What bait should we use when fishing for walleyes? How should it be hooked? How do you keep it alive? What size works best? What's so special about redtail chubs that they cost more than $7 per dozen?
Those are just a few of the questions I'm asked while guiding and while hanging out at bait shops. Everyone wants to know what people were using when they caught the fish they see in Polaroids up on the bulletin board.
At this time of year the water is as warm as it will get and bait can be a little tricky to keep. Don't be afraid to ask bait shop workers what to do with your bait. I bring minnows, leeches and crawlers with me on almost all of my guided trips. Redtails or creek chubs are my mainstays when it comes to minnows. But you must have leeches and crawlers in case they're looking for a different snack. Ice cream is my go-to dessert, but Oreos and milk work sometimes, too.
This time of year you need to keep minnows in cool, oxygenated water. I put mine in the livewell and keep the pump on all the time. That keeps six dozen minnows for about 8 hours before the water needs to be replenished with cool stuff. Leeches I keep in the same well in my Leech Locker. Crawlers are kept in a cooler on ice.
As for what to use and when, that's the tough question. This time of year, when there's so much natural bait in the lake, you have some pretty stiff competition. I like to use minnows right now because the perch can't get them in their mouth as easy as leeches or crawlers. But if you're marking fish on the graph and they're not hitting minnows you better be try bait a leech or crawler.
There are many good bait shops in the area, but like with anything else you should shop before you buy. Consistency is the key. Always check the leeches and crawlers and make sure they're in good shape. With all the new shops popping up your comparison shopping will take a little longer to get done, but get 'er done and go get 'em!
Q: Walleyedan, on Mille Lacs last weekend I saw guys using snells that must have been 8 feet long. What's your take on this? Do you vary snell length when using a live-bait rig?
A: I certainly do. Most times a 6 footer is about my typical length, but I'll go longer or shorter depending on what the fish are up to. Longer snells with leeches or crawlers are usually pretty lethal. When tail hooking a chub, you can get away with a shorter snell because the minnow swims upwards.
"Walleyedan" Eigen can be reached at www.walleyedan.com, or 839-5598
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