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EARLY ICE WALLEYE LOCATIONS AND TACTICS

Rapala X-Rap® Peto


The beginning of the ice fishing season is a great time to catch walleye. Fish are generally active, have yet to see much angling pressure and are often willing to bite. Here are some reliable locations to find wintertime walleye and the best baits to catch them.


Vegetation

Aquatic plants are habitat for minnows, yellow perch and other forage. Vegetation beds and clumps are excellent spots to jig for walleye, particularly during early ice.


The best locations are typically adjacent to deep water. And, while the most productive depths vary from one lake to another, 10 to 16 feet is a good place to start the search.


Drilling a lot of holes and dunking baits into openings is one way to catch walleye holding tight to greenery, which is typical during the day. Come nightfall, walleye get active and hunt along vegetation edges, sometimes moving to shallower depths.


Pro Tip: Safety must always be a priority. Regularly drill holes to check ice thickness and use a chisel to test ice while walking. Carry and have ice claws ready.


Great Lures For Jigging Weeds

The Rippin’ Rap and Slab Rap(below image) produce lots of vibrations, which can help call-out walleye hiding in the veg. These lures also fall fairly straight. This reduces snagging plants when dunking pockets and other openings in a bed. When jigging open-water areas around vegetation a W5 Jigging Shad Rap or W5 Jigging Rap are good picks.


Slab Rap


Points And Humps

Walleye often relate to points and humps. They like rock piles, boulders and vegetation on these structures. Walleye hold around breaks, particularly any “stair steps” along the ledge. The structure’s base is another good spot. Walleye will be on deeper portions of the structure during the day, then move shallower at night.


Pro Tip: It’s important to identify the walleye’s preferred depth range and fish structures within this zone. Preferred depth will vary from one waterbody to another. As examples, the range could be 18 to 22 feet in a small, stained fertile lake, and 25 to 35 feet in a large, deep lake.


Jigging Rap Attack

A W5 or W7 Jigging Rap is excellent for jigging structure. It sinks quickly, has an attractive swimming action and falls in an enticing dying-minnow arc that walleye can’t resist. This makes it perfect for quickly covering water and appealing to aggressive fish. And, when a walleye gets a little gun-shy, light rod hops and jiggles are all it takes to trigger a strike. See this article for tips on how-to fish a Jigging Rap.


Jigging Rap


Pro Tip: Don’t ice fish for walleye without glow and UV lures. Luminescence provides an added visual appeal that will catch more fish, especially at low light. Just remember to regularly charge glow baits with a powerful LED.


Flats

Walleye and yellow perch represent a classic predator-prey relationship. Perch often inhabit sand and mud flats, eating various invertebrates and walleye, in turn prey on perch.


Depending on the waterbody, perch may hold on mid-depth flats (16 to 20 feet) or deeper aquatic plains pushing into 35+ feet. Drilling holes and exploring areas using a sonar or underwater camera will reveal where perch are holding.


Walleye movements on flats are systematic. They use rocky spines, bottom transitions and trenches as travel routes. Where the flat meets a drop-off with an inside or outside contour bend is another walleye highway. Identify, drill over and jig these key spots on flats.


Try the chrome or regular Perch pattern in our proven ice jigs to match the pray in applicable lakes.


Jigging Shad Rap


Flat-Out Deadly Baits

Catching active walleye on a flat is all about getting their attention and snap jigging a Rippin’ Rap is a reliable strategy. This lure’s hard-vibrating action and distinctive BB rattle system call-in fish from far and wide. Aggressive walleye often smash a Rippin’ Rap, but, if a fish needs convincing, light shakes and short hops combined with a slow rod raise will seal the deal. If the fish is still too finicky, try switching to the Ultra Light Rippin' Rap for a smaller more appetizing presentation. That might be the difference between enticing the strike.


Rippin Rap


The Snap Rap is another pick for flats. Its far-reaching, sideways swim covers more water beneath the hole, which attracts fish from a far distance. But, before getting to the snapping portion of the jigging sequence, begin by pounding a Snap Rap on bottom. This stirs up silt, a commotion that attracts both perch and walleye. The Jigging Rap is another suitable choice.


Snap Rap


Pro Tip: Use a lure with a barred pattern when walleye are hunting perch. Try natural finishes in clear water and during the day, and, hot or glow colours (e.g., Green Tiger UV, Glow Yellow Perch) in stained water and during lowlight.


Deep vegetation, points and humps, and flats consistently hold walleye in winter. Jig them using Rippin’ Raps, Ultra Light Rippin' Raps, Slab Raps, Jigging Raps, Jigging Shad Raps and Snap Raps and your ice-fishing season will be full of great catches.