They attract fish. They trigger bites. They produce fish. When it comes to walleyes -- and especially when it comes to vertical fishing -- there are few baits that can compete with spoons.
One secret he shared was to downsize your lures. "Use something on the smaller side when the fish aren't biting good," he said. "During midmorning when things slow down, I'll go to a real small Swedish Pimple and use just the head of a minnow. The walleyes aren't very aggressive then, but often I can coax a few fish to bite by going to a smaller lure." Luenberger stressed that one thing he does is use the tiny plastic flicker attractor that comes with the Swedish Pimple spoon. "That little flicker gives the lure just a little subtle action," he said. "Sometimes that's all you want at midday."
The action provided by spoons lends itself well to the vertical aspect of ice-fishing. Photo by Mike Gnatkowski.
Spoons have been the undoing of many a winter walleye. One reason is their flashing action is very visible in the clear waters of winter, and like a beacon they can draw walleyes from afar. Adding a rattle to the spoon only increases their power of attraction. Spoons also lend themselves very well to the vertical presentation necessitated by ice-fishing. Most baits that catch walleyes during the open-water months just aren't practical in the winter. Spoons shine when worked vertically in the water column. Lastly, spoons have a triggering mechanism that convinces winter walleyes that the shiny piece of metal fluttering and dancing in front of them is something good to eat. Spoons are the total package for winter walleyes -- they attract, trigger and produce bites.
Anders Nyberg owns Bay De Noc Lure Company in Gladstone, Michigan. The company manufactures two of the most productive walleye spoons in the world -- the Swedish Pimple and the Do Jigger. "The Swedish Pimple is based on a lure that has been widely used in Sweden for over 100 years," said Nyberg. Fashioned from solid, forged brass and unlike other spoons, the Swedish Pimple has three sides that cause the lure to flip and flutter seductively downward. "The Swedish Pimple is more of a drop and jiggle lure, whereas the Do Jigger has a vertical fluttering action and it's much lighter," said Nyberg.
Swedish Pimples are available in six lustrous metallic finishes, eight prism colors, white pearl and three fluorescent colors. Nyberg said the most productive Swedish Pimple colors for walleyes are chartreuse, pearl and some of the new crushed-ice colors. Do Jiggers are available in metallic and painted finishes highlighted with a variety of tape colors. A gold/orange Do Jigger is responsible for icing my biggest walleye.
Don Luenberger spends more days on the ice chasing walleyes than anyone I know. He's forgotten more about ice-fishing for walleyes than most anglers will learn in a lifetime. His name is a fixture in the top 10 in the local winter walleye tournament, and last year he won the contest with a 13 1/2-pound brute. He has some enlightening insights on spoon choice for winter 'eyes.
"I probably have 150 lures that I take on the ice at any given time and the majority of them will never see the water," shared Luenberger. "Anyone, and just about any lure, will catch walleyes when they're aggressive and actively feeding. Last year, there was a group of guys fishing near me and they were hammering the fish on a No. 7 Jigging Rapala. That's a big hunk of lead! I couldn't buy a fish. But that's a rarity." Usually it's Luenberger who's pounding the fish when others are scratching their heads.
Luenberger said that 90 percent of the time he uses a lift-and-flutter technique, pausing for three or four seconds before repeating the lift. Besides the Swedish Pimple, his favorite spoons are a small orange/glow Do Jigger and a Michigan Stinger. "The Michigan Stinger is actually a really light walleye trolling spoon. I add the head of a minnow to it and lift and let it flutter down. It falls really, really slow. It's caught fish on it on days when everything else was drawing a blank. I think that slow flutter is more than they can resist." To fish a light lure like that requires focus and concentration.
Spoon colors run the gamut, and hot colors tend to change from year to year. "Chartreuse is always a good color for walleyes, but my favorite spoon color in recent years has been a watermelon color," said Luenberger. "Pink is a good coldwater color too. I use a lot of crushed ice tape in different colors to customize my spoons."
Luenberger said one of his go-to spoons in recent seasons has been Northland's Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon. "I use the really small one, I think it's 1/8 ounce or 1/16 ounce, but it's only about an inch long," he said. "Hot colors are the Super-Glow Chub and the Super-Glow Perch. That spoon has caught a lot of walleyes in the middle of the day when nothing else will." For more information on the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, visit Northland Tackle at www.northlandtackle. com.
Luenberger said he wouldn't think of ice-fishing without electronics. "So many times fish will be suspended, and without electronics you'd never know they were there," said Luenberger. "A flasher also tells you how the fish are reacting to the spoon and jigging cadence you're using. You can change lures until you're blue in the face, but if you're not sure if there's any fish underneath you, what good does it do? If there's fish there, you know it's probably a lure thing."
Anglers can use two strategies when fishing for winter walleyes -- sit and wait for the fish to come to you or be aggressive and go looking for fish. Luenberger prefers to be mobile. "I might move four or five times in half a day," he said. "I've seen it where someone 30 or 40 yards away is catching fish and I might not be doing a thing, so it pays to drill a lot of holes." If you can, drill the holes ahead of time so as to not disturb the area. Avoid running over on the four-wheeler or snowmobile right to where you want to fish. Quietly move from hole to hole, sit down, turn on the flasher and jig for 10 or 15 minutes. If you don't see a fish, it's time to move on.
First and last light and just after dark are always hot times for winter walleyes. But the key to catching walleyes all day long is to stay mobile, learn how to use and trust your electronics and offer them a tiny morsel of a spoon.