Fast First to Ice More Winter Walleye
By Tim Allard
As anglers it's easy for us to
fall into the pattern of ice fishing slowly for walleye. Granted,
certain conditions demand lethargic presentations to get bites.
Mid-winter doldrums, cold front weather systems and high fishing
pressure are a few examples. Yet, fishing jigging baits at a faster
pace can attract more aggressive walleye. With the right kinds of
lures you can fish quickly, but add finesse moves when needed. This
combination may seem like a paradox, but it catches me dozens of
walleye during the ice season.
A good rule of thumb for walleye, and other species, when ice
fishing is: fish as fast as you can get away with. This allows you
to work baits quickly and get the attention of fish in the vicinity.
Additionally, because you're doing it at a steady clip, you'll cover
more water throughout the day.
I'm not advocating jigging with
reckless speed. Overworking a lure will ruin its action. What I am
suggesting is first experimenting with a fast jigging sequence
within the speed threshold of the bait you're using. This helps to
determine if aggressive fish are in the area and if any are willing
to hit a fast-moving bait. Don't assume you need to fish slowly
because the water's cold.
The Best Baits
The most effective jigging baits are ones you can fish fast as well
as slow. Sound like a contradiction? It's far from it. Let's look at
two popular walleye baits as examples.
Jigging spoons and swimbaits can
be fished quickly with a fast snap of the wrist. This causes both
baits to dash upwards and then fall on slack line. To work baits
fast, mix in one or two more jigging snaps after the initial fall,
before holding the bait still for several seconds. If there are
aggressive walleye in the area, a quick presentation will really
rile them up and result in hits.
Trigger Them with Pauses
Pausing a swimbait or spoon begins the finesse presentation. When
fish are feeding, it won't take them long to hit. Using flashers,
like Vexilars, helps you determine if a bait has attracted fish
during the jigging sequence. With this info you can then experiment
with finesse moves until you discover the right combination to
Try the following to coax hits. A
slight jiggle of the rod tip is deadly. This shakes the bait
slightly. It mimics the nervous quiver and panic of a baitfish
realizing it's in danger of being eaten. Sometimes this subtle move
is enough to encourage hits. Next, try jigging again or hold the
bait still. It stands to reason, the less aggressive the fish, the
more you'll need to slow things down. This includes the frequency
and intensity of jigging lifts as well as the length of time you
pause a bait.
You can still tip baits when fishing fast. Scent and meat helps get
strikes when holding baits still. If using minnows, hook them
through the skull to ensure they stay on. Only use a minnow head for
swimbaits so as to not interfere with the bait's action.
Scent-infused, artificial baits are effective too.
Remember, you won't know how fast
you can catch fish unless you try. This winter, experiment with
working baits quickly before assuming you need a slow presentation
to hook walleye. The results are sure to impress you, and your