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Alternatives to live bait: Catching walleyes on plastic

By Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise)

Curly tailed plastics have been around since 1972.

The genesis for use on walleyes came from river fisherman. News of their effectiveness fanned out to inland lake anglers.

Today, refinements in plastic production has spawned a product that is softer, finer and in a wider variety of colors. Profiles walleyes can’t resist include, “moxies” a deeply ribbed grub with a curly tail, “paddle tails” grub style with a flat tail and the standard twister tailed grub.

Since Labor Day, my success or lack of depended on spotting fish with my electronics and then getting them to bite.  Walleyes on drop-offs and suspended in open water were easy to spot and go after with ever popular live bait rigs and crankbaits.

However, on a number of trips the fish disappeared on the screen of my electronics. Walleyes don’t carry shovels or develop wings they have to be somewhere I thought, so if I can’t see them on the drop offs, edges or open water there is only one location left, weeds.

Fall walleye action is triggered by temperature and weed die-off. Hot summer temperatures warm the water and drives a major portion of the walleye population into the weeds. Cooling water temperatures causes weeds to die off first in very shallow water progressing to the deeper weed beds, walleyes will be ‘flushed” out onto the remaining deep weed edges and weed free drop offs, locations very fishable for anglers.

Fishing weeds can break the bank using live bait. Plastics are the best alternative, effective and efficient.

My partner and I, both accomplished jig fishermen, located several weedy areas with a quantity of walleyes. A perfect opportunity to compare the two offerings, for the test my partner fished a jig head and a minnow and I used a 4” “moxie style twister tail. Casting deep into the weeds my partner, if he didn’t hook up on a walleye, either lost his minnows to perch or threw his bait off on a number of casts.

For me I just kept casting, retrieving  with rod tip high free swimming my jig head with a/moxie tail back to the boat. At the end of the day the jig and plastic caught the same number of walleyes as a jig head and a minnow.

On another trip we did the same experiment in open water. Drifting wind swept rocky shorelines in 6’to 10’ of water. My partner with his jig head and a minnow started producing walleyes immediately, for me a much slower start, until I tried simply lifting the jig and plastic moxie with a curly tail inches off the bottom and holding it there as we drifted along, it wasn’t long and the walleyes pounded it.