Artificial Soft Tails…The New Normal for Walleye Fishing
By Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
They say that there is a time and a place for everything. This saying definitely holds true when it comes to fishing. There are some days where the best course of action is to present a walleye with live bait, but time and time again, in fact most of the time, we have found the fish often prefer Berkley Gulp over live minnows and worms.
The preference of Gulp makes life easier for us. To start, a bag of Gulp crawlers costs about the same as a dozen live crawlers. While a live worm may only last for one or two bites, Gulp crawlers can last for several bites.
Gulp is hassle free compared to live bait also. Gone is the balancing act of keeping worms readily available in the boat, but out of the sun. Gone is the dirt all over the boat from picking worms out of the container, or even worse, spilling the container.
Then there is the maintenance of the worms between fishing trips. Keeping the bedding moist, but not too moist. Picking out dead ones, and catching escapees in the refrigerator when you forget to put the lid on tight! Resealing the bag of Gulp is definitely easier!
It isn’t just convenience that makes us choose Gulp over live bait. We choose it because it works! One of the great things about Gulp is that the bait is flexible and provides natural action when the lure moves. It also feels soft in the mouth of the fish, allowing the walleye to hold on to the bait long enough for you to detect the bite and set the hook.
There are several techniques that are excellent for using Gulp, and one technique that really shines is Slow Death. This method involves threading a half of a night crawler on a specially bent long shank hook, that when pulled behind a bottom bouncer or similar weighting system, gives the bait an enticing spinning action. This method is often used where conventional live bait rigging is too slow, but spinner rigs aren’t getting the attention of the fish.
The Gulp Killer Crawler is designed to be used in place of a live crawler. The hollow design allows it to spin easily on a Mustad Slow Death or Super Death Hook (model 33863NP-BN).
The 3” Gulp Fry spins a little faster and wider. It is absolutely deadly when paired with a Super Death Hook. For a wider, lazier spin, try the Gulp 4” and again the hook of choice would be the Super Death Hook. We think this bait is great at mimicking a minnow, especially if you use a color like Watermelon Pearl.
When it comes to jigging, the Gulp 3” Minnow is a staple. We move down to the 2.5 inch size for smaller fish and move up to a 4” Gulp Minnow when we are around bigger fish, like those found in Green Bay. The Gulp 5” Leech and Gulp 3” Fry are also excellent choices.
If we are running spinners on structure, a 4” Gulp Crawler or 6” Gulp Nightcrawler will work well.
But, is there a better artificial than Gulp? As we said before, there is a time and a place for everything. In some cases, Berkley PowerBait is what triggers the bite.
PowerBait is more durable than Gulp, which allows it to be fished more quickly. It is also slightly stiffer, so the tails throw off more action. Like Gulp, PowerBait feels soft in the mouth of the fish and has a good scent to keep the fish holding on once they bite.
The PowerBait 3” Ripple Shad is now the top selling soft bait for walleyes because it catches fish! The ribs in the tail give it great action. You can feel the vibration when you jig/retrieve on a no-stretch line like Berkley NanoFil. Even when slowly gliding through the water it has a swimming action.
When working this lure, you will want to use a heavier jig than you would with live bait, typically 1/4 or 3/8 ounce. This gives you the ability to get the action you need to get the tail to work the way you want it to.
The PowerBait 4” Pro Shad is similar to the Ripple Shad with great tail action for vibration. The wider profile body makes the bait attractive to larger fish, or just better imitates a shad population.
The PowerBait 3” Pro Jig Worm doesn’t have a lot of vibration in the tail, but the combination of limberness and a flattened bottom of the tail give it a great “flipping” action. This flipping displaces water, which the fish can sense. Plus, the tail is always moving no matter what part of the jigging action you are in. The jig worm works well for casting, but really shines when a vertical presentation is necessary. It is also durable, so it stays on the hook and gives second chance bites.
The PowerBait Rib Worm is often used on rivers for jigging. The curly tail gives a subtle vibration and moves with the slightest rod movement and undulates in current. While this bait was made for river use, it is a great alternative when casting anywhere.
The Rib Worm is usually used on a 1/16 to 1/8 ounce jig, and pitched into current seams and eddies. In high water, it’s not unusual to see anglers pitching them into timber or similar flooded cover along the shore. They can also be fished along the river bottom on heavier jigs.
Remember, the key to catching walleyes on artificial baits is choosing the bait that is best for the body of water you are fishing and the mood the fish are in. By stocking your boat with some packages of Berkley Gulp and PowerBait you will be ready to get your Next Bite!