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 KEY IS PRESENTATION
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.
SWIM BAIT MAGIC
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.
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.