By Jason Mitchell
During the past half dozen years, glide baits, or jigging minnows, have become popular with walleye anglers. While these heavy horizontal-profile lures can be fished in shallow water, their weight gives them the added versatility of casting or jigging over deep water.
Well into the fall, these lures can be fished with pinpoint precision over specific pieces of structure, including deep boulders and rock. Or they can be used to cast at specific fish.
While this presentation has gotten plenty of attention, many anglers still haven’t tried glide baits or just don’t have confidence in them yet. Of course, the best way to gain confidence is to catch some fish. Let’s highlight a few aspects that are important and explain some of the nuances of fishing these lures effectively. We also can examine some of the mistakes anglers make.
Now, you can cast and cover some water with glide baits, but this lure category shines whenever you’re working in tight spaces. Say you have fish bunched up in a current spot between two islands in the fall. Or maybe the fish are piled onto a specific side of a deep point or are using an isolated rock pile in the basin – they’re all top fall locations.
When fish are bunched up, you can often turn them on with glide baits, which just seem to trigger a reaction not seen with other presentations. To be fair, no lure category works well every day, all the time, but there have been many instance in which I’ve nearly pulled my hair out to catch marked fish with traditional jigs and rigs. Then I witnessed violent walleye strikes when I switched to glide baits.
For water deeper than 20 feet, I’m a fan of using braided 8-pound fishing line. Some anglers prefer to use monofilament, and I like mono when I’m pitching glide baits in less than 10 feet of water. But in deeper water, I believe I get better hookups when using braided line.
Below the braid, I use a small barrel swivel to reduce line twist and prefer a heavier 10- to 14-pound fluorocarbon leader that’s 2 to 3 feet long.
The rod is important. I prefer a medium-fast-action rod so that I can really pop the lure with when I snap the rod. The rod needs to be fast enough to not “load up” when you snap the lure. As you snap the lure, each rod snap is basically a hookset, because many fish will hit the bait between snaps and pin the bait to the bottom of the lake.
The snapping cadence can vary from day to day, and each lure will seem to have a sweet spot regarding the height and velocity of the snap. Many walleye anglers trying to learn this system don’t snap the lure hard enough to trigger a reaction bite. I often snap the glide bait so hard that I can hear the rod snap forward. With many lures, I’m snapping the bait a few feet or more.
Most of these lures seem to catch more fish if there is some slack on the fall. Let the lure snap forward and fall on slack line. Often, fish will hit at the bottom of the glide on slack line or pin the lure to the bottom. As you snap the rod forward, the fish are just on. This is why the rod is so important.
When I first started using glide baits, I caught a few fish, but it took a while to figure out the cadence and snap. Once I started snapping the lure harder and more aggressively, I began catching far more fish.
As you position the boat and cast, it often seems to work best if you set yourself up to cast shallower, working the lure from shallow to deeper water. Let the lure snap and glide down the structure when possible, because it seems like the lure will snag less frequently.
If you are fishing a hard bottom with rocks and boulders, you can clip off the front hook found on most glide baits.
Electronics also are important in order to make casts toward specific groups of fish. What is amazing when using sonar is seeing just how far a fish will follow a lure and the distance some fish will travel to hit the lure.
Probably the only thing to learn when using the latest technology is to cast beyond the fish so that the lure can work in front of a fish. Another phenomenon occurs sometimes when you “lock” over a location and cast around the boat. The number of fish that eventually accumulate below the boat can be amazing. I find that I often catch fish right below the boat. And many fish will follow until the lure gets below the boat, so don’t be afraid to fish below the boat at the end of a cast.
When a fish eats a glide bait, there won’t be a doubt in your mind. To be fair, this presentation resembles blade baits in that you’ll snag some fish or catch some fish outside the mouth, especially when the fish are pinning the lure to the bottom. What is always surprising, however, is just how far some of these fish choke down these lures. Despite the wild snap up off the bottom and the erratic glide back down to the bottom, most fish will simply swallow the lure.
Fall walleyes often stack up on specific pieces of structure, and walleye are famous for using sharp-breaking structure in the fall. Glide baits enable you to trigger fish while still positioning on specific locations.
The baits enable you to work up or down this structure with a presentation that triggers walleye aggression. Build confidence in this presentation and you’re going to put more fall walleyes in the boat this fall.