Live Bait Walleye Tactics
It’s always been a given that walleye love a jig ‘n minnow and that old standby was used by many serious fishermen. However, when we went to a favorite spot on a northern Canadian Shield lake we caught not one fish! Everyone else had great catches at day’s end using nightcrawlers so the next day saw us using jig ‘n nightcrawler. Guess what? All we caught were perch!
The next day we switched back to minnows, embarrassed to ask many questions and our budget didn’t include hiring a guide. Needless to say, that particular fishing trip, over ten years ago, wasn’t the fish bonanza we’d looked forward to!
These days, though, we’re not so shy of asking questions and guides are very inexpensive. On our recent trip to Northwestern Ontario, we decided to hire a guide. We wanted fish and we were determined to use every tool at our disposal to get them! The first thing our guide told us was that all the walleye had just switched over to crawlers from minnows. We found out that the water temperatures affect their taste in bait; as the water warms, walleye will strike at different bait. Since the water temps had risen into the 60’s the walleye wanted nightcrawlers instead of minnows.
Our guide suggested we fish in the eastern basin of the lake so we scouted around the reefs and islands along the shoreline. We decided to use the good old time tested Lindy Rig. We could have used any number of techniques but the contour of the lake bottom demanded we troll slowly to stay as close to the bottom as possible.
Our guide told us the best way to use a whole nightcrawler is to put the hook just once through the nose and let the weight drag. Letting the worm do its own thing without interfering is important. And, by keeping your bail open, your can feed out your line once the fish bites. After five to twenty seconds you can take in the slack and set the hook but if you still feel the fish nibbling, give it more line.
At times the walleye didn’t seem to cotton to the worms; they could be larger than the fish are used to eating, or they are just too used to feeding on the Mayfly larvae or crawdads. If there are large numbers of larvae just beginning to hatch, this is probably the case. Thanks to the guides knowledge and advice, we ended up using half crawlers that appealed to the walleye. Some of them didn’t take the bait very well. It would feel as if we hit a snag and we had to set our hooks on a tight line; if the fish was given any slack at all, he’d drop the bait.
When we’d used the whole crawlers we did a steady drag but with the half crawlers we employed a lift and fall on a tight, 8 pound superline, one of the best on the market. Good line is no place to skimp! With this line we could feel the faintest of changes. We were more than pleased with our catch that day, due almost entirely to having a great guide.
Northwestern Ontario is a superb for walleye and has an abundance of lakes, lodges and resorts to get you out on the water fast. Many lodges have rental boats, guides, cabins, fly ins and outposts. If you decide to do some fishing there remember that live bait walleye tactics can be a successful and productive alternative to artificial baits and lures.
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