March 01, 2014

With fond memories I recall an outing to Trenton Channel with my fishin’ pal Brandon Conner from Lyons. We bounced bottom with a variety of jig presentations with not much luck. The water was stained after heavy rains and lure visibility was less than one foot. That’s when Brandon attached the brightest orange jig in the box, and threaded on the hook a big twister tail colored chartreuse with metal fleck. He set the offering overboard, observed the wiggling tail and corkscrew action. “This should get their attention and the vibration of the plastic should draw savage strikes,” he remarked.

The bow mounted 24 volt Minn Kota electric motor held our Stealth boat directly over ideal structure as we bounced 5/8 oz. jigs through the rubble. That’s when Brandon yelled “Fish on!” I could see his rod was bent double from a big walleye. The tug of war lasted several minutes and the monster ‘eye made several line stripping runs at the boat before I could slip the net under its large body. “Wow! This fish is a trophy hen, full of eggs and a maw like a gator,” he exclaimed. We measured the behemoth at 31″ long and it weighed over 11 pounds.

That’s when I selected a new jig and adorned the hook with a large plastic chartreuse/metal fleck twister tail, lowered it to bottom, lifted it a couple inches off bottom and thud; I was into a big fish too. We were both catching walleyes on plastics with no fresh bait attached and soon we had our limit. Fact is plastics have taken the Michigan walleye nation by storm the last few years because they have fantastic action, great color, soft to the touch and impregnated with scents.

I’ve seen days when walleyes go bonkers for particular plastic presentations when I can’t get a touch on minnows or crawlers. Plastics like the Wyandotte Worm are legendary on the Detroit system and Lake Leelanau jig fisherman love rippin’ jigs with plastic bodies. Today there is a great variety of plastics available on the market and some work good as dynamite to fill the boat with impressive walleyes.

Brandon Conner used a bright jig and chartreuse/metal flake plastic to get the attention of a huge walleye in discolored water. The monster hen had the jig hook and the small red treble stinger in its mouth. Savvy river fishermen use a variety of plastics and jigs until they hit on the hottest presentation.

One reason plastics are very popular is they are not as messy as live bait. Just thread them on the hook and you are good to go. If walleyes are nipping at live minnow presentations and you set the hook you often rip the minnow off the hook. With plastics you can set the hook, even catch a fish and quickly drop the jig back in the zone without rebaiting. The problem with live minnows is finding a good source can be frustrating. Often dealers have spot tail or grunts when the walleyes are snapping blues or large shiners. Savvy walleye anglers go for blues that are shiny as a freshly minted dime and look like a miniature Tarpon, bright silver sided with a blue or blackish back. Too often when you get a dozen minnows half are not good quality walleye catchers. Many fishermen are going to all plastics to avoid the hassle of long lines of anxious anglers at the bait shop and poor quality minnows.

My goal in early spring is to target big female walleyes. I’m talking monster fish tipping the scales over 10 pounds and measure over 30″ long with a girth that makes Dolly Pardon look skinny. For me spring is a time to concentrate on catching the largest fish of the entire year. The last few years I’ve concentrated on the Saginaw River before it closes March 15 and the Detroit River system. I’ve hit on some plastic patterns that are very productive and I’ve had plenty of help from area walleye enthusiasts. Nothing turns my crank like a home grown Michigan fisherman showing me hot new baits that catch fish with ease. I’m always looking for new lures, productive fishing strategies and tricks to help me catch big hawgeyes.

This was the case on a photo outing to the Saginaw River in March when the ice was melting, snow packed hard and anglers in small aluminum boats were hammering fish at the mouth of the Tittabawassee River. I snapped telephoto shots of the action and walked down to the boat launch to interview a couple lucky anglers with a limit of dandy walleyes. The pair pulled their small boat from the icy waters and laid their limit catches out for photos. I congratulated the team and when I asked what they were using they politely introduced me to one of the deadliest walleye lures going, Fin-S Fish plastic minnows. The duo was using plastic minnows with a forked tail which gives the lure powerful walleye attracting action. They were using glow, blue ice and chartreuse in the deadly soft plastic that is dolphin shaped. The Fin-S glides and dives through the water and looks like a live minnow. They gave me some samples and I field tested the gift lures on the Detroit River and found walleyes absolutely love them.

After a full season of fishing Fin-S plastics I found my hottest colors were blue ice, purple ice or emerald ice. When water clarity became discolored my best colors were fire perch and Arkansas shiner glow belly. Fin-S minnows are made By Lunker City, the same folks who make the Slug-Go famous bass bait. Believe me these folks know plastics and they make fantastic lures for a variety of species. I rate the Fin-S minnow my top walleye producer for trophy fish. Fin-S minnows come in a variety of sizes but I found the 4″ size best suites Michigan’s waterways. You can find them in many Michigan tackle shops or retail sporting goods dealers or order on line at Try these plastics on a lead head jig; especially the new Walleye jig from www.TJ’ and it will change your walleye fishing forever. You will absolutely catch more and bigger fish.

There is nothing new about soft plastics for walleye fishing. Companies like Berkley, Mister Twister, Northland Tackle and more have long been marketing soft plastics. But recently there are several new products on the market you should consider. Have you tried the 4″ Berkley Gulp Minnow and 5″ Berkley Gulp Jerk Shad colored chartreuse pepper? Zoom offers realistic minnows that are super soft and salt impregnated to hold even the most tentative bite. Lunkerhunt makes Bento Bait 3″ and 4½” long colored perch, sassy shad or emerald shiner The Lunkerhunt product has a lifelike design, lively tapered split tail, holographic core and soft body. It is one of the most lifelike minnows on the market that comes to life with the slightest twitch. Better yet, try the TRIGGER X aggression minnow in blue, smelt or green pumpkin. It is loaded with Ultrabite aggression pheromones which produce an irresistible scent cloud. One of my favorites is the sleek Northland Tackle Impulse Mini Smelt that has a fish-scale body, soft plastic and scent. Impulse is a new development in scented soft baits focusing on the tri-fecta of attraction…scent, color and action. Impulse is reactionary bait with a baked-in micro plankton formula urging fish to bite and hold the fortified baits. The Northland Tackle Impulse Mini Smelt has a thin sleek design, realistic scale pattern on the sides and the forked tail wiggles like a whale tail in the water. Walleyes love them!

Another good source for plastics is Lance Valentine. He is a Detroit River guide, lecturer, innovator, video producer and educator with a line of plastics having been field tested on Detroit waterways. If you are looking for a 5-inch worm with superior strength check out Valentine’s Signature Series Thump ’em Up worm. These worms hold on the hook like glue, are tough enough to catch several fish and keep on ticking and come in hot colors like brown, black, camo or June bug. Valentine also has quality plastic minnows and you should try the Big Bite Walleye Minnows 3-4″ models colored redtail chub or perch. Some anglers prefer Valentine’s Jerk Minnow colored gold flake, alewife or tomato core. You can buy lures and a broad selection of detailed Detroit River/Lake Erie walleye fishing instructional videos at Valentine’s online site at

Scent is important in walleye fishing and produces strikes. Color can make a big difference based on water clarity and current. Lifelike color schemes fool fish into thinking lures are live minnows. Perhaps the biggest advantage with plastics is they hold their color even after a hard day on the water. Texture is also an important variable in walleye success and it is important to use a soft-to-the-touch minnow imitation lure walleyes will enjoy munching. But by far the biggest advantage of fishing the modern minnow looking plastics is they have superb action. Manufacturers are finding a horizontal forked tail rather than vertical gives lures more action. The tail exhibits unbridled action and intense vibration like a frightened baitfish. The extra sensitive tail is a trademark of modern plastics and the end result is they fool more walleyes, provide more strikes and help you catch more and bigger fish.

It’s been a long cold winter but now is the time to gear up for spring walleyes. I suggest you start painting jigs soon and take a peek at some of the plastics to improve your catch. The trick is to select a minnow imitation plastic to match your water conditions. Smaller jigs require smaller baits but if you plan to visit Great Lakes tributaries holding monster fish feel free to use 4-5″ minnows. Select a sleek, aerodynamic minnow profile plastic sporting flat sides and undulating forked tail. You want a lure with a flipping tail that gives an erratic darting action which mimics a distressed baitfish. I guarantee plastics are a shortcut to catching hawgs. There is something powerfully attractive about a plastic minnow that draws big fish and they slam plastics with reckless abandonment and crunch the lure in their teeth. Often they inhale the presentation by venting water at lightning speed and the hook will be deep in the gullet.

If water temperatures are cold use a larger jig and slow down your jigging cadence. When water warms and reaches ideal spawning temperature, near 40 degrees, you can pick up your jigging cadence and pause jigs several inches off bottom where active fish will explode upward and gulp the presentation.

Some anglers like to cast to waiting walleyes and use a jerking action to hop the lure along bottom and get the attention of predators on the prowl. Rippin’ jigs on drop offs, through weeds and along the shore is a lethal tactic.

Most Michigan fishermen use jigs and plastics while vertical jigging on lakes or Great Lakes tributaries. Some like twister tails, others go for double forked tails and plastic worms will always get the attention of hungry walleyes. But if you want to slip a trophy into the net try the new

forked tail minnows. All you have to do is drop

a jig in the current next to the boat and take a

peek at the action of a minnow with split tail

and you will immediately understand why they catch fish; those with undulating action that provide erratic movement simply catch the eye of predatory fish. Plastics these days have it all,

color, profile, action and scent. Make certain to

add this technique to your walleye jigging arsenal. I’m not saying they make fishing for large

walleyes any easier because trophy fish require plenty of time on the water, patience and persistence. However, plastics can make catching fish productive, less mess and the result can be an eye popping monster worthy of a DNR Master Angler patch.