When it comes to catching walleyes and saugers through the ice on Lake of the Woods, sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference. One of those “little things” I have noticed over the years is adding some noise and aggressiveness to my presentation can pay dividends.
Noise in the Fishing World Can Come in a Lot of Forms
Pounding the bottom with your lure, the jigging action you create, rattles, vibration and spinners all create noise that can attract walleyes. One of the ways walleyes sense their next meal is through their lateral line. This lateral line senses vibration and noise in the water and can cause a natural triggering effect.
Over time, I have been turned on to using noise, becoming more aggressive with my approach in extracting walleyes and saugers from the icy depths across the ice belt. Some of this trial and error has been during times of a tough bite. Whether it is a cold front rolling through as they do periodically throughout the winter or perhaps a day in which the walleyes and saugers just aren’t feeding as well which could be for many reasons, noise has definitely been a strong tool in my walleye tool belt to catch more fish.
There are a couple of go to presentations / lures that I start with when I want the fish to feel the noise. First, a vibrating lure with bb’s in it, such as a Rapala Rippin Rap Rattling crankbait. The second lure is a jigging spoon with rattles tipped with a minnow head or tail. There are certainly times when rattles will out fish a spoon without rattles and vice versa. As a rule, when I fish stained water lakes such as Lake of the Woods, I am a fan of rattles and a bit more noise.
For years, I was a fan of the lipless crankbaits for open water fishing, but had never used them through the ice. This technique first caught my eye when a local guide up at Lake of the Woods talked to me about how years back he used to use a Rattle Trap to ice March walleyes.
Lake of the Woods has an extended ice fishing season with houses on the ice through March and the walleye season open through April 14th. Hence, anglers can target March walleyes putting on the pre-spawn feedbag.
He said he would be ripping a trap in one hole and deadsticking (a live minnow six inches to a foot off of the bottom) his second hole. He said there were times when a walleye would hit that trap so hard it almost rip the rod out of his hand.
I experimented a bit with lipless cranks through the ice but really started having success with the Rippin Rap. Now, it is a lure that I often lead with for my jigging line through the ice.
I experiment with jigging action, watching my electronics allowing them teach me what the walleyes want that day. Some days, the walleyes’ moods are consistent, wanting the same action for the lure. Other days, it is basically fishing each individual fish to learn what they want.
The normal jigging cadence I begin with is to pull the lure up in about two foot increments, enough to feel the vibration and hear the rattles. I then will let it free fall into the strike zone, which in my mind is normally about a foot off of the bottom.
I do mix the jigging up, giving extra long and fast rips at times, shaking the lure as fast as I can, elevating the lure in the water column as some bait is elevated and fish see up.
Sometimes walleyes will slide in slowly on the lure. Other times there will be a mark on my electronics out of nowhere. That fish will eat almost all of the time.
When a fish slides in slowly, I work various jigging cadences until I get that fish to go. Sometimes they want the normal jigging routine with a free fall. Other times, will hold it just above them a bit and jig it more subtly much like I would a jigging spoon with a minnow head. Jig, jig, hold in strike zone. Shake, shake, shake, shake, hold in strike zone. Walleyes will hit this lure sitting still and at times will actually prefer it sitting still in front of them verses moving.
When a walleye flies in out of nowhere, this fish is hot and is ready to eat. Normally, all I have to do is get the lure in front of them, give it a couple of shakes and POW! I have seen this happen often, both with walleyes when the bite is good but also when fish are in a more neutral mood. I think it relates to the reaction strike we talk about when pulling cranks in the summer.
It is important to let the fish tell you what they want each day. Their mood can change from day to day, sometimes, hour to hour. Regardless, don’t be afraid to add some noise to your walleye and sauger arsenal to ice more fish.