Soft plastics have come a long way in the fishing industry from when they were first created in a downstairs basement in 1949 by two brothers.
They made a worm that was flexible, soft and dyed. It took the bass-fishing field by storm.
It wasn’t until 1977 that the minnow style was developed. Two types were produced: a split tail and a paddle tail minnow. They have stood the test of time with anglers by producing fish day in and day out.
Nowadays they have entered into the walleye world with outstanding results, and at certain times, even out fishing live bait. It may sound crazy, but when you figure out how to make them tick you will be hooked.
Today, there are lots of options to choose from when getting started in fishing soft plastics for walleyes – to the point where it may be overwhelming.
There are only two parts: a jig and a plastic minnow. The size of the jig depends on the depth of water you are fishing, but 1/8- to 3/8-oz. will allow you to fish from 5 to 18 feet.
The key on the jig is to have a good plastic keeper. Finish the set up with a 4-inch, split tail minnow or a 3.5- to 4.5-inch paddle tail.
When fishing the jig, make a moderate cast. It is important to let the jig hit the bottom initially. After bottom contact is made, make a quick snap with your wrist, which will pop the jig up and let it crash to the bottom. Continue this motion all the way back to the boat. Most of the bites will happen on the fall or when it is on bottom, so be ready every time you snap the jig.
Soft plastics can produce year-round, but they are most productive whenever walleyes are shallow. They can be shallow at any time of the year, however spring and fall are when a majority of fish roam the shallow flats in search of food.
In the spring, the warming waters of flats are attractive to baitfish, and in turn, the walleyes will follow. This phenomenon will last from opener until the increasing water temperature reaches the high 60s.
The areas to look for are shoreline flats with 5 to 12 feet of water. Flats that taper at a slow rate are better than a steeper flat because there is more area to hold fish.
Beginning around Labor Day is when you will see the push to shallow water, and it will remain well into the fall.
During the fall, you will want to look for flats that have access to deep water to where the fish can slide up or slide down depending on the weather.
The key to the whole set up is building the confidence to fish soft plastics. After you have the confidence you may find yourself buying less live bait.
Lee Skajewski is the owner of Skiez Outdoors Guide Service.