Ice Fishing Methods for Trophy Walleyes

Ice Fishing Methods for Trophy Walleyes
Guide Jeff Matity of Saskatchewan uses a "Smash and Grab" technique to trigger big walleyes.

"Predators that get to trophy size have to take in more calories than they expend," Guide Dennis Foster says. "That's why I spend so much time using larger lures and baits during winter. I often use lures that give off a lot of flash and vibration. But the main part of my system depends on big livebaits on tip-ups."

The first order is to fish waters that have big fish. "Gotta do your homework," he says. "I check fishery reports and talk details with local fishery biologists. I talk with other guides on lakes that produce big fish. Lots of information today also is available on the Internet.

"Contests like In-Fisherman's Master Angler Awards also provide clues. Fisheries like portions of Lake of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg, Fort Peck, and Saskatchewan's Last Mountain Lake, to name a few, are consistent winners."

Guide Jeff Matity of Matity's Get Fishing, who fishes Last Mountain and who offers a contrasting presentation approach to Foster's, says that the presence of small perch and mid-sized ciscoes boosts growth rates of pike and walleyes there, while whitefish support fish once they reach trophy size.


"Each fishery has reasons it has trophy-size fish," Foster says. He also knows that at times big fish eat smaller baitfish and go for smaller lures. But by feeding on bigger baitfish, trophy walleyes gain the most calories through the least amount of effort, and in the process are less likely to get caught.


"Big fish survive because they learn to feed when the odds are in their favor," he says. "They usually are active only for short periods when they're most likely to find and catch a big meal. For walleyes that typically means the morning and evening twilight periods, with the evening a favorite for me."


Foster finds that first ice and last ice are the best periods for big fish. "They're more active at first ice because they're still feeding to get ready for winter; and at last ice because they're getting into prespawn mode," he says. "I catch some big fish during mid-winter, but it's a matter of sitting them out on good spots. Might not even get a bite for four nights then have a couple big fish move in to feed during a 20-minute window. It's not a high-percentage affair for someone who only gets to fish once a week.

"Overall, I like last ice best—especially the two weeks just before the end of it all. By that time I'm fishing the edges of big shoals adjacent to spawning areas. That's where using fishery research information to identify potential areas is helpful. Then it's a matter of fishing potential areas to identify sweet spots. Once you find those, they're typically good year after year."

Tip-Up Sets


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Many anglers have discovered how easy and effective it is to use the HT Polar Magnetic Pop-up Tip-up. Guide Dennis Foster adds a strip of red glow tape at the top of the tip-up. He also wraps the top of the pop-up flag with a strip of standard glow tape. With a flashlight it's easy to monitor the tip-ups and also see if a fish has tripped the pop-up flag.

Foster uses HT Magnetic Polar Pop-up Tip-ups. "They're compact, lightweight, and the magnetic mechanism makes them smooth and reliable," he says. "Keep them clean and lubricated and check to be sure the drag is properly set."

For a leader he uses a 3-foot section of 30-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. "The thin diameter and low memory provide a stealthy presentation, which is vital in clear water when fish have a long time to examine stationary baits—plus the abrasion resistance lets me land pike as well as walleyes.

"Redtail chubs, creek chubs, shiners, and suckers can be hard to find but they're vital for how I fish. I spend a lot of time contacting bait dealers and paying whatever it costs to get baits 6 to 8 inches long that are lively, tethering them on #1 octopus hooks."


To keep baitfish lively he uses The Oxygenator Bait Transporter, a tough, insulated 7-gallon cooler that keeps big minnows in optimum shape by infusing oxygen using a recirculating pump.

"Big minnows are visible from a distance, allowing you to cover more area, even when using stationary sets," he says. "I set baits several feet off bottom so they aren't hidden in the bottom gloom, and stand out silhouetted again the bottom of the ice. Big fish like rising to take bigger baits, whether they're set on a shallow drop-off edge, or positioned farther down the drop-off, including at the base of the drop.

"I monitor the tip-ups, clearing ice and snow so they function properly when Mr. Big comes in and eats. It's vital to check baits from time to time by lifting each set. If everything's satisfactory, I reset and move on to the next one—if not, I put on a fresh minnow. Lifting a bait to get it moving, or adding a fresh, lively baitfish is what most often triggers a strike. It's a constant process; you can't just set baits, sit back, and wait.

"Once I tend the tip-ups, I also have holes drilled strategically so I can jig. I use bladebaits and lipless lures, options with lots of vibration and flash. I like Chubby Darters at times. And bigger spoons tipped with a minnow head. This approach with lures complements what I'm doing with the livebaits, because the lures often bring in big fish that end up eating a livebait."

Smash and Grab, Decoy and Convert

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The 1/4-ounce ReelBait Short Shank Flasher and 1-ounce Flasher Jig used by Jeff Matity.

Jeff Matity, with brother Jason, runs Matity's Get Fishing, a promotional entity that specializes in teaching about all forms of freshwater fishing. They're based near Regina, Saskatchewan, and Jeff knows Last Mountain Lake well, having spent many years guiding on it.

They're hardcore, inventive anglers and In-Fisherman followers. In-Fisherman Editor In Chief Doug Stange has fished with Jeff to do television, including a stint of ice fishing last December, with the resulting segments playing on the Sportsman Channel this October through December. We focus here on one of their more recent experiments with walleyes, with Jeff describing an approach that relies on ReelBait Flasher Jigs, which probably are considered open-water options by most anglers.

Matity: "By now, most anglers are familiar with having a second rod ready to drop another lure down once fish are brought in with a larger and more aggressive lure that they won't take. This 'decoying' has become popular on Lake Winnipeg, where walleyes often come in on a lipless lure like the LiveTarget Golden Shiner. If the fish won't take the lipless lure, the angler quickly reels and drops a smaller spoon, or drops the lipless lure to the bottom, and in a hole near the main hole drops the spoon. That's what I call decoying and converting.

"On Last Mountain, the main decoy lures are some of the same lipless lures used on Lake Winnipeg, along with ReelBait Fergie Spoons and PK Spoons, usually sweetened with bit of walleye cheek. But we also use the 1-ounce version of the ReelBait Flasher Jig tipped with a 2-inch portion of cut cisco belly, to bring fish in and trigger them, before we have to resort to a secondary lure. It's something the fish haven't seen and we catch a lot of fish, especially for the month or so of first ice. I also always add a drop or two of Pro-Cure Mr. Ice Gel to the blade on the Flasher Jig.

//www.in-fisherman.com/files/2014/10/Butterfly-Steaks-from-Cisco-In-Fisherman-269x300.jpg
Butterfly Steaks From Cisco1. Cut completely through the fish along the lateral line from behind the gills past the anal fin.2. Cut off the head. The fish will now be in three pieces.3. Cut 1/4-inch strips from the belly portion, from the head end toward the pelvic fins (you can usually get 4 to 6 pieces per fish).The tubular tips of the butterfly steak are created when you make the first cut through the fish horizontally along the lateral line, skimming the spine and removing some kidney tissue with the steak. These triangular ends thump (not unlike a boot-tail swimbait) when high-hopped, and also catch water when thrummed/hovered. (Bottom Illustraton: Cross-sectional view from head with mid-ventral tendon between lines

"To bring fish in and trigger them, we use a technique I call the Smash and Grab. We cut lots of holes in a good area and move from hole to hole, spending only about a minute or so in each hole. We drop the 1-ounce lure to the bottom, then jig it up as high as we can and let it plummet to the bottom, where it thumps down hard. We do that three or four times, maybe do a little dancing of the lure on the bottom, then lift the jig a foot and scrutinize our electronics to see if a walleye has been drawn in. If we don't see a big mark we move on. If a fish comes in and doesn't take immediately, we tone things down with some rod-tip shakes, followed by dead-still pauses.

"Beyond catching fish, we cover a lot of water and determine which holes are likely to be hot during prime time, based on how many fish we see in which holes. Of course we also get fish that decoy but don't commit to the larger Flasher. We convert them with a 1/4-ounce Flasher like the Short Shank Original Glo, tipped with an inch-long portion of cisco belly or minnow head.

"Cut holes about 2 to 3 feet apart, drop the big lure in one hole, the smaller lure in the other. Drop the smaller lure to the bottom. Pick up the bigger lure and use the smash-and-grab technique. If a walleye comes in and won't commit, open your bail and drop the big jig to the bottom, pick the 1/4-ounce jig off the bottom and lift it up just above the fish.

"One trip last winter there were four other anglers plus Jason and myself. We were the only ones using the techniques described here. We caught 32 of the 50 fish that day, including a couple of 11-pounders."

Action Lures, Clam, Northland

â–  Action Lures
actionluresllc.com - Tipup Live Bait Spinner Rigs come packaged with three spinner blades — Colorado, willowleaf, and an intermediate shape. Built on 20-pound braid, the rig has a bead stack, a glow bead, a quick-change clevise for blade changes, and a stop for adjusting blade and bead location. Comes with a #6 or #8 treble hook.
â–  Clam
clamoutdoors.com - Clam partnered with Bigtooth Tackle to offer rigs, including the new Zero Rig, which features a sliding treble-hook design and cradle for supporting big baitfish. Also available are the Bigtooth Rig, with a Y-yoke design sporting Holo colored blades and two #2 trebles, and Baby Bigtooth designed for smaller baits, with a weight and spinner mounted in-line above a #8 or #12 treble hook.
â–  Northland
northlandtackle.com - Predator Rigs feature Surflon stainless-steel wire with Baitfish-Image attractor blades and Blood Red VMC treble hooks. Available in single-hook and double-hook, Y-yoke harness design. Fluorocarbon Pike Rig is built on 15-pound Bionic Fluorocarbon leader material with a Baitfish-Image blade dangling above a VMC treble hook.

Action Lures

actionluresllc.com - Diamond Head Darters have faceted sparkling crystal-glass heads, available in 11 colors and 6 sizes from 1/64 to 1/4 ounce, with glow eyes. Dressed Tube Bait and Fuzz Grub models also are available.

Bentley Fishing

bentleyfishing.com - Hand-crafted for the professional ice-fishing circuit, the Fishing Stinger jig is touted as the company'™s most advanced crappie ice jig. With new sizes and colors, Marmoosha Stingers combine lifelike appearance, Swarovski crystal at the front of the jig, and a unique weight-to-size ratio. These tungsten jigs get down to fish quickly, and crystals reflect light in all directions. Available in 1/50-, 1/25-, and 2/25-ounce, and outfitted with premium Gamakatsu hooks.

Berkley

johnsonfishing.com - Gulp! introduces Waxies (75-packs) and Euro Larvae (150-packs), effective and durable alternatives to livebait. Available in both neon and natural colors, and lifelike details — berkley-fishing.com. Johnson Sprite spoon has a thin body for a darting and fluttering action, and is available in six sizes from 1/16 to 1 ounce in both natural and bright colors. The Splinter spoon, in five sizes from 1/12 to 3/4 ounce, has an assymetrical flat profile for a darting action and it'™s compact so it gets deep quickly. The SlimFish flutters on the drop and has the profile of a fish, and its elongated body makes it a natural for tipping with a minnow head. Johnson ThinFisher bladebait now comes in a 1/2-ounce version to accompany the popular 3/16- and 1/4-ounce sizes. The sonic rattle chamber emits a distinctive sound. It has three line attachment holes to change the intensity of the lure'™s action.

Clam

clamoutdoors.com - Clam Pro Tackle enters the ice lure market with the help of ice-fishing guru Dave Genz and introduces seven jigs in its Tungsten Drop Series, which can outrace leadhead jigs down to the fish. The Drop comes in five sizes and six colors, and the hook is positioned at a 45-degree angle for optimum hookups. Dingle Drop comes in two sizes (#12 or #14 hook) and is enhanced with a jewel hanging from a chain. Half Ant Drop offers a slow fall rate for finicky fish. The Swarovski gem mounted on the top of the Half Ant imitates a fish eye that sparkles with each jigging motion. The Epoxy, Ant, and Maggot are offered in six colors and multiple sizes. The Duckbill Drop has a prominent arching shape and set-back eyelet. The protruding bill forces the jig forward with each pop of the rod. The flat triangular front of the Blade Spoon, in 1/16-, 1/8-, and 1/4-ounce sizes, gives it a random fluttering action on the fall. The Blade Jig has the same body as the Blade Spoon, but it'™s molded onto a single hook, and makes a good deadstick option. The 1/8-ounce Speed Spoon is a jigging spoon with a chain holding a matching trailer hook adorned with a colored epoxy attractor. They come in single-hook and treble-hook models. The Bomb Spoon, in four sizes from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce, is compact and gets down fast, and the hook features an epoxy bead. In the hardbait realm, the Psycho Shad shad-shaped jigging minnow drops with a sepentine swimming motion. Rip it, let it drop, and repeat. Comes in three sizes suitable for panfish to larger predators. Clam partnered with Maki Plastics, maker of well-known ice-fishing mini softbaits, to offer five ultra-pliable baits — Maki, Spiki, Draggi, Jamei, and Polli. Selections range from simple stick shapes to more intricate designs featuring multiple appendages and tails.

Clam

clamoutdoors.com - Clam Pro Tackle enters the ice lure market with the help of ice-fishing guru Dave Genz and introduces seven jigs in its Tungsten Drop Series, which can outrace leadhead jigs down to the fish. The Drop comes in five sizes and six colors, and the hook is positioned at a 45-degree angle for optimum hookups. Dingle Drop comes in two sizes (#12 or #14 hook) and is enhanced with a jewel hanging from a chain. Half Ant Drop offers a slow fall rate for finicky fish. The Swarovski gem mounted on the top of the Half Ant imitates a fish eye that sparkles with each jigging motion. The Epoxy, Ant, and Maggot are offered in six colors and multiple sizes. The Duckbill Drop has a prominent arching shape and set-back eyelet. The protruding bill forces the jig forward with each pop of the rod. The flat triangular front of the Blade Spoon, in 1/16-, 1/8-, and 1/4-ounce sizes, gives it a random fluttering action on the fall. The Blade Jig has the same body as the Blade Spoon, but it'™s molded onto a single hook, and makes a good deadstick option. The 1/8-ounce Speed Spoon is a jigging spoon with a chain holding a matching trailer hook adorned with a colored epoxy attractor. They come in single-hook and treble-hook models. The Bomb Spoon, in four sizes from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce, is compact and gets down fast, and the hook features an epoxy bead. In the hardbait realm, the Psycho Shad shad-shaped jigging minnow drops with a sepentine swimming motion. Rip it, let it drop, and repeat. Comes in three sizes suitable for panfish to larger predators. Clam partnered with Maki Plastics, maker of well-known ice-fishing mini softbaits, to offer five ultra-pliable baits — Maki, Spiki, Draggi, Jamei, and Polli. Selections range from simple stick shapes to more intricate designs featuring multiple appendages and tails.

Custom Jigs and Spins

customjigs.com - Improving on one of the most productive ice spoons, Pro Series Slender Spoons come in new color patterns and sticky sharp VMC Spark Point treble hooks. Available in 1/8- and 1/4-ounce sizes, they have quick wobble and slow flutter on the fall.

Dynamic Lures

dynamiclures.com - The HD Ice is a hollow-bodied lure that produces a subtle rattle and vibrating action when jigged vertically. At 2 inches in length and 1/5-ounce and eight colors, it shimmers on the fall and attracts attention as it darts erratically to the side on the upswing.

Echo Pro Tungsten

ecoprotungsten.com - This company'™s exclusive line of tungsten products now includes Tear Drop Tungsten Ice Jigs. They'™re available in 0.8-, 1.6-, and 2.2-gram models with #12, #10, and #8 hooks, in 10 colors.

Expedition

expedition-outdoors.com - Expedition offers six new tungsten jigs, in multiple sizes and colors, including Power Glow, which gives 1 hour of glow. Fatso Grub with its rotund body sinks fast to reach deep fish quickly and excels for busting through vegetation. It'™s available in three weights from 1/64 to 1/10 ounce and three hook sizes, #8, #10, and #12. The BB Grub is a weight-forward design with a grub body and horizontal profile, also in three sizes (1/64, 1/50, and 1/32 ounce) and three hook sizes (#8, #10, and #12). The Plow Grub and Alien have aggressive darting motions due to their wide heads. The Alien even more so, with the line-tie positioned on a flat head. Available with #10 and #12 hooks, with weights ranging from 1/50 to 1/16 ounce. Rounding out the lineup are the Banana Grub and Slim Grub, both in a range of colors, hook sizes, and weights. Jigs are hand-painted, including Power glow colors, and baked with an epoxy finish.

Frabill

planomolding.com - Frabill teamed with Plano to design a new ice-fishing tackle bag. The impact-resistant, waterproof molded base of the Frabill Softbag withstands harsh conditions on the ice and keeps water out. A large mesh pocket on its back panel allows easy access to frequently used items. Inside, one 3650 box and three 3601 Plano ProLatch StowAway utility boxes keep gear organized. Built-in elastic straps help to secure it to a sled or ATV.

HT Enterprises

icefish.com - Expanding on their lineup of Marmooska Tungsten jigs, Dropper Jigs contain an added reflective crystal dangling from a dropper chain to attract fish. The slightly offset head and light-wire, small-barbed hook improves hook-sets. Made of tungsten, they easily bust through ice shavings in the hole, and sink quickly. Available in premium gold or silver colors and three hook sizes. For a vertically hanging jig option with a crescent body shape, try the Marmooska Tungsten Shad Jig. The attractive power of a fish eye is well known. Perch seem to have an obsession with eyeballs and HT'™s Marmooska Tungsten Eyeball Jigs play to this weakness. They glow in the dark, and their extra-heavy design delivers them rapidly to bottom-hugging fish. Available in multiple colors and with hook sizes of #8, #10, #12 and #14.

Jammin Jigs

jamminjigs.com - A 35-piece Perch & Panfish Kit contains their top-selling jigs in distinctive neon colors that are unavailable for individual purchase. Includes seven each of Neon Football jigs, a heavy bodied, quick sinking jig; Neon Shaded Teardrops for greater visual attraction in a vertical presentation; Neon Darter Jigs for a high action lure that kicks out to the side of the hole; and Standard and Neon Flathead Jigs for a horizontal presentation.

Koppers

livetargetlures.com - Kopper'™s LiveTarget Golden Shiner rattlebait is now available in silver/green color pattern, which replicates a golden shiner in clear to slightly stained water. It sinks quickly and rattles hard. Six ultra-realistic color patterns and 1/4-, 1/2-, and 3/4-ounce sizes.

Lindy

lindyfishingtackle.com - Lindy introduces the 360 Jig, designed to rotate and spin on a central wire axle. With a small diagonal wing on each side of the jig'™s body, the speed of the body'™s rotation is controlled by the jigging motion. As the jig spins on a bead at the base of the axle, the lure emits sound and vibration. Four sizes from 1/16 to 3/8 ounce and 12 colors. Lindy Toads are multiplying and gaining weight in 2014, based upon their new tungsten construction. Tungsten Toads hang horizontally in the water, and with a flat top they show better on electronics. Available with size #14, #12, and #10 hooks and 10 color patterns.

Northland

northlandtackle.com - Tungsten Fire-Ball UV Jigs have a UV finish, and the compact design positions the weight of the jig at the tip of the hook shank for more hooking power. New Impulse Stone Fly, Tadpole, and Mini Roundworm have Impulse scent attractant. Stonefly has a long torso, dual antennas, segmented body, and legs. Tadpole has an undulating fin-like tail, while the Mini Roundworm is a mini soft stickbait with egg sac for wacky-hooking. Macho Whistler has a whistling prop blade and beads in front of a slab cut spoon. The blade spins on the upstroke and changes pitch as the spoon flashes on the fall and centers itself under the ice hole. Buck-Shot UV Spoon incorporates a UV enhanced, optically brightened finish with a clicking rattle, while the Buck-Shot Glider Spoon features wings that cause it to dart and glide, along with a rattle.

Northland

northlandtackle.com - Tungsten Fire-Ball UV Jigs have a UV finish, and the compact design positions the weight of the jig at the tip of the hook shank for more hooking power. New Impulse Stone Fly, Tadpole, and Mini Roundworm have Impulse scent attractant. Stonefly has a long torso, dual antennas, segmented body, and legs. Tadpole has an undulating fin-like tail, while the Mini Roundworm is a mini soft stickbait with egg sac for wacky-hooking. Macho Whistler has a whistling prop blade and beads in front of a slab cut spoon. The blade spins on the upstroke and changes pitch as the spoon flashes on the fall and centers itself under the ice hole. Buck-Shot UV Spoon incorporates a UV enhanced, optically brightened finish with a clicking rattle, while the Buck-Shot Glider Spoon features wings that cause it to dart and glide, along with a rattle.

Northland

northlandtackle.com - Northland'™s pocket-sized Jig Wallet is convenient for for keeping jigs and small ice lures organized and at the ready. The soft-sided storage has a zip closure and inside mesh pockets, along with a removable foam insert to hold jigs and lures. Includes mini needlenose pliers.

Trigger X

triggerx.com - Trigger X hits the ice scene with seven miniature creature baits. The series includes the Trigger X Nymph, an aquatic insect and crustacean imitator. It has multiple lifelike appendages. Glow models emit light for 15 minutes on a single charge. The Flap Tail Grub is a 1-inch beavertail that displaces a lot of water and presents a large profile when viewed from below. Modify it by splitting or trimming the flat paddletail to mimic a wounded minnow. The Trigger X Minnow, Spike Worm, and Wax Tail resemble some of panfish'™s favorite foods. At 1 to 1.5 inches in length, they have dynamic action with even the slightest twitch of the rod tip. For an even tinier morsel, try the Trigger X Larvae. Choose between the 1/4- or 1/2-inch size to imitate eurolarvae in a wide variety of colors. To go wacky, try the Mustache Worm, which has a small round body for hook placement and two slender appendages extending from the body.

VMC

vmchooks.com - VMC has re-energized proven spoon designs with new colors, finishes, and patterns. The Flash Champ Spoon is brass with beveled edges and flat sides for flash, and comes in 3/4- to 11⁄2-inch sizes. The Rattle Spoon packs a big racket into a small package, in multiple sizes and natural, holographic, Ultra Glow, and UV color patterns. Thinner flutter spoon options include the Tingler Spoon and Tumbler Spoon. The wedge-shaped Tingler has a wide wobbling action. The Tumbler'™s torpedo-shaped body has a quick bend toward the end of the bait, causing it to tumble on the fall.
VMC also introduces five new ice jigs. The Larvae Jig and Wax Tail Jig incorporate Trigger X bodies onto jigs with sturdy VMC horizontal Power Gap Hooks. The Minnow Jig resembles something artfully crafted in a fly-tying vise. It has an elongated body accented with flash fibers at the tail-end and a large holographic eye at the head. The Tear Drop and Pug Bug jigs round out the new lineup.

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