Walleyes can be suckers for live bait, especially if it’s put in
the right place at the right time.
Minnows, leeches, and crawlers are tops on the list, and all
have their very own time and place. Knowing when and where to use
the right bait can mean more walleyes, and is determined by
seasonal factors and activity levels.
A good rule of thumb is to stick with minnows early and late in
the season, leeches from late spring to early summer, and crawlers
throughout the summer. Northern Wisconsin fishing guides often
switch back to minnows in the fall. These guidelines, of course,
are not set in stone. At any given time the opposite of the “rule”
could be the most effective presentation. However, day in and day
out, you’ll probably find that the aforementioned rules will prove
Live bait has a natural appeal that walleyes find hard to
resist, even though the bait being used isn’t normally found in the
system you happen to be fishing. For example, leeches are not
normally found in good walleye waters, but still are quickly
gobbled up by hungry walleyes.
The reason they’re not available in appreciable numbers is the
fact that they get eaten. To do well, leeches need a safer
environment, absent any fish, where they can grow and multiply.
Crawlers aren’t often thought of as a naturally occurring bait, but
they will show up in rivers and lakes after a hard rain, where a
rush of water and current can flush them into harm’s way.
Delivering minnows, leeches and crawlers can be done several
different ways, including the use of live bait rigs, and tipping
jigs. Rigging and jigging is one of the best ways to strain an area
and will allow you to extract most of the biters. Although
extremely effective, rigging and jigging can be a painstakingly
slow process. In most cases, if you’re moving too fast your
presentation probably will fail.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why standard rigging
and jigging techniques are too slow for finding fish. Finding and
catching walleyes often is a simple matter of eliminating water,
and the usual fare restricts the amount of acreage you can cover in
the course of a day.
An excellent alternative is a spinner and live bait combination
where trolling is legal (check regulations), which takes live bait
and all of its attractions and gives it some needed speed. Certain
spinner rigs can allow for trolling speeds of 2 mph or more, which
means more water eliminated in the course of a day. Conventional
spinner rigs include a monofilament snell, a blade and clevis, some
beads, and a multiple hook harness. Snell length can vary depending
on the situation you’re faced with, and will add up to untold
numbers of pre-tied snells, especially when you include all of the
different blade colors that are available. There are alternatives
to the pre-tied snell, some of which come without a snell and use a
wire shaft instead. This combination produces the utmost in flash
and vibration and allows for maximum flexibility as you determine
the snell length needed. Simply tie in a piece of mono in the pound
test you desire, in the length you need, and you’re in business.
This method also will allow you to get away with using lighter
line, which can be a huge advantage when using a bottom bouncer
over rough terrain that has lots of irretrievable snags.
By using a heavier line from your reel to the bouncer, the
lighter line to the spinner can simply be broken off, and a new one
quickly tied in. By doing so you lose only the spinner, instead of
the spinner and the bouncer, which ultimately saves time, bouncers,
While the most common use for a spinner is to combine it with a
night crawler, they also can be effectively used with leeches and
When using leeches, try hooking them through the nose (opposite
the sucker), as it will allow it to stretch out and track better
than one hooked through the sucker end.
Minnows present a unique problem as they should be rigged to run
upright, producing a more life-like appearance. To do so, run a
long-shank hook through the mouth, out the gill, and back up next
to the anal vent. This will keep the weight of the hook underneath
the minnow, helping to keep it running with the top side up, and
the bottom side down. While spinners allow for covering plenty of
water, they may not be the best presentation for a given set of
For example: Fish that aren’t all that charged up (like after
the passing of a cold front), may be looking for something more
subtle. In that case, you may have to put the spinner away and dig
out the rigs and jigs.
Another option is to use the spinner to find fish, and the rig
or jig to completely strain an area. Even when walleye action is a
little off, there’s usually a fish or two willing to take a