Deadstick Tricks For More Walleye


Soaking a minnow on a deadstick rod consistently catches walleye all winter long. Here’s a recap of this simple, yet effective ice-fishing tactic.


Common Deadsticking Scenarios

Using a deadstick rod to complement jigging tactics is a popular strategy. For example, when an angler actively jigs with a Rippin’ Rap, Jigging Rap, or VMC spoon, a deadstick rod with a minnow is set at a separate hole a few feet away. The jigging bait attracts and triggers aggressive fish. The deadstick rod does clean-up duty, coaxing bites from curious walleye uninterested in chasing the lure but unable to resist the nearby minnow.


Soaking a minnow on a deadstick rod is also a reliable presentation during tough conditions. Lakes receiving significant fishing pressure, clear water and the mid-winter doldrums are just three scenarios where deadsticking can outperform jigging tactics. One can always experiment, but when fish have lock-jaw there’s no shame in using all of your legal lines for deadstick rods.


Scattering deadstick rods over a piece of structure to monitor walleye movements is another common scenario. As fish are caught on the soaking minnows, anglers can then adjust jigging and deadstick locations to stay on biting fish. The spinning reel on a deadstick combo is particularly advantageous in this instance as it quickly retrieves line and helps rapidly reset the rod at another hole.


Deadstick Combo



Deadsticking is best done with a technique-specific rod, such as the new Widow Maker II Deadstick 28” medium and 32” medium-light models, paired with a Kalon spinning reel. Widow Maker Deadstick rods have ultra-soft, high-vis tips, which bend easily under the slightest pressure when a fish bites. This, in turn, encourages fish to fully take the minnow while serving as a visual strike indicator for the angler.



Each Widow Maker Deadstick rod has an extended, full-grip handle. This added length improves the rod’s fit and overall balance when set in a rod holder.


Use Monofilament



Mono’s sponginess and stretchy characteristics make it perfect for deadsticking, and Sufix Advance Ice Monofilament and Ice Magic are two excellent choices. Most anglers use 6-pound test for walleye, but those plying trophy waters may want to use up to 8-pound or more.


Basic Deadsticking Rigs

There are many rigs and hooking methods for deadsticking a chub, shiner, sucker or other minnow for walleye. Here are just a few reliable options.


Day in and day out, a minnow on a jig is tough to beat. Using a jig limits a minnow’s ability to swim, making it an easy target for a walleye.


The VMC Tear Drop Jig is designed for pairing with baitfish and deadsticking. These wide jigs feature an oversized eye and come in glow, UV and natural flash finishes. The 1/8-ounce model (#4 hook) pairs well with 2.5- to 4-inch minnows.



The Tear Drop Jig is great for hooking a minnow in the side, just behind the dorsal fin. As the minnow kicks, the jig flashes and displaces water, amplifying the struggling minnow’s appeal.


Back- or nose-hooking a minnow on a #6, #4 or #2 VMC Octopus hook below one or more split shot sinkers is another reliable rigging option. Separating the weight from the hook lets the minnow to swim around, which can stimulate active walleye into striking.


The further the weight from the minnow, the longer its leash, so to speak. Consider six to 12 inches a starting point.



Nose-hooking a minnow on a drop-shot rig also catches walleye. A VMC Spinshot (#4 or #2) and a Tungsten Ball Drop Shot Weight are all you need to tie this rig. This set-up really anchors the minnow in place and works well for fussy walleye.



Deadstick Deployment

Setting a deadstick rod is pretty straightforward. Get the bait to bottom, then reel it up six to 20 inches. This positions the minnow within a very productive depth for many walleye ice-fishing scenarios.


There are no hard, fast rules, of course, so don’t hesitate to go lower or higher if you’re not getting bit. When fishing with friends, experiment with minnow depth to learn walleye preferences. If using a deadstick rod to complement jigging tactics, set the minnow at the depth you’re regularly marking fish on the portable fish finder.


Use A Rod Holder



We recommend setting a deadstick combo in a Bucket Rod Holder. This holder easily slides over the side of most 5-gallon buckets (a universally popular ice-fishing accessory) and has a 45-degree setting, which is the perfect angle for a deadstick rod.


Using the Bucket Rod Holder with a pail also elevates the deadstick rod, which makes it easier to monitor for bites. Raising the rod also keeps it away from blowing snow and clumsy feet.


Lastly, remember to loosen the reel drag. Yes, it would be difficult for a feisty walleye (or incidental pike or lake trout) to pull a long-handled Widow Maker out of the 45-degree setting of a Bucket Rod Holder, a light drag completely eliminates this possibility. Added bonus: the sound of a fish peeling line serves as another strike indicator.


Works All Season Long

Setting a rod in a holder and soaking a minnow is a simple, effective way to catch walleye all winter. Whether you need to coax bites from fussy fish or simply want to maximize your catch during primetime, deadsticking is a tried-and-true tactic not to be overlooked.