Have early season walleye in your cross-hairs? Legendary guide and Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, Tom Neustrom, offers these tips on how to put more walleye on the ice:
|This trophy walleye couldn’t resist the allure of a Rapala Jigging Rap.|
Do Your Homework
Neustrom advocates getting info on the lake you’re going to fish and having a game plan before your boots ever touch the ice.
• Scout deep healthy weeds in fall and save these spots to a winter sonar/GPS combo, such as the Humminbird 688
• Talk to local tackle shop owners, camp operators, and reputable guides to get information on ice conditions and walleye locations.
Focus on Weeds, Points, and Bends
Walleye use points, bends, and outside weed edges as highways for deep-to-shallow movements. They’ll also push baitfish into these tight quarters. This makes them key spots during the early winter.
During the initial weeks of the season Neustrom focuses on deep weed edges, typically in 12 to 16 feet of water. If this depth isn’t producing during the day, he’ll explore 18 to 20 feet. As day shifts to dusk, Neustrom follows the walleye shallow, often up to depths of 7 feet.
Master the Rapala Jigging Rap
Neustrom’s star performer most days is a #7 Jigging Rap. He finds it delivers plenty of action for aggressive first-ice walleye, while still having the subtle moves for triggering bites. Here are a few tips for jigging it.
• Tip the bottom treble hook with a minnow head. Neustrom likes the action dangling entrails deliver from a torn head versus a cut one. He skewers it through the lower jaw and up through the top of the head. This stays on better than hooking it through the bottom lip or the eyes.
• Don’t get too crazy with a Jigging Rap. There’s a lift and a drop. Lift it two feet and drop it back to center, letting the bait swim in a circle. Then do that again, adding a pause. When it stops the bait will turn slowly, and that’s often when walleye hit.
• If your electronics show an interested fish, a short lift of the Jigging Rap is often all it takes to trigger a strike. If that doesn’t work, letting the lure sit, jiggle it, and then pause again.
Early winter walleye can be a challenge. However, doing your homework, focusing on the correct locations, and mastering the Jigging Rap will help you put more ‘eyes on ice this season.