How to Go Baitless and Still Catch Fall River Walleyes Like a Pro

News & Tips: Cheap & Effective: How to Tie Your Own Bucktail Jigs...
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Gulp Alive minnows are a great alternative in the winter months. They are durable and convenient to store. Plus, they are much easier to hook than a wiggly minnow when your fingers are frozen. Best of all, walleye love ‘em!

While using minnows to tip jigs is a proven combination when fishing for river walleye during fall and early winter, the colder temperatures can make that strategy a challenge.  So instead, I rely on artificial minnows such as Berkley Gulp! Alive! minnows to spice up my leadheads.

From a tactics standpoint, there’s not a lot to say regarding using Gulp Alive minnows compared to the real thing.  Which is kind of the point, I guess.  In situations where you’d use a fathead minnow to tip a jig, do the same, only with the Gulp Alive minnow.  The availability of various sizes allows you to come up with a balanced jig-minnow combination for your specific need.

In my case, I’m either vertically jigging, as the boat drifts slowly along a deep river pool, or I’m casting up on shallow flats where I expect foraging walleyes to be.

For the vertical jigging approach, I can use a leadhead like Bass Pro Shops’ XPS walleye jig in the ¼ ounce size, even ⅜ if it’s deep, as in over 20 feet, and/or windy.  If I want a compact offering, I’ll run the hook down the “minnow’s” mouth, and back out its head, the same as you can do with a real minnow.  Using a 3- or 4-inch Gulp Alive minnow, is a good approach when the fish are biting short, and you're missing them.

If I want a bigger profile I can add a soft bait such as a Berkley Power Grub, then pinch off the tail.  This allows plenty of room (hook gap) for the addition of a 2.5- or 3-inch Gulp Alive minnow, which is hooked through the lips.

When casting up to the shallows, the same presentation options are available. Just drop down in jig weight to ⅛ ounce if necessary.

Another trick is to use a bucktail jig such as the Luck E Strike bucktail (or tie your own bucktail jigs via tips provided in a past blog on Bass Pro Shops 1Source) and dip it in the Gulp Alive juice.  Give it a dip initially, and refresh it occasionally.  The hair will provide a gradual dispersion of scent and flavor.  I’ve caught plenty of walleyes doing this, and though I can’t verify I wouldn’t have caught them without the juicing, the practice has perked up action during slow times.  I‘d say it falls in the “can’t hurt” category.

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Dipping a bucktail in a fish attractant like the Gulp Alive Juice gives your lure the extra oomph that can make all the difference.

Though the purchase of Gulp Alive minnows might seem pricier than live minnows initially, over the course of a winter they are probably more economical.  They stay on the jig, fish after fish.  You can pick and choose your sizes and colors.  You can leave a jar stored in your boat for instant use during days when you hadn’t planned on using minnows.  They don’t flip around while you’re trying to hook them with half-frozen fingers.  And most of all, walleyes eat them as well as the natural item.