Try soft plastics for walleyes

Using soft plastics to catch walleyes is not a new tactic nor is it a topic that hasn’t been well covered in the fishing media in recent years.
The reason for all of the chatter is that soft plastics today, with their realistic shapes, colours and scents, put fish in the boat–not just bass and pike, but plenty of walleyes as well.
I had a guide trip recently with a couple of fellas from Kenora. Tim and Garry had fished around the Kenora area for many years and I could tell right away they were experienced anglers.
We were headed out walleye fishing and when they saw the jigs tipped with soft plastics tied on my rods they mentioned that they had never seen a walleye get caught on a soft plastic bait before.
I told them they were about to.
We pulled into the first spot and lucky for me it was a small cove with a nice breeze blowing into it.
Conditions were perfect. It was a spot that I had caught dozens of walleyes from in the past so I had a good idea they would be around.
I jumped on the deck of my boat and casted my jig up into the cove, in about six feet of water.
I let the jig hit the bottom, lifted it and boom–fish on! I couldn’t have scripted it any better.
I reeled in a nice walleye and impressed the guys and myself by catching one on the first cast of the day.
Often overlooked by many anglers, a lot of walleyes in our lakes across Sunset Country, even the bigger lakes like Rainy and Lake of the Woods spend much of the early part of the season in shallow water.
I have fished for them quite a bit over the past three weeks and just about all of my focus has been in the six to ten foot range.
I spent one day fishing the Big Narrows area on Lake of the Woods and that day we caught most of our fish in 20-22 feet but other than that, I’ve been catching them shallow.
That will change in the coming weeks as more fish move out to offshore structure where they will spend much of the summer but for at least a couple more weeks you can catch plenty of fish shallow.
I like to look for small coves with a little wind blowing into them. If there is some sand around, that’s a good thing and if the water in the back of the cove is coloured a little bit from the wind action, that’s also a good thing.
Tim, Garry and I caught a bunch of walleyes on our outing and we never did open the bag of minnows up that I bought in the morning. Instead we used 3.75″ Z-Man StreakZ minnow imitators.
In addition to a few dozen walleyes we also caught a bunch of smallmouths, some pike and Tim battled a big lake trout for a while before it eventually broke his line.
The secret to having success with soft plastics is to fish them more aggressively than you would live bait.
With live bait you can almost just hold your jig still and let the bait do the work.
With plastic you want to keep it moving so that the fish aren’t able to inspect the bait as much, if that makes sense.
I like to swim my bait along or snap-jig it along the bottom in one to two foot lifts.
I most often use a ¼ ounce Northland RZ jig head but in water deeper than 20 feet I’ll switch to a 3/8 ounce jig.
I like to fish it on 10 pound Power Pro braided line then attach a six-foot leader of 10-pound fluorocarbon.
Of course, there are a whole variety of soft plastic options to try, leech, minnow and worm imitations but I’m a big fan of the minnow imitations, especially early in the season.
Walleyes are eating a lot of medium sized shiners and perch right now so try to match the hatch and you’ll probably catch some fish.