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LAST DANCE WALLEYES
By John Kolinski




Editorís Note:  John Kolinski is an eight-time championship qualifier during his seven years of professional fishing on the Professional Walleye Trail and the
Masters Walleye Circuit.

    Itís no secret that I love to spoon-feed walleyes.  During the open-water months, itís a technique generally reserved for clear-water situations where walleyes cruise the edges of steep breaks and feed on flashy baitfish.
    Thereís no better feeling in fishing than giving life to an otherwise innate blade of metal, dropping the rod tip, feeling a hit, and setting the hook into a solid walleye.
    Winter and hard water offer a whole new wonderland for spooning up walleyes.
    Over the years, Iíve run across only a handful of anglers who regularly include spooning in their ice-fishing arsenals.  They know how effective it can be whether walleyes are aggressive or sluggish.  Overall, however, itís a technique that is just beginning to catch on, a fact reflected by the recent push from the manufacturers to get new spoons on the market.
    Spooning works for many of the same reasons that make jigging, trolling, casting and slip-corking effective - a walleyeís basic need to eat.  Our job as anglers is to make it easy and efficient for the walleyes to do that.
    We accomplish that goal by understanding the particular stage a walleye is in during its seasonal cycle, evaluating water conditions and the walleyeís mood, and offering it something that closely resembles it immediate forage base.  We can use color, vibration, action and scent to provoke that action.
    Spooning addresses each of these issues.  Itís a technique that works well early in the ice-fishing season when the walleyes are more aggressive, and throughout the season for that matter.
    But when it comes to late-winter walleyes, itís often an approach that works when nothing else will.
    The primary attraction of jigging spoons is visual.  The effective ones are flashy, and designed to vibrate when the angler lifts the rod tip, then flutter back in a side-to-side motion on the fall.  They simulate the appearance of any number of baitfish walleyes might be feeding on.
    It follows that spoons will be most effective in clear water.  Thatís the case during the open-water season, and thatís what makes them my top choice in late February and even early March, or as long as safe ice lasts.
    From lakes and reservoirs to river backwaters and impoundments with current, a cover of ice and snow limits the elements that can affect water clarity.  Boat traffic and wind donít exist.  In effect, the water gets a chance to settle, and clear. 
    The types of areas I target with my spoons are the more gradual, sloping edges of breaklines, whether thatís on Little Bay de Noc, Mille Lacs Lake, Lake Oahe or any other body of water that harbors a strong walleye population.  Inside turns on old river beds can be hotspots, as can long, tapering sand flats. 
    Good electronics are a must for a proper spooning presentation.  Jigging a spoon in water where you hope there are fish isnít nearly as much fun or as interactive as jigging where you know there are walleyes lurking.
    Spooning success relates to the equipment an angler uses, as well.
    I use a fairly stiff, 3-foot jigging stick that will move the spoon several feet with minimal effort.  Iíve found Berkley Fish wont let go 8-pound Micro Ice line is ideal for this approach.  Itís a low-stretch, small-diameter line that allows the lure to work and vibrate the way itís intended while providing quick, solid hooksets.
    To help prevent line twist, which is bound to occur when youíre jigging a spoon with so much side-to-side and vibrating action, try using a barrel swivel about 16-18 inches above the lure. 
    Once Iíve pinpointed suspended walleyes on my electronics, I always try to work my lure about a foot above them.  If they move toward the lure, I raise it another six inches, and it seems like the next time I drop it is when they bite.  Donít drop the spoon all the way down to the fish.  From my experience, that seems to spook them every time.  Iíve seen them come up off the bottom to inhale a spoon, but they donít seem to show much interest when you try to hand-feed them.
    In general, Iíve found that a subtle jigging approach usually produces the strikes.  Too many times, Iíve seen walleyes move away when I become more aggressive after locating fish.  The same tantalizing action that enticed them to stop and take a look is usually the action that will get them to bite.  Anything more often sends them scooting elsewhere.
    As with most jigging applications, however, youíll have to let the walleyes tell you what they want.  Sometimes, itís a slight twitching motion.  Other times, itís a subtle lift-and-drop that works.  And on occasion, an aggressive popping technique will trigger bites. 
    One thing to remember is that your lure is actually traveling two to three times further than the rod tip when you impart action.  You donít want to take that spoon away from an interested walleye by moving it four or five feet. 
    On those days when you can see walleyes cruising the bottom, but you canít get them to come after a spoon, try pounding the lure right into the bottom.  It will stir up the bottom a bit, like something a walleye might want to eat, while also creating a little extra noise that may attract fish.
    Occasionally, walleyes wonít settle for anything that doesnít taste like a minnow or grub.  One of the assets of a good jibbing spoon is that it can be tipped with a piece of minnow, a spike or a grub without affecting the action, which gives the angler another method of presentation for finicky fish.
    In most situations, Iím fishing in water deeper than 10 feet.  That makes 1/8-ounce and 1/4-ounce spoons the right choice.  On darker days, fluorescent colors work well.  On brighter days, natural golds and silvers are my choice.
    Not all spoons are created equal.  In fact, there arenít many that offer all the characteristics I believe are essential to consistently catching walleyes.  Fortunately, Lindy Little Joe Fishing Tackle systems allowed me to design the Lindy Rattl'r spoon
Lindy Little Joe Rattlr Spoon I wanted the spoon to look somewhat like a baitfish, but with a larger head than a tail.  One of the keys with spoons is creating a design that pushes the limit in regard to action, but not to the point where you canít retrieve the spoon without the line tangling in the hooks.
We experimented with a number of prototypes before settling on a design that imitates a crippled baitfish and offers a consistent and manageable action.  Another unique feature of the Rattl'r is the way it slides back when you drop your rod tip.  I think it triggers more reactionary bites than any other spoons Iíve tried.
As the name implies, this new spoon has a built-in-rattle.  That doesnít mean it creates the commotion of a shot-filled crankbait.  These rattles are contained in a small tube, and they simply click once when you lift the lure and once when you drop it.  Subtle is usually the secret to successful ice fishing. I got another chance to put the Rattl'r to the test during a recent outing.  It produced seven legal walleyes and a few bonus crappies from the same holes where minnows and grubs got only a brief look.  The difference these spoons made couldnít have been more dramatic.  The Lindy Rattl'r comes in several 3-D, holographic color patterns.  You can check them out on Lindyís web site at Lindy Little Joe Fishing Tackle systems.  No matter what type of spoons you choose, I hope youíll try a little last-dance spooning as the winter wears on.  Itís a deadly two-step that keeps the angler involved, and often puts walleyes on the ice when others are going home empty-handed.




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