ Jig allow ring-worm style baits to be cast directly downstream from an anchored position and pulled upstream with a sweeping rod action. The snag guard and narrow head design of the Draggin’ Jig deflects and slips over woodcover. Using baits like B Fish N 3.25-inch Pulse-R Paddle Tail and 4-inch Moxi curlytail, the presentation is compact and maintains depth between rod sweeps. For downstream-to-upstream presentations, use a jig that’s heavy enough to maintain bottom contact as the bait is walked upstream, but not too heavy so as to drag and hang up on the bottom. Between each rod sweep, the lure should rise off the bottom several inches and suspend for a few seconds with the tail thumping as the rod tip is raised. Lower the rod tip to make bottom contact and repeat the process. A 5-inch PowerBait Hollow Belly Swimbait fished on a Kalin’s Ultimate Saltwater Bullet Jig is a versatile option. For added thump, rig the Hollow Belly on an Owner Flashy Swim rig. The Flashy Swim consists of a 1/0- to 3/0- extra-wide-gap hook, with an 1/8-ounce to 3/16-ounce keel weight on the hook shaft and a small willowleaf blade secured with a 1.5-inch wire to the underside of the rig. The swimbait is secured with a twist-lock keeper and rigged flush on the hook. This bait casts well and runs true with the keel-weight design. The package emits considerable flash from the blade and thumping vibrations from the wide paddletail. This combination works best using a horizontal presentation. There’s no pokin’ around with this combo. Fire the bait out on a long cast and count it down. Watch for hits on the fall. Start with a quick snap of the rod to get the blade spinning. You should always be able to feel the thump of the bait. Whether fished with a constant swimming retrieve, or with a jerk-and-pause retrieve, the bait is kept off the bottom, searching for active fish. Other jig options to enhance thumping action of softbaits include the Northland Thumper and ReelBait Flasher. These jigs come in a range of sizes are equipped with blades. The Northland Thumper emits considerable thump with each pull. With a double-attachment collar, baits hold on the jig when fished aggressively, so you can make larger sweeps of the rod to capitalize on the jig’s spinning blade. The ReelBait Flasher is designed to present baits in a stand-up position. The blade flutters freely on the fall, with the flash and thump mimicking a distressed minnow. Pair these jigs with a Gulp! 3-inch Shaky Shad, 4-inch Swimmow, or Northland 3-inch Impulse Paddle Minnow, each with built-in scent for added attraction. Next time you find yourself pokin’ around for walleyes with limited success, consider more aggressive pullin’ approaches. Pick up the pace and select lures that deliver more flash, thump, or vibration. You might find that a simple change in presentation is the best way to stand out from the crowd. *In-Fisherman Field Editor Steve Ryan is an avid multispecies angler and contributes to all In-Fisherman Publications. He lives in Des Plaines, Illinois. GALLERY: 10 Best Walleye Crankbaits of All Time 1 of 10 <h2>Salmo Hornet</h2>A versatile utility player, the Hornet can be idled along slow and steady, for a subtle shaking action, or fast-tracked for wild, erratic thumping. Either way, the bait’s near-bulletproof, high-density foam body stands up to plenty of hard hits from hungry ’eyes. Of the four sizes, the 1¾-inch #4 is a favorite. The floating option is great for trolling—whether pounding bottom in three feet of water on a short lead behind a planer board, or when you need to dredge the depths across a summer mudflat. The sinking version, meanwhile, is perfect for snap-pause casting cadences, and for counting down to deep structure. <a href="http://www.salmofishing.com" target="_blank">salmofishing.com</a> <h2>Salmo Hornet</h2>A versatile utility player, the Hornet can be idled along slow and steady, for a subtle shaking action, or fast-tracked for wild, erratic thumping. Either way, the bait’s near-bulletproof, high-density foam body stands up to plenty of hard hits from hungry ’eyes. Of the four sizes, the 1¾-inch #4 is a favorite. The floating option is great for trolling—whether pounding bottom in three feet of water on a short lead behind a planer board, or when you need to dredge the depths across a summer mudflat. The sinking version, meanwhile, is perfect for snap-pause casting cadences, and for counting down to deep structure. <a href="http://www.salmofishing.com" target="_blank">salmofishing.com</a> <h2>Sebile Rattsler</h2>This is a great big-bite bait, thanks partly to its size and profile. But also credit the amount of commotion it creates—due to water displacement and its medium-pitched but nonetheless raucous rattle. Think power trolling for aggressive summertime fish, plus classic fall scenarios such as casting and trolling baitfish “exit areas” or main-lake reefs. While it yields a rather tight wiggle overall, the top of the back tilts wildly, and the tail also produces a lot of action. Of the three lip options available on the 3¼-inch Rattsler, the VLL (very long lip) is most walleye centric, covering depths of 10 to 20 feet. <a href="http://www.sebileusa.com" target="_blank">sebileusa.com</a> <h2>Cotton Cordell Wally Diver</h2>Sometimes pigeonholed as a trolling bait, the Wally Diver also shines for casting. I especially like the suspending version when spicing things up with twitches, pauses, and pulls. The bait’s stock action is best described as moderately tight, and has closed the deal with countless ’eyes over the years. The lineup offers several sizes from 2½ to 3¾ inches, plus a jointed model. The deepest-running non-jointed Wallys dive up to 20 feet on the troll and 15 on the cast, making it a great diver for a wide range of applications, from weededges to breaks and the tops of sunken islands. <a href="http://www.lurenet.com" target="_blank">lurenet.com</a> <h2>Bomber Model A</h2>For casting riprap banks, wing dams, and other rocky structure, the venerable Model A has few equals. One of the main reasons is the bill’s sweeping action, which more times than not bounces the bait out of harm’s way. If not, a little slack often helps back it out of box canyons. The hard-wiggling action is key, too, to targeting active walleyes prowling relatively shallow rocks. Six sizes and 15 stock colors offer plenty of options, but the 6A and 7A, which are 2 1/8 and 2 5/8 inches long, and dive 6 to 10 feet, collectively, can handle almost anything. <a href="http://www.bomberlures.com" target="_blank">bomberlures.com</a> <h2>Berkley Flicker Shad</h2>More than just another shad in the school, the Flicker features an ’eye-catching action that combines top-to-bottom roll and side-to-side wiggle, complemented by a unique front-to-back motion. Run one next to the boat and you’ll see what I mean. Five sizes let you target everything from skinny water to depths of about 15 feet on standard monofilament. The bait trolls well, but it’s a great casting option, too. In 2010, Johnnie Candle and Dave Noble won the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Championship casting Flicker Shads into current breaks on the flood-swollen Mississippi River. Candle credits the bait’s slow-rising characteristics for being able to fish a stop-and-go retrieve without it rocketing to the surface on the pause. It also has a high-pitched rattle, which is a plus in and around cover, and when fishing mudlines or other low-vis environments. <a href="http://www.berkley-fishing.com" target="_blank">berkley-fishing.com</a> <h2>Storm Original Hot ’N Tot</h2>Another bait with a long history of putting walleyes in the boat, the Original Hot ’N Tot—produced from the original molds, sporting a metal lip—offers a wild and erratic, side-to-side action. While it’s not exactly my first bait of choice in cool water, it’s absolutely lethal for trolling aggressive walleyes during the summer. Available in 2- and 2½-inch sizes and 23 colors. Expanding the lineup, the Hot ’N Tot MadFlash version brings external scale patterns, 3-D eyes, and flashier finishes to the table—including four UV Bright options. <a href="http://www.stormlures.com" target="_blank">stormlures.com</a> <h2>Lindy Shadling</h2>Although the original Shadling had its followers, the new version, released several seasons ago, elevated the bait to Top 10 status. A joy to cast or troll, it holds its tight-wiggling action at speeds well above the typical walleye pace of 1 to 3 mph, and hits depths to about 13 feet unaided. A rattle adds to the attraction, but holographic, baitfish-inspired finishes such as Natural Perch and Purple Smelt are a real score, especially in clear conditions. Available in #5 and #7 sizes (2 7/16 and 2 7/8 inches, respectively) and 21 finishes, at last count. <a href="http://www.lindyfishingtackle.com" target="_blank">lindyfishingtackle.com</a> <h2>Koppers LiveTarget Threadfin Shad</h2>Admittedly, my love of baitfish biology helps explain my affinity for many of Koppers’ realistic cranks, including the Threadfin. Like the rest of its kin, its shape, lifelike flashy finish, and amazing head and pectoral fin detail make it a great candidate in clear water. But the Threadfin raises the bar with an extra-tight wiggle. Said to mimic a fleeing shad, it also does a fine job triggering strikes on lakes well outside the Shad Belt. Plus, it suspends, opening the door for stop-and-go cadences when a steady retrieve won’t cut it. Two size options, the 2½-inch S65M and 3-inch S75M. Both cover the 5- to 7-foot range without assistance. <a href="http://www.livetargetlures.com" target="_blank">livetargetlures.com</a> <h2>Rapala Shad Rap</h2>An iconic walleye crank, the Shad Rap performs so well, in such a wide variety of duties, that anglers have scooped up more than 2 million of them since its debut. You can throw it on light spinning tackle in shallow water, troll it deep behind a leadcore tether, or fish it in just about any manner in between. Four sizes are available, with the 2-inch #5 and 2¾-inch #7 staples of the walleye trade. Add the shallow, glass, plastic (RS), and jointed versions to the mix, and the family’s got most applications covered. <a href="http://www.rapala.com" target="_blank">rapala.com</a> <h2>Reef Runner Rip Shad</h2>Yes, these baits are notoriously needy of tuning, both when new and while on the job. But when you get it right, the Rip Shad’s subtle wobbling action is worth the effort. This, coupled with a bit slimmer profile than many shad baits, makes it a great addition to the arsenal. Both the 200 and 400 series have a place in the walleye world, but neither are speed-trolling candidates, especially the 200. One last tip, don’t limit them to trolling. Savvy smallmouth fans catch tons of ’eyes on Rip Shads while hunting bronzebacks. <a href="http://www.reefrunner.com" target="_blank">reefrunner.com</a> Share on Facebook.Share on Twitter.Share on Google+ Share0 Tweet Email Load Comments ( ) Don’t forget to sign up! Get the Top Stories from In-Fisherman Delivered to Your Inbox Every Week Even More Walleye Show More Get the In-Fisherman Newsletter FREE! Get the top stories delivered right to your inbox every week. Best Fishing Times: Solunar CalendarRead Now! Advertisement LIKE WHAT YOU'RE READING? Get 8 issues for the low price of just $8! Subscribe!