An early spring walleye being shown off by a fisherman.

Whether by regulation or by personal choice, the trend in walleye fishing today is toward artificial lures and away from live bait. The problem most anglers have in taking the first step in this direction is a lack of confidence in anything but a wriggling minnow, leech, or ’crawler.

“And the best way to gain confidence in artificial lures,” says NWT tournament angler and Team Northland member Dusty Minke, “is to catch a few fish on them. The trouble is that many anglers make the mistake of working a soft plastic like it was live bait. You have to fish them a little differently—a little quicker.”

Rather than a feeding strike, he explains, plastic lures are meant to entice a reaction strike, which means the angler must impart more aggressive jigging, hopping, or ripping action—rather than trying to coax a bite with a slow presentation. Walleyes actively feeding and on the hunt will chase the lure, while neutral fish will attack the slashing bait out of pure instinct.

Minke’s top choice is a 1/8-ounce Slurp!® Jig paired with a 3-inch Impulse® Smelt Minnow, or Paddle Minnow tied onto a 15-pound braided mainline and 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon leader. The no-stretch line sends even the slightest twitch of the rod tip straight to the lure.

“A holographic insert makes the Live Paddle Minnow look like the real thing,” he says. “Of all the color patterns, I probably use Golden Shiner, Emerald Shiner, and Rainbow most often. And I like the Slurp! head above others because the two bait-keeper barbs really hold the soft plastic in place when I’m swimming it over rocks or ripping through weeds.”

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