Pounding the floor for walleye

When fishing a sinking presentation, fine-tuning the fall rate can help you catch more walleye. At times, fish respond best to a slow, subtle drop, but there are times when the commotion of a fast-sinking lure smashing into a lakebed is what gets attacks from walleye. Here’s what you need to know about the crash-bang approach.

Start in late fall

The beginning of the cold-water period from late fall to early winter offers incredible walleye-angling action. Fish are often active and eager to eat. During this time, working a fast-sinking jig and plastic combination, bladebait, or spoon along the floor is worth trying for bottom-oriented fish. This applies to casting and jigging from a boat as well as fishing during early ice. Here are my tactics specific to either boat or ice fishing.

Open-water efficiency

A heavy bait casts farther than a light one and its rapid descent gets into the strike zone without hesitation. These traits help cover water, which is useful when walleye are scattered over wide flats, large underwater points, and other large structures.

Last November, I tied on a 5/8-ounce Rapala Jigging Rap for walleye scattered along a 16 to 28-foot drop-off. With the boat over deep water, I tossed the lure about 40 feet past the upper edge of the drop and onto a soft-bottom flat, then snap-jigged it up before letting it plummet back to bottom. This caught several walleye. Other fish hit as it was crashing down the drop-off, and plenty of walleye tasted hooks when the lure pounded the deep mud flat at the base of the drop-off.

Rubbernecking walleye

When a lure hits a soft bottom, it sends debris flying. Mud, sand, and weeds get stirred up again when the bait is snapped up off the floor.

These disturbances attract curious walleye looking for easy meals, provided the water’s clear enough for them to see the disruption. To a walleye, a stirred-up bottom might reveal the location of a vulnerable baitfish. Perch create silt clouds when bottom feeding. Regardless of what is happening in a walleye’s brain, the takeaway is, disturbing the bottom with a bait attracts these predators.

Likewise, walleye can be drawn to the sound when a lure hits hard bottom. Banging rocks can get dicey when fishing from a moving boat, though. The heavier the bait, the more likely it is to wedge itself into a snag, although vertically jigging typically yields fewer hang-ups than casting.

Lure speed and weight

Short, slow to moderate lifts can appeal to less-aggressive walleye. Smashing the floor with a 1 ⁄2 -ounce bladebait instead of a 3 ⁄4-ounce, is worth experimenting with. Think fender-bender speed.

Kamikaze-fast crashes combined with fast, high lifts with a bait can appeal to a walleye’s aggressive side and trigger reaction strikes. A 3 ⁄8-ounce bucktail jig or swimbait is deadly in autumn when walleye are hunting yellow perch and minnows on eight to 14-foot weed flats mixed with sand patches and rock piles.

Adding a pause

Another crash-bang presentation option is letting a lure rest on bottom for a couple seconds before lifting it. Doing this a few times throughout the retrieve (or when jigging on ice) might be adequate. In other scenarios, delaying the lift after each drop is what walleye want.

You won’t always feel the hit when briefly soaking a bait on bottom, but you’ll certainly notice the fish’s weight as you lift the bait again. There are also fish that will violently pin the bait against bottom, sending a shockwave up the line. Regardless of how they hit, the outcome is always another hook-set.

A winter tip

Here’s a bottom-banging tip for ice anglers — don’t overdo it on a soft-bottom. Too much pounding produces the equivalent of an aquatic sandstorm. It only takes a few hits to create big, pillowy silt clouds and call in fish to your stationary position. After doing this, keep the bait up off the floor and continue to jig. After the dusts settles in a few minutes, feel free to crash the bait into the bottom again. Regular contact on rocky bottoms is completely fine. Vary the cadence to learn what resonates best with walleye.

From mid-autumn to the first few weeks of the ice-fishing season, walleye are eager to eat whatever they can find. Crashing a bait along bottom is an easy, effective way to get the attention of hungry fish and trigger them to strike.

Originally published in the Nov.-Dec. 2022 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS