Walleyes: Rattling In Clear Water

Rattle lures have applications in clear water as well. On Lake Erie, one of the clearest bodies of water in the country, many anglers are replacing their traditional weight-forward spinners with baits that rattle.

In this case, it appears that the competition caused by large numbers of walleyes — big walleyes — seem to make the fish more aggressive, and more susceptible to a noisy presentation.

Noisy lures also will take clear-water walleyes at night. A rattling, suspending crankbait can be an outstanding producer along rocky shorelines, on top of weedbeds, or along an inside edge, for example. Other times, rattling a jig on a breakline is a better option.

Aside from extreme competition and the cover of darkness, rattles are effective in a handful of other clear-water situations. One is deep water.

Deep structure, such as rock bars or mid-lake humps, often calls for live bait rigging. Before I start fishing, though, I slowly cruise over the structure with a keen eye on my sonar screen.

Study Your Sonar
When I mark a fish, I jockey the boat from side-to-side, to get an idea where the walleye is located in relation to the boat. When the fish appears on screen as a uniform horizontal arc, I know it’s directly beneath the boat.

Once in position, tail-hook a minnow with a rattling, floating jig head rigged a foot or two below a 1/8-ounce to 1/2-ounce walking sinker — and drop it to the fish below. Then, hover over the spot, occasionally lifting and dropping the rig. The combination of scent and sound eventually wears down even the most stubborn walleye.

Once the fish is caught, continue working the immediate area, and then move around the structure — at the same depth — ooking for another fish.

On many natural lakes, walleyes relate to mud basins anytime from post-spawn through the summer. It happens when low water forces the fish to abandon shallow haunts, or baitfish and insect hatches lure them off nearby mid-lake structure.

Three “go-to” techniques for catching walleyes on the mud are pulling spinner rigs, dragging jigs and snapping spoons above bottom. Since depths of 20 feet to 40 feet or more mean you?re dealing with reduced light penetration, all three presentations involve rattles — mainly to help the walleyes find the bait.

In general, I troll spinner rigs when I’m looking for fish scattered over large basins. Jigs and spoons get the nod for walleyes relating to specific areas, such as the edge of the basin or slight humps.

Spinner rigs will take walleyes that are tight to bottom or suspended. One of the keys is to mark their position with sonar and fish at or slightly above their level. The other is to place a rattle bead directly behind the blade.

As the blade rotates and vibrates, it activates the rattle.

Mastering Jigging Technique
When dragging a jig along the bottom — or vertically jigging, for that matter — shake the rodtip on a slightly slack line, then allow it to lie motionless. The cadence is similar to that used in fishing stained water, and so are the results; the rattle attracts the fish and the live bait gets them to strike.

Last but not least is the spoon-feeding technique, a fun way to catch both active and neutral walleyes.

Drop a 1/2-ounce jigging spoon (blade baits work well for this approach, too) to the bottom and pick up the slack, keeping the rod parallel to the water. Reel the spoon a few inches off bottom, then snap the rodtip upward about 6 inches to 12 inches. Follow the spoon back down with controlled slack and pause at the end.

Be forewarned, spoon-induced strikes are quick and violent. To maintain control, use a 6-foot, medium-heavy casting rod armed with 10-pound monofilament. At times, tipping the spoon with a small minnow or minnow head is the key to more strikes.

The applications for rattles are endless. Whether you’re fishing stained or clear water, situations will arise when rattles rule.

When walleyes are actively feeding, the extra sound draws more attention to your lure and whips the fish into an even greater frenzy. Even during a tough bite — when traditional wisdom points to more subtle, natural presentation — rattle strategies can be beneficial. Chances are you’ve already got a few rattle baits. Why not use ’em to make a little noise of your own?

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