Walleye fishing through the ice on the Great Lakes is truly an experience of a lifetime. Just in terms of quantity and quality, pick a lake and have at it. Then throw in the chance for that 15 pound plus fish for the wall down on Lake Erie, the fishing on these waters is tough to beat. It’s no wonder that Lake Michigan, Saginaw Bay and Erie all have locations that lay claim to the walleye capital of world. To be quite biased, it is Lake Erie by several pounds.
One of the presentations that has been working so well over the past few years is to rattle them high, then catch them low. You will catch plenty of fish on the rattle baits like the Rattling Rapala, but the combination of baits allows you to fish two different approaches simultaneously. This will let you target two of the three types of feeding patterns walleye typically display.
Normally fishing two holes cut with my Jiffy propane auger, and then a smaller one in the middle for my Vexilar’s transducer. This allows for double fisted jigging, meaning a rod combination in each hand without worrying about getting your ducer out of the hole. With the handles adjusted for being able to reel with your opposite hand, you can quickly throw one combo to the back of the shack or out-of-the-way in your hub shelter while fighting a fish with the other hand. You just want to get that presentation clear of any tangles while fighting the fish. The other way to make sure you are clear of any potential tangles is to make sure the of your bottom presentation is clear of the bottom of your fall with the top lure.
If you are not comfortable jigging with two rods at once, here is a quick tip so you can still take advantage of what noise can do. Rig up a second rod with your rattling lure and give it a good rip or jiggle now and then to make a racket. Then set it down in a holder and go back to fishing the more subtle rig.
With the quick substitution of a lure here and there with either a snap or a pre-rigged combination, you can cover all three bases in which these popular fish typically feed. I break them down into the “feeding frenzy”, the “I will eat if you stick it in my face” and the “tight-lipped, tick me off enough and will eat out of spite mode”. It will not take you long to recognize what the mood the fish below are in.
The feeding frenzy is all about fun fishing, watch the walleye dart in and you just hope you don’t screw it up. For this approach I like to place a rattling lipless bait like a Ripping Rap,Rippin’ Shad or Rattling Rapala, up high in the water column. On the big lakes, this would be about three to four feet off the bottom. Then for my second bait a foot or 1.5′ off the bottom, either a swimming minnow like the Jigging Rap or high action spoon such as Clam’s Leech Flutter Spoon. Nothing will slow these fish down and you have to wait to see which bait they will take first.
Sticking it in their face will drive the angler a bit crazy with anticipation, but more often than not, will lead to success. In this scenario a rattling spoon with a mid-sized profile works well up high, with the non-rattling bait below. The second bait, could be a smaller Jigging Rap like a #3, or either a vertical or horizontal jig. Clam’s Blade Jig and Northland’s Fire Ball jig have worked best while using this approach. The old lift and fall method works best when the fish are in this mode of eating. They come up to investigate the noise and hang around for a bit, but just not ready to commit. Keep dropping the bait right in front of their nose on the fall and most of the time they will finally commit and strike.
The reluctant walleye that will eat of spite will make you work for your fish. I don’t mean that aggressive snap jigging action, but meant get ready to put some time in to catch these fish. I want a small Rattling Blade Spoon or Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon in the top spot to call the fish in, go as small as your body of water will allow when considering depth and any potential current below. In the basement spot I want to downsize while thinking about the current below the ice, for this approach I break out the Drop XXL tungsten jigs from Clam tipped with a mid-sized emerald shiner. I get the hook I want, but with a smaller profile which wont spook those finicky fish. While you are doing a slight lift and fall with the spoon to call the fish in, either jiggle that tungsten a little while occasionally pounding the bottom to create a “dust cloud” that the fish will see and think there are tasty bugs down here.
Be prepared for some disappointment, these are the kind eaters that will follow your bait up six or 8 foot up the water column only to dart away at the last second. Just don’t get too upset, you find a lot of fish like this when a front is coming in so keep the size of your presentations in mind when rigging your rods the night before. Chances are in your favor though with this approach.
Employing noise from various rattle baits has drastically changed my catch rates when it comes to fishing for Michigan’s big water walleye. It’s using a deer call in the woods, but you are calling in walleye with the rattles. Like the calls, they bring fish in to see what you have down there, literally drawing fish away from the holes around you. They will either inhale it or take your more subtle presentation below almost every time.