Sometime from Thanksgiving to Christmas we see the transition in the Ice Belt from open water to ice popping and cracking as it forms. It is during the early ice period that lasts until about the middle of January (always depends on weather) that we can experience some of the best walleye fishing of the entire winter. The walleyes are aggressive and HUNGRY at this time of year.
One of my favorite lures during the early ice period when chasing walleyes is the new Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe Mini. At 1 5/8”, 3/16 oz., it is the perfect size lure to rattle in fish from a distance with long jigging strokes and then finesse them with more subtle, fluid movements once they are on the Vexilar. The Minis catch a host of eater fish in the 15-19” range and they are also great for catching some of those stubborn 20”+ walleyes that snub spoons or other larger baits. These lures can be used successfully in virtually any conditions which you face out on the ice.
When fishing in clear water, I usually go with Hot Perch, Green Perch, or UV Zombie Rattl’N Vibe Minis as the natural patterns are perfect for clear water situations. I pick these options because the lakes I fish generally have yellow perch as the primary forage species. However, if you are fishing in clear water where there are tullibees or shiners, using a metallic finish pattern like the Chrome Blue, Gold Black, or Black Silver can be top choices.
If you find yourself in a scenario where you intend to fish water that was really turned up and cloudy just prior to ice up, or you are fishing a more tannic stained lake, then going with UV Purple, Pink, or Blue Tiger can put you on some fish. The UV finish that these patterns have are perfect for fishing these dark or dirty water situations at any time of the day.
Locations and Timing:
The first place that I check for early ice walleyes is the last place that I caught them in the fall. Rocky points, inside turns, transitions to and on top of flats, or even along submerged weeds that are still holding their structure are quality places to look. The two prime times of the day from dawn to about 90 minutes after sun up and then an hour before dark until sunset are solid choices to consider in any of the locations listed above which are in 15’ of water or less. During the middle of the day it may be necessary to move out to 15’+ of water in order to stay with cruising feeders until they push back up shallow again before dark.
One of the great things about the Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe Minis is that it can be effectively fished in everywhere from 5-25’ of water. Generally, I use 6 lb Yo-Zuri Hybrid when fishing for early ice walleyes with Minis in less than 15’ of water. Then, when I start fishing out deeper during midday, I usually switch to my 4 lb test Yo-Zuri Hybrid rods as fish can be more finnicky and the lighter line allows for an even more deft touch when a fish takes the bait. Whether using 4 lb or 6 lb Hybrid, I always tie the line directly to the ring attached to the bait to ensure that I get the purest movement and rattle possible.
The Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe Minis are small in name only as they put a lot of eaters and big fish on the ice for me, and they can for you too! Stock your gear boxes with these lures along with Yo-Zuri Hybrid 4 lb and 6 lb test line during the holidays and you will be ready to catch more walleyes on early ice.