January 25, 2013
By Matt Straw
These have been my top producers for walleyes so far this winter. Least aggressive on the left, everyday options in the middle, most aggressive on the right.
When walleyes oggle things but won't bite, I often opt for a small minnow anchored with a jig head and left to dangle in their face on a deadstick. On the left, top-to-bottom: The JB Lures Weevil Tungsten, the JB Lures Gem-N-Eye, and a Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle Fat Boy. Each has its place. The Weevil is dense and heavy for its size. It drops quick and anchors the smallest minnows to the point that they can wiggle, but they can't run. The Gem-N-Eye is a lot like another favorite of mine, the Custom Jigs & Spins Demon. These oversized teardrops flutter and flash as minnows struggle. I generally skin-hook minnows along the dorsal with these units. And the Fat Boy is for creating a larger horizontal profile with a larger, lip-hooked shiner or rainbow. The minnow struggling face-to-face with the jig is sometimes the answer for finicky biters.
In the middle, top-to-bottom: The Northland Tackle Forage Minnow, the PK Lures Flutterfish, and the PK Lures PK Spoon. Most of the time, most walleyes are neutral. As such, I tend to catch most of my walleyes, every winter, with smaller spoons tipped with the head of a fathead or rainbow. The 1/16-ounce PK Spoon has been my go-to bait for a couple years now.
When I'm not catching fish with the PK, it's generally with one of the other two. Hard to beat the Forage Minnow for consistent results in hard-fished waters, like the smaller lakes around here. And my first response to finicky biters generally isn't from the category on the left. It's the Flutterfish, which turns on its side when you dump it, so it flutters down soft and slow, which is less threatening to a cautious fish.
When everybody around me is hooking up as soon as they drop a lure down there, I've been going to the category on the right. Top to bottom: The Rapala Jigging Rap, the Mack's Lure Sonic Baitfish, and the Salmo Zipper. These are small horizontal lures that tend to balance with the same tackle I'm using to fish lures in the other categories (which, in this case, is a new Wright & McGill medium-action Tony Roach Signature Series rod and their new round reel spooled with 6-pound Seaguar AbrazX Fluorocarbon). So, instead of going to a heavier spoon, I often opt for one of these.
Jigging Raps are steady producers, every winter. I find I'm using smaller versions more often than in the past, but it's still a formidable design with it's patented circle-drop descent (when presented on the right weight and diameter line, that is). Mack's Sonic Baitfish is a pleasant surprise this winter — a horizontal spoon that drops like a rock, vibrates uniquely on the rise, and wobbles back down on a semi-slack line. Seems to call active fish from about as far away as the Zipper, which is picking up right where it left off last year. The swift drop and seductive hum the Zipper produces when lifted has been the best calling card I've found when bait is just slowing things down. If walleyes are showing two feet off bottom and coming right up to the lure and stabbing it, the Zipper rocks.
Those have been my best baits so far this winter. It's always a little different, year to year. Thanks to artist-photographer Al Noraker for sending me the sunrise photo from last week. The pleasure was all mine, Al!