For those looking for the exact science for what works best to catch walleye through the ice might be wasting precious time trying to figure out something they may never get the answer to. Hands down nothing beats good old fashioned hard work and putting the time in to figure out the right presentation. What you also need to understand is that each body of water might also have its own unique challenges and what works best in one body of water may not necessarily work well in another. So how do I get started and how do I decide what to use?
Unlike open water where presentation and technique are far more diverse than during the hard water season, a few simple lures is usually all it takes to find success. While limited to vertical presentations through the ice, let’s take a look and some of the common and effective lure types that have shown to put walleye on the ice time and time again.
Lipless Rattle baits:
A lure initially designed for open water that has taken the ice scene by storm the last number of years. This noisy bait works extremely well and are used for “calling them in” as anglers say. While working the bait vertically, the internal rattles can attract walleye from long distances especially in relatively flat open bodies of water. An example of that is Lake Winnipeg where walleye or “greenbacks” as locals call them can hit the 10 plus pound mark. Catching these giants on lipless rattle baits is not uncommon. Rattle baits can be jigged slowly or in a more aggressive fashion depending on mood and feeding desires. The more aggressive of a jigging motion will increase the noise level and vibration of the lure. Slowing down your jigging motion will provide a more subtle approach. This is a very versatile lure in any body of water and is a must in your ice tackle arsenal. A variety of color patterns, sizes and weights are available to suit your angling needs. However these styles of baits are usually the most expensive costing in range from $8 to $14.
There are a variety of spoons that are available on the market for ice fishing and each differs in its presentation and decent down through the water column. Depending on a spoons design, size and weight, these lures have proven to put countless walleye on the ice. Spoons can be offered with additives such as built in rattles and blades that help with its overall action and presentation. The design and curvature of the spoon will play a significant role with its action. The key to be successful with spoons is the jigging action and to allow the spoon to naturally float its way down from the top of the motion and downward. It’s that fluttering and side to side action that attracts the walleye’s attention. The strike will usually occur at the end of its decent and/or during a pause in its movement. This is another versatile lure that every angler should have and is mid-priced usually costing $4 to $6.
The simple jig has been one of the most commonly used lures on the ice fishing market since probably day one. Available in a variety of weights and color patterns, this is a very diverse lure that can be used for a multitude of species and not just walleye. The appeal of a jig is great news for anglers as it can be used year round. Most anglers usually have some assortment of jigs amongst their assortment of tackle. Often tipped with frozen bait, live bait or artificial plastics, a jig has proven to be the go to choice for anglers. A common approach to using a jig is to allow the lure to completely hit the bottom. Once at the bottom, tighten the line enough so you still feel bottom. Using a jigging motion lifting the lure up off the bottom and back down again. Experiment with light subtle motions and slightly more aggressive until you trigger a strike and figure out how active the fish are on that particular day. What might also make anglers happy is that the jig is one of the most cost effective lures usually running from $1 to $3.
Take the time this winter to experiment with a few lure types and figure out what works best for you in different situations. Having diversity in your presentations on any given day may help you put more walleye on the ice this season.
David Obirek is a freelance fishing columnist with the Selkirk Journal Newspaper and is featured monthly in “The Fishing Journal”. Based out of Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada, David is also a competitive walleye angler and a member of the Central Walleye Trail (CWT). You can follow David on twitter(@walleye_dave), Facebook(@thefishingjournalselkirk) and Instagram(@thefishingjournal) .