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Winter 2009 Feature Article





Spoonin’ Ice Walleyes
Ted Takasaki & Scott Richardson

Dave Genz, the recognized father of modern ice fishing, gets excited when he talks about ice fishing for walleyes. Just below the hard surface lies one of his favorite winter fish, even if his reputation was build on chasing down big bluegills.

Especially in the early-ice period, and on the fringes of the Ice Belt, walleyes can be aggressive, willing to swim a fair distance for something to munch on. As a result, Genz is aggressive in his approach, and recent spoon design advances allow him to be even more aggressive in his fishing than the traditional methods he once relied on. For example, the Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon by Lindy Legendary Tackle lends a vertical look, flash and sound plus the ability to “cast” under the ice that’s deadly when walleyes are nearby, he said.

Other baits are effective, but they peak in performance during the golden hours around sunrise and sunset. While those are still the best hours to have bait in the water, spoons help him catch winter walleyes all day long.

Here’s how he does it.

There is no such thing as a magic lure that will catch fish anywhere, anytime. You must still drill holes in their neighborhood.

In natural lakes, first ice finds walleyes near the steepest breaks on shoreline structure.  “The rule of thumb is that if you study a map and look for the fastest drop-off to the deepest part of the lake, that will usually produce walleyes,” says Genz.

Nearby creeks and rivers are pluses. Target the mouths. But, beware of current that can make ice thin.

Early ice is often the time to visit those shallow prairie lakes that were too weedy to fish effectively in summer. Focus on hard-bottom spots like rock piles and even small structural features.  “A slight rise off the bottom can be a holding point for walleyes,” he said.

Stick with the shoreline structure on bigger lakes like Mille Lacs or Lake of the Woods, too, says Genz. Check out spots where reed beds stick up through the ice.

“The edge of those,” said Genz, “will attract the walleyes.”

As always, points are the prime real estate in reservoirs, but look for the ones with the sharpest breaks into the old channel, which will be the deepest water in the system.

Genz’s setup for spoons centers on a rod with a stiff tip. If it’s too limber, you can move and jiggle it all day long and little of the action will be transferred to the bait. You also must be able to shake a Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon hard enough to make it give off noise.

“The tip must be stiff enough so everything your rod tip is doing, the lure is doing,” Genz said. Use low-stretch mono in 6- to 8-pound-test. In deeper water, use superlines of the same diameter as the mono to increase your sense of touch. A nice bonus when using braided lines is that you also have a much stronger line holding the fish.

GPS helps locate spots you hopefully programmed in during open-water season when moving around to scout was much easier than during the frosty weather.

A flasher or electronics is critical. They offer the ability to detect walleyes that move close to your bait. You can also watch as the color changes as they move ever closer. Gauge their mood and the action they want by whether they continue to move to the center of the hole and take the bait or veer off. Too many near misses are an invitation to change jigging action or spoon color.

Genz keeps color choices simple with the Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon. “My story doesn’t change,” he says. “In low-light periods, red Techni-Glo is my favorite because red glows brightest. When you charge it with a Tazer, fish can see it the farthest away, and in the golden hour (around sunrise and sunset), they will be attracted from long distance.

“Blue glow keeps glowing longest, so it’s a good night color when bigger fish are more apt to bite. Daytime colors vary according to water color. Chartreuse is always a good choice, but play with greens, oranges and yellows. I adjust the color to what the fish are telling me.

“Using my electronics, I know when fish are coming by and not biting. Then I make changes. A camera helps if you aren’t moving around a lot.”

Dress your spoon with a minnow head. Genz will use a bigger piece of fathead or shiner minnows if he wants to bulk up the bait or add more scent.

Fishing a Spoon
The design of the Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon mimics its predecessor, the Flyer. Both glide when dropped down the hole, allowing ice anglers to ‘cast’ a 6-foot radius around their hole.

What Genz does next is critical.

“Don’t lift it and let it pendulum back below the hole,” he explains. “Drag it. Twitch it as you drag it. Now, you’re almost fishing like you would in summer.”

Walleyes often inhale a Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon right off bottom. But, if you don’t get a bite by the time you drag the spoon directly below you, the next step is to pound it into the bottom over and over.

That puts the puff factor on your side.

“I call it ‘puffing’ the bottom,” explains Genz. “There’s always sediment on the bottom.  When you shake or pound the bait on the bottom, it puffs the sediment up. It looks like small baitfish feeding on bloodworms and larvae.  It can cause a feeding frenzy of perch and then the bigger fish come in to feed on the perch.”

The next step is to jig the bait aggressively to make the sound work for you. It’s like a dinner bell for a curious walleye. That’s what will often bring walleyes in to eye up your bait. A major mistake many anglers make is to lessen the intensity of their jigging when a walleye shows up on the flasher.

“Don’t freeze up and hope they bite,” Genz said. “Keep that rattle working.”

If a walleye comes in close to the spoon but then begins to leave, that’s the time to try modifying your presentation.

So, again, here’s the classic sequence: drop the spoon to bottom, then drag-and-twitch it directly below you, then jig it aggressively to get that rattle working.

If you like putting out a few tip-ups, and feel confident you’re in an area holding walleyes, no problem. Just leave one hole for actively jigging the Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon. There will be times when you’ll use a spoon and get nothing, then quit a moment and the flag of the nearest tip-up goes. It’s not hard to figure out what happened. You called the fish in with the spoon, but the fish wanted a dead-stick bait, so it moved over and ate the minnow on the tip-up line.

The Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon is available in four sizes from 1/16-ounce to ¼-ounce, in 6 colors.

If spoons don’t do the trick, Genz tries a larger Genz Worm or Fat Boy dressed with several colored maggots (spikes). He puffs the bottom with them, too, pounding the jig to send sediment into the water to attract perch and walleyes.

“Same deal,” Genz said. But spoons remain his first choice for aggressive ice walleyes.

“It looks so good, I want to eat it myself,” Genz said, laughing. 
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