It’s nothing new at this point as I’m sure you have all seen and heard the craze about walleye anglers taking a time tested ice fishing lure and applying it to open water fishing. That is correct; an Ice Fishing Jig, otherwise known as “Glide Baits”. There are several different versions of these type of baits on the market, however I’m only going to reference one of them. Why is this phenomenon quickly becoming so popular and effective? I can’t speak for other anglers but this may very well be my favorite way to catch walleye. I may have a few bass angler tendencies working for me that make this style of fishing one of my favorites. The erratic action of the bait requires the angler to be constantly working it, whether it’s pitching the bait out and working it back to the boat or staying vertical and working the bait over a particular area or piece of structure. Either way, this means you are on your feet with rod in hand and actively doing something the entire time to fish these type of baits effectively. Maybe it’s my ADD that play’s into this as it keeps my hands and attention very busy. I’m willing to do it all day long.
What else makes these baits so awesome? Just hook into one 5lb walleye and you’ll know. With the constant jerking motion of the jig and with most bites coming on the drop you may not feel the bite until you begin the next stroke of your rod and the feeling of that rod not coming back up is awesome. The immediate hook set and head shake is quickly addicting. How these fish are able to strike these baits so aggressively I have yet to understand and quite frankly don’t care as long as they continue to do it. The baits have an erratic action of darting from side to side very fast. However that is also what is creating these fish to bite with such fierce force as this is a reactive bite and certainly not one of those I’m hungry and will just nip at it bites.
The versatility of these baits is also what make them so deadly. You can fish them over deep structure, open water, bridge pillars; almost anywhere you want. I personally look at using these baits when fishing under a lot of bait fish, targeting the walleyes near the bottom. Deep rock piles, and bridge pillars are a few of my favorite places to deploy them. The Northland Puppet Minnow http://www.northlandtackle.com/ is my go to in regards to glide baits. I have the most confidence in this particular bait and it has proven to consistently put a lot of walleye in my boat over the others currently on the market and it’s affordable price make it that much more appealing; especially when fishing near deep structure which can be a costly day of trial and error. The PMD5 is my go to jig paired with a St. Croix (Eyecon or Avid X) Snap Jigging rod 6’8” Medium action with a Fast Action tip. This particular rod that St. Croix has designed specifically for this method of fishing is awesome as it has a very strong back bone that is able to handle the aggressive jigging motion and gets you a very quick and solid hook set. A good back bone on your rod is paramount for this method of fishing as I have seen several rods break over the years with guys using too light of gear for slabbing and working glide baits. Most of the time you will be using a 5/8oz and heavier jig so which is why the back bone of your rod is as important as it need to be able to withstand the constant aggressive jerking motion.
When rigging up my rods I’m always using 10lb or greater Berkley Fireline tied to a #10 or #12 barrel swivel with 15lb or greater Berkley fluorocarbon leader. This keeps the line from twisting and the heavy leader helps reduce the line twist as well as the solid hook set to pull the fish up out of the structure fast at times. If you are fishing near bridge piers you will occasionally be dragging the
line up the piers and the fluorocarbon is much more abrasive resistant than typical monofilament. Keep your reels light as it will be in your hand all day. I prefer my Pflueger Purist reels as they are more than durable to handle this method of fishing and are made of alloy making them a little lighter than most others on the market.
A few things that I have found to make me more effective when fishing these baits is to keep a close eye on your line. If I see the slightest twitch in my line as the lure drops I immediately snap it back up. Also pay close attention to the drop once you pitch the jig out, if it’s not dropping like it normally has reel up the slack line fast and set the hook as a fish has most likely inhaled it on the drop. When fishing bridge pillars that can be up to 90’ deep this really comes into play as the fish may be suspended all the way down that pier, so you need to fish the bait from bottom to top. Work the bait back up the pier toward the boat with intermediate pauses along the way. If you are graphing bait ten feet below the boat then stop the lure just below the bait and work it up. Trust me the fish are near the bait. You can cover an area pretty quick and efficiently with these type of baits but don’t hesitate to come back to a spot a couple hours after you have fished it with no prior luck. Many times the spot is great but the fish just haven’t moved into it yet that day and when they do, if you are there, it can be a very fast and fun bite with limits coming within just minutes. Big fish tend to be more aggressive so maybe that is why these baits catch so many big fish. Don’t sweat it though, you will definitely catch your share of little ones too but overall I have hooked up to a lot of nice walleyes in a very fast manner using this method.
Another thing to practice when fishing deep structure is to find a cadence that keeps your bait just off bottom enough to keep you from getting snagged up each time you hit the bottom. I typical drop the bait to the bottom just on the outside edge of the structure I’m fishing until I get the rhythm (1,2,3 jig, 1,2,3 jig) to keep my bait just off bottom enough to stay out of the rocks or debris. Once this is dialed in I can then move the boat in a little further to the structure and try to stay vertical over the fish. This is very critical on such fisheries like Devils Lake, ND where there is structure everywhere and you can donate a lot of lures in one day if you don’t master the cadence. But even at Devils Lake you will still be leaving a few behind for sure.
When in open water the cadence isn’t as important especially if you’re fishing 30’ down in 50’ fow. It’s more important that you are able to figure out your depth that the fish are reacting to. If you set your electronics to max mode and jigging mode you can most likely pick up your jig on your sonar and get a good idea on the depth that is working best for you. Once you find that depth just count the time it takes to bring it up/drop it down and then you’re set to begin working the bait. Of course if the fish are on the bottom that makes things pretty simple but it’s important not to have too much slack on the line when it hits the bottom you want to see the bite on the drop or at least be able to make a quick hookset once it hits the bottom. Let your line fall on slack line after each jig this will allow your lure to move as freely and erratically as it wants.
Mix it up. If you’re not having any luck, let the jig sit on the bottom for a few seconds sometimes. If that’s not working either, lessen up your jigging stroke or increase it. Pay attention to what you were doing when you got the hit and try to mimic that again, let the fish tell you what they want. Try different sizes of jigs and colors.
I will usually start with mixing up sizes to see if they want a faster or slower fall or maybe just a smaller or larger profiled bait. Once that is figured out then I work on dialing in a specific color that is outperforming others.
Gear is important for this technique but don’t wait ‘til you have the perfect set up to try it.
Get out there and give it a shot. Once you get hooked up and build up some confidence you’ll be looking to go to this method as often as possible as it’s just FUN and extremely effective.
Written By: Brian Bashore
The Walleye Guys LLC