Opening An Ontario Walleye Tackle Box
No matter where walleye are found, from Windsor to Wawa, there’s a small group of basic lures and presentations that fishermen use all year. Below are three standards found in tackle boxes all over the province.
The Jig: Probably the most user-friendly and versatile pure walleye-catching lure of all time. Jigs work in all seasons, depths and types of cover or structure. Every walleye fisherman owns a selection. Fish spending time on or near the bottom are susceptible to these simple, inexpensive baits. Jigs are one of the cheapest lures to buy (or make) and new innovations are available every year. Shape, action, colour and rate of fall are all important details to jig fishermen. Dressings range from natural, live bait to new-age scented plastic or biodegradable bodies. Berkley, Mister Twister, Phenix, and Northland are all reputable companies, offering an assortment of popular styles. Bucktail jigs from small shops and basement benches are hugely popular, particularly in the weedy waters of the Kawartha Lakes. No matter what you’re trying to imitate or what mood walleye are in, there’s probably a jig that’ll do the job.
Minnowbaits & Crankbaits: Not so long ago, walleye fishermen lived by many myths. ‘You need to fish slowly, with live bait, on bottom,’ or, ‘Walleye only get aggressive at night’ are two I remember hearing a lot as a kid. Spring, summer or fall, walleye are nasty and opportunistic predators a lot more often than we realize. Casting and trolling plugs has become a popular and productive choice all over Ontario. And not just in shallow water at night or in deep water during the day. Casting weed edges just as you would for bass, trolled high behind planer boards or low behind lead core and even vertically jigged, walleye can be just as willing to engage a plug as any other presentation. Big fish, especially, love the beefy profile, flash and lateral line sense plugs provide. A big percentage of the province’s huge walleye are caught on minnowbaits and crankbaits every year. These types of lures not only take fish in broad daylight, but well away from the bottom, too. One of the major trends right now is super-detailed finishes. Baits like Live Target’s Smelt or Gizzard Shad look really natural to fish. Old stand-bys like Reef Runners, Bomber Long A’s and Berkley Flicker Shads are all effective. Rapala has devoted several product lines just to walleye fishermen.
Snelled Spinner With Live Bait: For times when walleye need a little encouragement, covering water with these types of rigs can be highly effective. Baited with a nightcrawler and set out behind snap weights and planer boards on Lake Erie, or for walking up and over sharp structure with a bottom bouncer and leech on a Shield river, the spinner/bait combo is universal. Fishermen troll them as fast as 2 or 3 miles per hour all the way down to a backtrolling crawl just fast enough to make the blade spin. Natural scent combined with the spinner’s vibration and flash appeal to walleye everywhere. Weighting systems, snell length, blade/bead configurations, hook and bait choice vary a lot, both seasonally and regionally. But you’d be hard pressed to find a serious walleye fisherman who hasn’t used this presentation to take good numbers of fish at some point. For bottom-bouncing, feel and control is important. High-visibilty, no-stretch lines like TufLine are popular. Fishing spinners definitely takes ‘touch,’ and this detail makes a big difference. Setting the hook is normally just a matter of a smooth sweep of the rod.
And there you have it, three lure-types that take fish anywhere, anytime. Dial in your location, depth and speed and turn one or more loose the next time you’re after walleye.