River Walleyes on Plastics

February 23, 2009 by  

By Troy Morris

PWT Pro Troy Morris with a nice tournament walleye caught on plastics.

PWT Pro Troy Morris with a nice tournament walleye caught on plastics.

Plastics have really made an impact on river walleye fishing. Plastics allow anglers to change shapes, colors and size with an ease that cannot be accomplished with the traditional minnow or shiner. Jigs tipped with a plastic body often shine in river fishing conditions for a variety of reasons.

First off, the current present in rivers sweeps the jig by fish and fish have to decide quickly if they are going to eat. Often, the fish don’t get a chance to scrutinize the bait or lure. Gulp! Alive tastes good enough and smells good enough, long enough to work well on every river we have fished on the FLW Walleye Tour. The other factor that makes plastics so effective is that we can use bright or fluorescent colors in turbid or muddy conditions for better visibility. We can also experiment with shapes to manipulate the visibility, vibration, size and action. Now for the best part, plastic stays on the jig better than live bait. Cast after cast, plastics stay on the hook. Miss a fish, no problem as the worst thing that usually happens is the fish bites off the tail. In contrast, with traditional live bait, we are in the water a higher percentage of the time fishing unproductively without bait, naked because the bait tore off the hook.

Now the point of this article isn’t to convince you that plastics are better than traditional fatheads, shiners or a half crawler for tipping jigs. There is a time and place for live bait but on many river situations, we are often leaving the live bait in the cooler or bait well. Plastics work that good.

Pitching up onto shoreline eddies and wing dams is a very productive spring presentation on rivers across the region. Casting jigs tipped with plastic tails either cross current or casting them downstream and slowly dragging them back is a very effective way to work plastics so that they catch fish. Dragging the jig upstream gives the body a lot of action as the plastic gets pulled against the current. Cross current approaches generally gives the jig a natural downstream sweep that fish have to snap at out of reaction as the window of opportunity is short, thus a perfect scenario for plastics.

A mistake we see many anglers make when using plastics on rivers is going too light with the jig. The plastic body will cause some lift on the jig. When learning how to read water and fish plastics, err on the side of heavier so that you know the jig is in the zone. This is so crucial when fishing current and that zone is right close to the bottom. There is a constant debate amongst anglers who fish a lot of jigs whether to use no-stretch lines like FireLine or traditional monofilament that does have some stretch. For many vertical presentations and some dragging, I love FireLine Crystal. But for casting or pitching, I do prefer mono because the action on the jig seems more natural and fluid. My favorite line for this is high visibility Berkley Sensation. Most anglers stress the importance of a highly sensitive graphite spinning rod in either six or seven feet with a medium action, fast tip.

Plastics are not an end all and will never completely replace live bait. But there are situations where I used to really rely on live bait but could just as well leave the bait at home. River walleye fishing opportunities are one such situation where I have a lot of confidence with plastics.

Editors Note: The author, Troy Morris is one of the top rated walleye anglers on the FLW Walleye Tour and sales rep for Ranger Boats, www.rangerboats.com. Troy lives in Bismarck North Dakota and is on the National Pro Team for Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Lowrance and Minnkota.

A few final notes on anchoring and pitching jigs is for walleyes relating to shallow current breaks. Big fish are almost always shallow in the spring as soon as fish leave their wintering holes. The fish are usually relating right to these current breaks, you have to be right on the spot to be successful. The fish generally want the jig moving in particular direction or angle so be patient as you work spots. Anchoring allows anglers to slow down the day, work one spot at a time and work these spots well. Set out with the mindset that you are going to work just a half dozen of your best spots in a day. This patience and strategy can often pay dividends in the form of several big fish.

Editors Note: Bill Ortiz is a past PWT Angler of the Year and PWT winner.


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