Soft Plastic & Spring Walleye Tips


Throughout the entire open water season, I use soft plastics probably 90% of the time.

I still do a little bit of guiding here and there and often get some “meat” for my guests to use, especially if they are not experienced anglers or if we’re faced with tough cold front conditions.


The deal with plastic is it catches fish just fine, but you need to fish it differently than you do with bait.  Most anglers probably don’t give it a fair crack, especially if they have used live minnows their whole life, so my advice on when to start using plastic is when you’re fishing an area that has biting fish.  Once you get a few bites on plastic and catch a few fish, your confidence will sky-rocket and you’ll have a new deal to add to your repertoire.


I typically use a couple of different plastic types of baits when I’m looking for walleye.  A small swimbait that I can cast and cover water with, like the 3″ Z-Man SwimmerZ, rigged up on a 1/4 oz jig.  If I’m fishing some shoreline or shallower coves earlier in the season and I’m casting, this is the bait I’m going to use.  Literally caught hundreds of walleyes on this bait last year.


Second, I’m a big fan of smaller, straight tailed minnow imitating baits for dropping down to fish I see on my electronics or for snap-jigging around green weeds.  I fish these baits with short, quick hops, typically moving the bait one to two feet at a time.  The big difference with using plastic versus using live bait is that you need to fish the bait slightly more aggressively to avoid letting walleyes “inspect” the bait, so keep it moving and that will trigger fish to strike.  Finally, plenty of walleyes stay shallow throughout the spring and summer on many of our lakes in central Canada and the key is finding green cabbage and coontail.

Split tail with some flash

Plastic is much better than live bait for fishing around this stuff because you can “snap” the bait off the weeds and not get your bait all clogged up. This also will trigger strikes from fish. Give these baits a try this season.

Read Part 1 on the evolution of soft plastics here.


About Author

Jeff Gustafson, known in the fishing world as "Gussy", grew up on the shores of Lake of the Woods in Kenora, Ontario. He took out his first guide trip at age 14 on Lake of the Woods and has made his living in the fishing/outdoor industry ever since. A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Gussy has always been self-employed as a fishing guide, outdoor writer and photographer as well as fishing promoter. Today his fishes the Bassmaster Elite Pro bass circuit and as many local bass tournaments as he can find the time to enter. You can find him online through his website at

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