Vexilar equipment

Good electronics are a key component to catching more fish through the ice. Having an arsenal of tools in your tool belt when that big red mark appears and is reluctant to eat will up your catch.

“Man, we are seeing a lot of fish coming through on the electronics, but they are just not eating”

If you have spent time ice fishing walleyes, there is a good chance this has happened to you. The fish may not be eating, but the question is, can we get them to bite.

There are definitely ways to increase your catch. Adding these techniques to your “walleye tool belt” will certainly put more fish on the ice.


1. Consistent Starting Point

Jig, jig and let it sit in the strike zone. Jig, jig, jig and let it sit in the strike zone. This technique catches thousands of walleyes. Yet, there are times when the walleyes and saugers seem a bit unresponsive. What then?  That’s when it is time to mix it up.

2. Rattataptap

When you see that fish come in and it isn’t whacking ya, try shaking your rod tip as fast as you can. I also take and tap my fingers on the butt of my rod as fast as I can sending vibrations down to the lure. This often induces solid “tap” or that extra weight of an eye or sauger.

3. Thrill of the Chase

When a walleye is watching your lure, but not hitting it, try jigging the lure while raising your lure higher and higher in the water column. This emulates the prey trying to get away. When that fish is following up, don’t slow down!  Keep the lure rising just ahead of the chasing fish. Either that fish will fly up, close the gap and hit your lure, or, that fish will come off the bottom a bit and go back down. When it goes back down, try teasing them up again or try another strike inducing technique. A tip, use your reel to raise your lure in the water column vs. your arms. If you use you raise your arms to raise the bait, there is nothing left to set the hook when the walleye hits and pushes your lure up.

4. Pound the Bottom

Man stands outside ice shack holding large walleye

Another successful technique to not only get fish to bite but also to attract fish is pound the bottom with your lure and lift off slowly. This will not only give off vibrations in the water, but also stirs up the mud or sand representing some living creature the walleye are often used to eating. Be ready when you lift off the bottom as if there is any extra weight, set the hook. Sometimes the walleyes will grab on subtly and it takes a good stick to detect.

5. Rip ‘Em

When fish seem sluggish, I often go against the grain and rip a Cicada or other type of vibrating blade lure. This aggressive 3 foot jigging motion gets that blade bait vibrating and even when things are slow, one of two things will happen. Either out of nowhere, a bright red line (fish) will appear on the electronics. This fish is hot and all I need to do is put my lure in front of the fish, jiggle it and most of the time that fish nails it. The other scenario is the erratic vibration will pull the fish in and they will end up swimming over to my dead stick and the bobber goes down. Either way I win. My favorite color on Lake of the Woods is gold with dark green tape. I also like the smaller sizes.

6. Go Micro

When fishing gets tough and I cannot figure the fish out, one technique that has helped me fill the bucket is going small. Often times I will take a very small panfish sized Swedish Pimple type lure and add a wax worm to it. I will work this close to the bottom and have actually done very well when others can’t touch them. I know one friend who actually keeps some freeze dried wax worms in his arsenal in the event he has to turn to this unexpectedly. On many occasions, this turned out to be the ticket.

7. Work the Combo

Jigging a lure with live bait of some type has typically produced the majority of walleyes for me. I will say that some days, the dead sticks or bobber lines will out produce. Under a dead stick I either like a gold or glow jig type lure with a live minnow, or a plain hook with split shot set above it with a live minnow.

8. Simple Jigging

I know some great ice anglers on Lake of the Woods who will always have one line rigged with a jig. They either hook the minnow through the head or thread the hook through the mouth, out the gill and through the mid section of the body (for a better percentage of hook sets). No bobber is used. Often, after jigging, the rod is set on the top of a 5 gallon pail so the rod tip is in good view. Often times, the tip of the rod will go down just a bit. Set the hook. A few times of watching this technique out produce a jigging spoon got my attention.

9. Tipping Lures with Bait

Hand pulls walleye out of ice hole

I normally tip my jigging lures with a minnow head or the tail section of a minnow. Frozen shiners, fatheads and crappie minnows are staples for me. I like the way the fatheads and crappie minnows stay on the hooks when I am jigging. I like the scales and smell of the frozen shiners, but am careful to hook the piece of minnow in a spot that will hold as they are more fragile and will come off easier. With the frozen shiners, pinching them off behind the gills and carefully hooking the shiner head without creating too big of a hole so the bait falls off is the key. I also use the tail section,as hooking through the backbone of the minnow is very secure and has good flash.

10. Change it Up! 

The bottom line, when you know there are fish below you and they are not biting, do something different. First, try different presentation methods with the same lure. Next, switch colors or sizes. Finally, change the lure.


Article and Photo Credits: Joe Henry


About The Author

Joe Henry

As a long time guide, licensed charter captain, and tournament angler, Joe Henry has made fishing a part of his everyday life. Joe “cut his teeth” on MN lakes and rivers and has guided and fished walleyes throughout the nation. Joe’s home water is now Lake of the Woods, which he has fished for over 25 years. Professionally, Joe is an outdoor communicator and a media member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). His professional background combined with his many fishing credentials lead him to his current role, Executive Director of Tourism for Lake of the Woods.