Early ice provides an outstanding opportunity for anglers to target hungry, active walleyes that haven’t seen fishing pressure since fall. This period is perfect for one of my favorite hard water walleye techniques – power fishing.
So what’s power fishing? Think about it as fast-paced method for quickly finding and catching aggressive walleyes gathered on classic early winter structure such as points, shallow flats and humps, mid-lake reefs and river mouth deltas. It works on virtually all types of walleye fisheries, from prairie potholes to river-run reservoirs and the Canadian Shield.
To fish a structure you think holds walleyes, drill a series of holes that allow you to check different depths and contours. The idea is to hop from one hole to another, searching for walleyes active enough to rush in and attack. Each hole gets a few minutes to prove itself before you move on to the next one.
I prefer big, noisy, flashy lures (photo below) that call walleyes from a distance for power fishing. I favor two styles: swimming lures such as Northland Fishing Tackle’s Puppet Minnow, and lipless crankbaits that perform well in vertical presentations, including Northland’s Rippin’ Shad and LIVETARGET’s Golden Shiner Rattlebait.
For a rod/reel combo, I like a 28-inch, medium-action WidowMaker from 13 Fishing, matched with one of the company’s Black Betty 6061 inline reels spooled with 6-pound Northland Bionic Ice Fluorosilk. This rig (photo below) is perfect for maximizing lure action during the lift, and can handle even the biggest of winter walleyes.
With either lure style, start by dropping the bait to bottom. Raise it with an aggressive lift of 24 to 36 inches, then let it swim back down on a mostly slack line. Let the lure settle a second or two – always within 6 inches of bottom – then repeat the process. And don’t be afraid to mix it up with 12- to 18-inch rips.
In low-vis conditions, rattlebaits and shorter strokes are key because you’re relying more on sound than flash to attract walleyes. Try a pair of 36-inch lifts, then shorten it to 18 inches, then pop the rod tip 4 to 6 inches a couple of times to activate the lure’s rattle before pausing.
Most strikes come during a lure’s swim-down phase. Generally, you don’t know you have a fish until a hungry walleye stops your upstroke in its tracks. When that happens, set the hook – hard!
If you think power fishing winter walleyes sounds like fun, it is. Just don’t wait too long to try it. There’s roughly a 3-week window of opportunity before feeding periods shorten and walleye activity begins to decrease. The time for power fishing is now!
Editor’s note: To see Chip Leer demonstrate how to use the Northland Puppet Minnow, check out the video below.
Walleye image from Northland Fishing Tackle Facebook; tackle images by Chip Leer