Midsize Baits and Sundry Traits of the Midday Walleye

February 7, 2009 by  

By Noel Vick


Noel with tight lines

Noel with tight lines

Dave Genz, admittedly, dislikes morning bites. Well…in reality, that’s not completely fair. He digs a buttocks-over-teakettle morning feed as much as the next guy. What he despises, however, is a bombastic daybreak that evolves into an afternoon of nothingness. Genz, in fact, has devoted a lifetime to finding fish at high noon. No time for naps for the Captain of Ice Team.

Genz earned his stripes making bluegills, crappies, and perch feed when they weren’t supposed to, when skies were high – force-feeding them, if you will. His ability to track and trigger over deep breaks, basins, and hollows is masterful, legendary.

So, with panfish effectively licked – patterned – what’s an innovator to due? How’s about walleyes? They’re vampires when it comes to timetables; exercising their fangs at dawn and dusk and dead to the world during daylight hours. Try and crack that code, Mr. Genz…

Well, he’s more than plucked a walleye or two during lunch hour. Genz has devised a plan for tracing and catching wintertime walleyes during supposed off-peak periods, that 10 am to 2 pm window. And his approach is based on summer fishing habits.

“In the summer, if you want to find walleyes during the day you need to cover water,” explains Genz. “Trolling crankbaits or spinners is what you need to do.” Many of those anglers, however, fail to translate that mobile-mindset to the hardwater.

In Genz’s psyche, his Fish Trap is the boat and his legs are the outboard. He’ll simply have to drag and drill to simulate trolling. And if the size of the structure is especially daunting, the ice fishing patriarch will fire up the Arctic Cat and break trail. No big whoop.

Now the topic of “structure” is as good a place as any to begin. Structure – the firm-floored and steeply sloping stuff – is where walleyes assemble during the spree, the baitfish slaughter. That’s where the permanent shelters sit. That’s where all the old holes are. Genz, however, understands that archetypal and fundamental walleye structure is generally a ghost town by day.

Midday walleye

Midday walleye

With that said, he uses classic walleye structure as a reference point. “The first place walleyes will sit during off peak times is at the base of a break,” says Genz. The average break, whether it’s rocky and offshore or gravelly and shoreline oriented, turns softer as it flattens out. And this squishier bottom or transition zone, says Genz, often harbors entire food chains. The midge and mayfly larvae attract gamefish and baitfish, and the baitfish tempt…well, you know who.

So Genz commences at the foot of the break, carving a string of holes along the perimeter and then turning outward to explore 100, maybe 200 feet across the basin. Typically, though, he only bores three holes at time. “I don’t like drilling more holes than I can fish,” he says. “I’d rather make big moves, drilling fewer holes, spacing them out and fishing them all.”

With the holes bored and trusty StrikeMaster Lazer laid to cool, Genz rolls out the reconnaissance program.

Now in a typical lake on typical day, as walleyes slide down from feeding areas, they find deeper water while retaining contact with the bottom. That’s not always the case, though. “I’ve seen it where walleyes were feeding over a reef in 15 feet of water and moved off the structure and suspended at that level over much deeper water,” says Genz. “They might swim 50 or 100 feet away, but still hold at 15 feet.”

Because of this potentiality, Genz is a stickler about browsing the entire water column. He gets up-close and personal with his Vexilar and begins the sounding process. “Suspenders” will be the first to materialize, and with the zooming ability of the FL-18, even lazy, midday bellies-to-the-bottom walleyes are revealed. The Vexilar, when accurately interpreted, also reports critical bottom-composition data, namely changes from firm to supple.

No doubt, Genz wants to see fish on the flasher, but he’s also seasoned enough to know that walleyes can fly under the radar. They won’t materialize at first, but after a couple quick jerks of the jig you’re staring at a mercurial red mark and feeling a jolt in your hands. Those are hot fish, the kind that set themselves.

In a proven spot, or one that’s simply irresistible, Genz marches-out another line of offense, his Aqua-Vu underwater camera. The monitor is fixed to the front seat bracket of his Fish Trap Scout and camera lowered on the new Motorized Ice Pod (MO-POD). Said rigging is advantageous to “downviewing,” Genz’s clever method of hanging the lens vertically so as to look straight down, instead of sideways, overtop the action.

The Aqua-Vu not only helps him positively identify fish and influence the trigging sequence, but also provides a clearer picture of what the bottom looks like. On a flat, for instance, Genz spies for zones where darker and lighter bottoms merge, a transition. Generally speaking, darker is softer, which bodes better for bugs. The camera might also disclose the whereabouts of an unmapped vein of cobblestone or clam bed.

Now how many holes Genz might drill, check, and fish is dictated by the day. On a prosperous strike-it-rich sort of afternoon he may engage walleyes mere yards away from conventional structure. But at other times, when the stars aren’t aligning, he’ll cut trios of holes into the horizon, far from the permanent shelters and known.

Let’s assume, though, that Genz is in a fishy place. Walleyes are in his midst. Standard, upsized walleye jigs won’t do, though – too big. Instead, he opts for a midsize lure, more of an in-between-meals snack. Genz’s first choice is a Lindy Rattl’r Spoon; the medium sized one in glow/perch or glow/firetiger.

High noon ice fishing

High noon ice fishing

Normally, you’d bedeck a jigging spoon with a big ‘ol minnow head, too. But not Genz, not at the crack of noon. He takes three crappie minnows – not fatheads or shiners – and impales one on each of the trebles, eye-socket to eye-socket. It’s gruesome but effective, and, as Genz says, imparts a fancier dance that day-timers seem to appreciate.

His second trick, if the spoon goes untouched, is lowering a #6 or #8 Lindy Genz Worm in Techni-Glo red. Before dunking, however, he smothers it with 10 or 12 maggots, which are thread inline through their blunt ends, the scent sacs. The result is a monster panfish offering geared for uninspired walleyes.

Genz recommends banging the bottom a bit, too. The rising clouds of silt can be an attractant. And, speaking of mud flats, jumbo perch often survive amongst the walleyes and muck.

The day is coming to close. As the sun leans toward the treeline, Genz gathers himself and gear and reverse migrates to traditional walleye structure, the steeper and shallower stuff – the morning holes. Dusk is plain icing on the cake for a full day of walleye fishing.


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