I've got a confession to make. Until about four years ago, like 95% of the folks that chase walleyes, live bait was a way of life for me. A tradition you might say much like football fans depend on bratwurst. But let me spill the beans, lately, I almost never use live bait.
Thankfully, I finally woke-up and discovered my mentality for chasing walleyes exclusively with live bait had me missing-out on a red-hot artificial lure bite up in the shallow weeds. That pattern has always been there I assume -- but I was too blinded by my traditional live bait ways to see it.
Fact is, most walleye anglers start at the edge of the weed bed and work their way out to open water … with live bait. Promise me you'll do just the opposite on your next trip. Promise me you'll put some soft plastic minnow mimicking lures in your arsenal and fish right in the weeds -- instead of out from the weeds.
Now in a perfect situation, I'm talking scattered weeds in less than 12-feet of water, and typically I’m fishing in just 4 to 8 feet of water. I'm using spinning tackle, with 10-pound braided line, and a 30" fluorocarbon leader. My lure of choice is a Trigger X brand 4-inch soft plastic paddle tail or split tail minnow and I'm 'snap jigging' the lure with fast erratic movements of the rod. Make sure you’re using a 1/4-ounce jig head, and it's imperative that the jig head has a wire keeper barb on it in order to keep your soft plastic minnow from tearing loose every time you 'snap' or rip it through the weeds.
This is not only a new approach -- it's also a very aggressive approach. You’re depending on walleyes to visually see your soft plastic lure darting through the weeds and react. You're trying to trigger a bite. You're not doing a lot of casting, your allowing the bow mount trolling motor to move you along, but you are snapping or ripping a lure through the weeds much like you would use a lipless crankbait in weeds to catch bass.
That's why braided line is important, it gets you through the weeds much easier -- but you better have the right rod if you're fishing with braid. You need a rod that's stout, but also soft enough in its action to work well with braid. You may have heard after the annual ICAST trade show last month, that for the first time in 40 very blessed years in the fishing industry, the Lindner family is putting its signature on a rod series.
It's true; the Angling Edge team is very excited about the sticks we've designed with Quantum. In fact, we're honored to work with those guys. The Quantum designers are fisherman like us, and they're hard-core when it comes to quality. The prototype spinning rod I'm using for snap jigging soft plastics on braid is a 6' 10" medium heavy action. Specifically, it's model QAES6105F, and Quantum tells me the first batch of those sticks will ship to stores in early October.
I'm also using one of Quantum's new industry leading EXO reels. As I said at the ICAST show when they introduced EXO – it was one of the few truly "Wow!" moments I've had in more than four decades of witnessing new fishing product introductions. The first time you hold an EXO spinning reel you'll be absolutely blown away as to how light it is, and trust me, it's proved plenty tough and offered ample drag for this "in your face" – or should I say "in the weeds" technique.
Getting up in the weeds to rip up walleyes works well from early summer through early fall, but I'm telling ya' – most walleye anglers won’t venture up into the jungle. They've had a mental block against fishing heavy cover for years, and most of them still do.
I'll also tell you, the very small percentage of guys like me that have gotten past their traditional "live bait in open water" mentality are kicking butt up in the weeds. So put down your minnow bucket, spool your spinning reel up with 10-pound braided line and come join us. I'm pretty sure you’ll grow to love it like bratwurst and football.