Transitioning Tactics for Transitioning Seasons
By Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
Every year walleye fishermen across the country go through a very visible transition. In early spring it can be pretty hard to recognize your buddy fishing right next to you. Chances are he will be bundled from head to toe in a parka, bibs, hat and gloves. A few weeks later, he may appear about 20 pounds lighter, as he will now be fishing with bare hands and wearing a sweatshirt. Before long he will be trading in his stocking hat for a ball cap, enjoying a sunny day on the water in a t-shirt.
During this same time frame, the walleyes are continuously changing their habits. The water is warming up, bait is getting bigger, and the metabolism of fish is increasing. The walleye also go from holding in tight places to spreading out over a large area. To stay on the bite, you need to change along with them. Let’s take a look at some different presentations and how you need to tweak each of them as the walleyes transition throughout spring and into summer.
In early spring you will want to start out jigging by using live bait or Berkley Gulp!, which is the best imitator of live bait you can find. Since Gulp! is a very soft bait, it has really good action. Plus, in cold water, the scent it gives off really attracts the walleyes.
Gulp! is made with water-based resins. This allows for excellent scent distribution, unlike baits created from oil-based resins, the oil literally traps the scent inside the bait. While some of the scent does get out, the oil is actually functioning as a barrier. Gulp! on the other hand, disperses the water-soluble scent as soon as it hits the water because there is no oil barrier keeping the water out.
This allows the bait to disperse scent almost like a blood trail, expanding the strike zone by attracting fish that do not see the bait. That’s why it is important to fish Gulp! bait slowly and allow the bait to do what it is intended to do: disperse scent. Some of the baits you will want to try are a 3” Gulp! Minnow, 4” Gulp! Crawler, or a 3” Gulp! Fry.
When the water starts to warm up, you will want to get more aggressive with action tails such as the Berkley PowerBait 3” and 3.5” Ripple Shads, Pro Series Jig Worm, and Rib Worm. These tails often draw fish to them because of the vibration they put out.
The Ripple Shad has a rippled minnow-shaped body that gives it a swimming action. The paddle-tail puts out a lot of vibration as the lure is retrieved. We often use this lure like we would a mini-crankbait or small swim-bait, but with a jigging action rather than a steady retrieve.
When you are using this lure, you want to make sure that the paddle tail vibrates vigorously on the up-swing and flutters as it drops back down. Use a heavier jig than you would normally use for live bait, by going to a quarter or 3/8-ounce range. This will help you get the action you need to work the tail the way you want to. We also work these tails quicker than