Typically, when you have walleyes scattered over a flat and it’s mid-summer you automatically think of using an MR. WALLEYE® CRAWLER HAULER, a BUTTERFLY BLADE HARNESS, or BAITFISH SPINNER HARNESS with bottom bouncers. Using these is a great way to catch fish and lots of numbers, but there is another way to catch fish and a lot of quality walleye that is a bit more fun than watching a rod in the rod holder.
Northland Puppet Minnows are often thought of as hard water baits, but they also shine big in the warmer months of summer! We all use the little #2s and #3s through the ice and have several boxes littered with them. But the #3s up to #9s are a great search lure and lure to use when you’re looking for schools of fish or have already found them and are growing tired of re-baiting.
When water temperatures reach the 60-65-degree mark, these baits start producing and producing big. Typically, I will be looking for flats between the 10 and 25 feet of water, with a nearby drop-off and if possible, a weed line that holds prey fish and baitfish. Generally, #3s or #5s are the sizes to start off with when the water temperature is closer to 60 degrees depending on baitfish and prey fish size in the particular body of water. As summer moves along, upsizing the bait for every 5 degrees of water temp. 60-65 #3, 65-70 #5, 70-75 #7, and 75-80 #9.
When casting a puppet minnow out on a flat you are not generally casting to any specific spot, so, with these lures you can cast a long way with them, so make sure you have a 20 or 30 size spinning reel with 150 yards or more of braided line. Then I tie on 12-18 inches of 15lb fluorocarbon leader material using a double uni knot straight to the braid. I do not use a micro swivel casting puppet minnows as I do when vertical jigging them. You will want to use true fluorocarbon leader material for three main reasons. #1 it has the best abrasion resistance over regular fluorocarbon and mono. #2 it is stiffer than regular fluorocarbon and when you cast the puppet minnow out, the chances of it hanging up on the line with its five hooks is slim to none and the same goes with when you are hopping or jigging it back. And #3 if you snag up on a rock, weed, stump, or any other piece of structure that may be down there, it is a lot more cost-effective to break off fluorocarbon than a braided line. Rod choice and length I typically use is either a 7’ or 7’6” Denali Myriad. The micro guides built on these rods help with casting distance and the sensitivity is unreal. I go with the 7’ with #7 or #9 puppet minnows or 7’6 with #3 or #5 puppet minnows. The difference between the two rods with different sized baits is because of control of the lure at the casted distances. The length on the rods is for better hook sets for when the bait is far away from the boat.
There are two main jigging stroke styles to use. First, is a one-hop stroke; start with a jig stroke from 3 o’clock to 1 o’clock then let it fall to the bottom then sweep the rod again from 3 to 1 and continue this until back to the boat. The second is 3 hop strokes; start with a Jig stroke from 3 o’clock to 1 o’clock three times then let it fall to the bottom and continue this all the way back to the boat. With both styles, I have found that once you get the lure under the boat continue to jig it vertically for another 10-15 strokes of a foot to a foot and a half off the bottom, because most fish that have followed the lure to the boat and have not committed yet, will commit on the vertical presentation.
If you are catching fish first thing in the morning using #5s and then you either start missing a bunch of fish or are not catching fish anymore but are still marking a bunch in the area, start with slowing down your hops/ jigging strokes and the length of time the bait is gliding through the water. Another option is to downsize the lure to a #3. The same goes with using #7s drop to #5s and using #9s drop down to #7s.