BRAD DOKKEN: Lure test proves right on ‘Target’
Lake Winnipeg has become THE go-to ice fishing destination for big walleyes the past few years -- with good reason -- and the fish frequently have shown a preference for big baits with big profiles.
Lake Winnipeg has become THE go-to ice fishing destination for big walleyes the past few years - with good reason - and the fish frequently have shown a preference for big baits with big profiles.
That opens up big possibilities for experimenting.
Fargo walleye pro Chad Maloy and a couple of other members of the F-M Walleyes Unlimited fishing club saw firsthand that experimenting can pay big dividends last weekend during the group’s annual fishing excursion to Lake Winnipeg.
More than 100 people were part of the F-M Walleyes crew.
Maloy, along with club president Scott Brewer, Moorhead, and vice president Kyle Agre, Fargo, experimented with a new lure called the Live Target Baitball Emerald Shiner. Known in lure-speak as a “jerk bait,” the Live Target Baitball Emerald Shiner has two lifelike minnows that resemble emerald shiners molded into the glass body, and it runs at a depth of 3 to 4 feet when casted or trolled in open water.
Trolling or casting aren’t options when ice fishing, obviously, so Maloy said they decided to attach a lead weight to the center hook so the lure would sink, allowing it to be fished vertically.
Brewer was the first to test the possibilities, Maloy said.
“Scotty (Brewer) did some tweaking, and I did some tweaking” on the lure, Maloy said this week in a phone call to share his findings. “He took a worm weight and put on the hook, and I took a quarter-ounce split shot and jigged it.”
As Maloy tells the story, he and a buddy were fishing in a portable shelter one day during the Lake Winnipeg trip when they hit a lull.
“I’m like, ‘We’re not catching anything, so I’m going to put this down,’” Maloy recalls. “I let it sink, twitched it, and all of a sudden a fish came up and just smoked it.”
That fish turned out to be a 27-inch walleye, which on Lake Winnipeg could be pushing 10 pounds.
His fishing partner, meanwhile, stuck with a Live Target lipless crankbait that’s made to be fished vertically.
“I caught six in about an hour, and he was using a regular Live Target but only caught two fish,” Maloy said. “It’s just kind of a neat little story on thinking outside the box. Who would have thought that something like this would work?”
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the three anglers also are tournament fishermen who count Live Target among their sponsors. The experiment made sense, though, because emerald shiners are a key forage fish for the big “greenback” walleyes that roam the shallow expanses of Lake Winnipeg.
“When it first came out, we thought there had to be a way to use this ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg,” Maloy said. “It’s a neat lure that is super cool looking. But you need the weight to get it down deep enough and fast enough.”
Besides resembling Lake Winnipeg forage, the Live Target Baitball Emerald Shiner swims in a circle when jigged, Maloy said, an action the fish obviously found irresistible, at times. In one case, Maloy said, a 16-inch walleye practically swallowed the 4-inch lure.
As any angler will attest, it’s always satisfying when an experiment pays off, and this one certainly did.
“I just tried it for about an hour, and then it kind of died off, but for that hour, I outfished my partner using two or three different things that had been working the day before,” Maloy said.
The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to experiment.
“Don’t give up and keep trying something different to get them to go,” Maloy said. “It was just what they wanted for some reason - let it drift down, feather it up, drift down - it was just so much fun.”
Overall, Maloy said, the fishing was “OK, not phenomenal” during the trip.
“There were lots of smaller fish in that 16- to 20-inch size,” he said “A lot of keepers with a few nice fish in that 22- to 26-inch range and an occasional jumbo mixed in.”
That’s not bad, considering the crew battled 20-below-zero temperatures almost every morning and had to put two extensions on their augers to chew through the 4-plus-feet of ice.
“It was windy, too,” Maloy said. “We moved maybe once a day; set up for the morning bite a little shallower and then move deeper and that was enough.
“We did find a couple of nice groups of fish we were able to stay on. Our worst day was probably better than our best day of ice fishing in Minnesota.”