Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Here’s your best minnow option for catching walleyes

By Steve Carney

Angle from the Northwest


There’s no doubt in my mind that shiner minnows are responsible for bigger and more walleyes than any other bait in the springtime. Spottails, silvers, and goldens are the most popular – if you can find them! 


Many bait dealers have said shiners have not been “running” because of the cold weather this spring, so the bait’s been tough to find.


I use shiner minnows exclusively in May and early June. Fishing a shiner minnow on a jig is a difficult proposition, and I tell my clients to expect about 50% hooking percentage. 


Walleyes tend to play with those shiners and don’t take them fully on the strike. I advise anglers to wait, feed some line, and then set the hook about 6 seconds into the strike. It’s tough to resist the “tick” and not set the hook instantly. 


When using fatheads, you can set the hook immediately, but with shiners, you really have to wait. 


I’ve been catching nice walleyes this spring on shiner minnows fished along emerging weedlines. I can make my shiner rig virtually weedless by inserting the jig hook into the mouth of the shiner, turning the hook upward, and sliding it into the body of the minnow. Now you have a totally embedded hook point, making it weed-free. It requires a major hookset to get that hook to break from the minnow and into the mouth of the walleye.


The downside to shiner minnows is that they are a northern pike magnet. On some lakes you can expect to feed shiners to dozens of pike to every one walleye because pike attack these shiners. I have to abandon certain lakes because the “hammerhandle” northerns are so bothersome.  


A the end of the day, the shiner minnow is king, and learning to fish this imperial minnow will get you some of the biggest walleyes you catch.

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