November 18, 2017
By Cory Schmidt
Great lures are often spectacular walleye producers by virtue of a singular talent. The Bay de Noc Lures Do-Jigger. The Jigging Rapala. The Buckshot Rattle Spoon. For as long as I can remember, walleyes have smacked these lures with a consistently aggressive attitude; like they're fully fooled by each lure's distinctive under-ice dance.
Masterpiece spoons like the Do-Jigger do a reliable flip-flash-slow flutter maneuver that unquestionably tickles the fishes' fancy. Offering a similar appeal with a distinctly different rhythm, the Jigging Rapala has seen a recent resurgence in popularity, pulling off an absolutely inimitable random darting, gliding motion. The true secret is, even while other lures have come and gone, this classic swimming lure has never lost its luster where walleyes are concerned. On other fronts, whether or not the rattle really makes a difference, there's zero doubt about the allure of a Buckshot Rattle Spoon. If you're not carrying a batch of Northland Tackle's gold-perch patterns, well, wake up and smell the walleye fillets!
Lots of recent interest, too, in aggressive working "ice crankbaits," lipless wonders that capture the attentions of big roaming 'eyes, everywhere from the Great Lakes to shallow Western impoundments. Surely, you, too, have a couple old-favorites in your box of tricks. But the beauty of the ice game often resides in experimentation; trying a few new or unfamiliar lures each season. Guaranteed if you take the time to try them, you'll discover new gems all the time. That goes for hot regional baits, as well. If a LiveTarget Golden Shiner is on fire on Lake Winnipeg, it could be absolute gold on the Great Lakes. Or if a Buckshot Spoon is money on Mille Lacs, imagine its efficacy on the little lake next door. The next hot bite could be just a single new knot and few jig strokes away.
Sébile Vibrato — Lure making legend Patrick Sébile does things just a little differently. So while some folks look at his Vibrato as an oddball horizontal jigging spoon with the line-tie in the spine, Sébile himself sees a perfectly logical bladebait built with the more slender shape associated with many forage species. Although Sébile says the lure can be cast and retrieved like a lipless crankbait, or even trolled, the Vibrato certainly shines when worked vertically beneath an ice hole.
The lure's thin body tapers to a slightly broader backbone, producing intense pulses with each slight stroke of the rodtip. Rather than giving the lure long, violent rips, the Vibrato actually produces best with short pulls, putting off no more than three or four pulsations per stroke. Follow each pull with a pause of at least a few seconds. Sometimes, the lure's best trigger is to simply let it sit in place, slightly quaking it with slight shakes of the rod.
Offered in 3/8-, ½- and 1-ounce sizes — each between 2 and 3 inches — the Vibrato comes in three resplendent patterns, chosen by forage type and water clarity.
Custom Jigs & Spins Pro Series Slender Spoon — The ice experts at Custom Jigs have upgraded their trendy Slender Spoon with dazzling new glow patterns and enhanced hardware. Among eight new ultra-bright, long-lasting "Pro Glow" colors are Green Glow-Purple Tiger and Green Glow Shadow, each virtually buzzing with underwater illumination. All eight new patterns also put off a high-end UV coating, for added flash and visibility.
On darker waters such as Lake of the Woods, the Red Glow is a hot ticket. Blue Glow-Tiger is on fire in the Great Lakes. And Blue Glow produces awesome results in Dakota lakes and impoundments.
Each Pro Series Slender Spoon comes with a size 1 or 2 snap for freedom of movement and a nice fluid fall. Assuring effortless hookups, a wicked sharp VMC Spark Point treble adorns each lure. Four sizes, from 1/16- to 5/8-ounce, match all forage, depth and fishing situations.
Bay de Noc Do-Jigger — An unabashed classic jigging spoon, the Do-Jigger never seems to lose its luster among the walleye crowd. This polished metal spoon flashes in a lazy fluttering motion, thanks to its thin construction and deeply bent body. Activated and augmented by tipping the treble hook with a minnow head or small minnow, the Do-Jigger also sports a tiny red flicker blade for additional visual appeal.
Worked with a variety of jigging cadences, the basic move employs a sharp, one-foot lift of the rodtip, followed by a brief pause. Anglers also shimmer the lure by gently shaking the rodtip sideways. As a lighter, slower sinking spoon, the Do-Jigger often shines for reluctant walleyes, or as a brilliant visual attractor in extra clear water. Tie directly to the front split ring for optimum action, or remove the split ring and add a rounded snap.
Three sizes — 1/16-, 1/3- and ½-ounce — run 1-3/4- to 2-7/8-inches in length. Bay de Noc offers a fine array of colors, in various chrome and glow patterns.
Northland Tackle UV Forage Minnow — Yet another fantastic spoon offering from the Northern Minnesota based tackle pros, the UV Forage Minnow is one of the top finesse spoons in the game. For working sluggish walleyes in the toughest conditions, the Forage Minnow shows fish just the slightest suggestion of baitfish flash. The addition of UV finishes in a handpicked array of patterns provide hatch-matching confidence in any walleye environment.
Four dainty sizes, from 1/32- to ¼-ounce, work wonders when coupled with downsized rods and wispy lines. Bright red treble hooks set off the gill flash of a minnow head or live minnow, focusing the fish's attention where it matters most.
VMC Tumbler Spoon — VMC calls its Tumbler Spoon the "ultimate one-two punch lure." The otherwise straight jigging spoon features an unusual "knuckle" bend near the base of the lure, yielding a slow tumbling action that flips the spoon off to the sides as it settles. At the business end of the bait, a tiny metallic attractor blade puts off just enough extra flash to keep eyeballs trained tight to the hook.
While the usual lift-fall-pause retrieve certainly attracts 'eyes, the spoon especially shines when danced with short hops in one place. Classified closer to a finesse spoon than a rock-'em-sock-'em heavy metal lure, the Tumbler Spoon is offered in a 1-inch, 1/12-ounce size and a 1-1/2-inch, 1/8-ouncer. Thirteen amazing colors include several UV finishes as well as Holographic Ultra Glow patterns.
PK Lures Panic — From the mind of master angler Pat O'Grady, the PK Panic doesn't exactly resemble anything else on the spoon scene. According to O'Grady, that's a good thing, who says that unlike the rattle chambers found on certain jigging lures, the Panic spoon offers actual auditory (sound) cues, even with gentle jigging motions. He also notes that while rattle tubes on some spoons can impair lure action, the twin attractor blades on the Panic actually induce a swimming motion at the top and bottom of the jigging range. The spoon's jointed construction also adds a third dimension of motion on the drop.
Starting at ½-ounce and heavier, five fast-sinking sizes give the PK Panic an undeniable attraction factor for big walleyes, pike and other predators. Beyond the spoon's unique jointed design and twin flicker blades, the bait also sports holographic eyes and a premium red treble hook.
Salmo Chubby Darter — In the right hands, and with the use of a sonar, the Chubby Darter comes alive. Potential applications of the Chubby Darter are much more extensive than with most lures, because the bait is so versatile. Each different jigging stroke seems to make the bait do something different and good — an angler can work a Chubby Darter in more ways than any other lure. In the end, working one of these lures is much like casting and reeling a crankbait, or even trolling one. The similarities between working an artificial with a baitfish profile during the open water season and under the ice are strikingly similar. Aggressive fish are obvious candidates, but these baits also seem to have a knack for triggering big fish. Without the hassle of tipping, these baits are great for dropping down the hole just to see if anybody's home. Work a series of holes in fast order, and you have the iceman's version of a trolling pass.
What's really fascinating, though, is how these baits can turn a seemingly passive lurking walleye into an aggressive striking predator. The same fish that hit traditional baits fairly light just slam a Chubby Darter so hard. It's truly one of the most revolutionary baits ever introduced in the walleye ice fishing world, changing the ice-fishing world in the way trolling tactics have done in open water, creating more versatile anglers.
The root of these particular lures' effectiveness seems to be their distinct flash and vibration. They're capable of drawing fish from a significant distance. Nothing beats this type of presentation for finding fish. Any fish in the vicinity knows about your bait. They come a-runnin'.
Rapala Jigging Rap — What can you say about a Jigging Rapala other than the fact that for an entire generation, the lure virtually defined the ice game. The classic swimming-jigging lure is as good today as ever, including a batch of new colors that are making walleye dudes drool.
The Jigging Rap swims in tantalizing circles beneath the ice, moving in wide arcs well outside the diameter of the normal ice lure. The result is an attraction element not available with most other lure options. As good as this action can be, however, the true magic of the Rap lies in its nearly random "dartiness," a fast slashing, sinking, gliding motion that produces instant positive reactions from walleyes.
Now offered in five sizes, from the dainty 1/8-ounce W2 to the heavyweight 7/8-ounce W9, this special swimming lure also wears five incredible new colors. Pearl White and Redfire Crawdad have been hot, as has been the case with the always-awesome Glow Yellow Perch and new ultraviolets.
Lunkerhunt Straight Up Jig — Impressive stuff is coming from Lunkerhunt these days, and given their Toronto, Ontario home office, it's no wonder this great fishing company has entered the ice arena. Among a host of new uber realistic "Natural Series" baits, the Straight Up Jig shows fish an uncanny baitfish profile, boasting some of the most amazingly lifelike patterns ever seen.
Similar to other swimming lures in the category, the Straight Up Jig leans on an angular "lip" to make the lure glide horizontally on the drop. The lure's heavyweight lead composition produces a fast darting descent, perfect for power fishing or for triggering big fish with random yet subtle twitches.
A ½- and 3/16-ounce size both fit perfectly into most walleye-sized forage patterns. Incredibly realistic colors include Common Shiner, Blue Gill, Perch and Smelt. An amazing White Bass pattern has been an exceptional option in cisco-based lakes, while the orange-gold Spawner color rocks rivers and reservoirs.
LiveTarget — The lure that set off a renaissance in giant walleye approaches, this specialized rattler ideally emulates many preferred flat-bodied prefish. More to the point, the Golden Shiner Rattlebait fishes fast and aggressive, maxing out attracting qualities for fish hunting across vast shallow flats. Ripped and fluttered, twitched or even deadsticked for extended periods, trophy walleyes often engulf this lure with one big bite.
Accentuating the deadstick approach is the fact that the Golden Shiner is perfectly balanced, allowing it to sit upright on its front tummy when resting on bottom. The lure comes in three sizes, 2-3/8-inch to 3-1/8-inch, up to ¾-ounce in weight. Six absolutely true-to-life shiner patterns match an array of clarity and forage conditions.
Live Baitfish — Got bait? Good. Even if you step onto the ice with an army-sized arsenal of great lures, you could still miss out on a killer bite if you're not also toting a bucket of lively minnows. Believe it. Live baitfish such as golden shiners, chubs and fathead minnows still rule many winter days for walleyes. That's because while most lures get one or two things "right" — sound, action, color, profile, etc. — only the real McCoy hits every walleye sensory sweet spot at once.
In most ice belt states, anglers can use two or more rods at once. It's why veteran anglers often actively jig an artificial lure with one rod, while a second sits in a rod holder dangling an enticing baitfish below. Some days the lure scores most of the bites. But there are just enough outings when the minnow gets all the attention, especially from hawg-sized fish.
Hand-select the freshest, healthiest and liveliest specimen whenever possible. Run the hook parallel to and through the dorsal fin for maximum movement and longevity. Or, pin a minnow to the bottom on a standup jighead, impaled lightly through the upper lip. Take a smaller live shiner or fathead and tip it onto a spoon; or offer a "chandelier" of small minnows, one on each tine of a lure's treble hook. More often than not, bait saves the day.