A Lesson From Our Brothers In The North
By P.J. Pahygiannis
As bass anglers, we always have fish pecking at our lures. Fish like bluegill, crappie, and other panfish are known for how easy they irritate a bass angler or get him off game. For walleye anglers, bass serve as a nuisance in their fishing endeavors. Nevertheless, with every downside, there is an upside.
For walleye anglers, it requires skill and stealth to catch walleye. The biggest complaint heard from walleye anglers on bodies of water such as the Great Lakes is they are catching hundreds of smallmouth and not enough walleye. If a bass angler takes time to give an ear to how these walleye anglers are catching such high numbers of bass on baits like Chrome Storm Wiggle Warts, he may learn something new.
Walleye anglers often utilize techniques such as jigging and drop shotting. They are constantly plagued by smallmouth taking their precious leaches, and because of that, smallmouth have retained the name “rough fish” by walleye anglers. While some Northern walleye anglers strive to get away from these so-called nuisance fish, some realize that you cannot stop running into smallmouth while walleye fishing; you can only contain them. These anglers are doing what they always do, but to us bass anglers, what they’re doing is amazing.
Same areas, different habits
The fact walleye anglers are running into smallmouth should not be a surprise to anglers who know walleye relate to the bottom, and smallmouth suspend. One reason these anglers are running into smallmouth frequently is, as their baits drift down to the bottom-holding walleye, they must pass through hungry, suspended smallmouth. Because of this, the smallmouths have taken the place of the walleye when the walleye aren’t biting.
Most of the time that spot you pull up on to catch walleye will also hold some smallmouth. This makes it easy for any angler to pull up on one of their walleye spots and drop- shot an artificial leach or other lure attempting to catch walleye, but catching hundreds of smallmouth by accident.
Since walleye are finicky and selective about what lures they strike, it can be difficult to find the right lure to throw. One of the best lures to catch both walleye and smallmouth is a jig with a leech on it.
The differences and the similarities
“Walleye baits tend to have more subtle action to them and often times seem to better mimic live bait,” said Tyler Mohr of Lakeville, Minnesota who ice fishes in the winter and fishes the rest of the year for both bass and walleye. “Bass and walleye baits are similar often times and I really think bass don't differentiate between types of lures, it's just food. From my experience, I haven't found that bass will consistently school with walleye, although once in a while you will find the two species on the same piece of structure or in the same area.”
“I think the biggest difference between baits is the actions and the profiles,” noted Mohr. “Often times bass lures will have a more aggressive action and will be bulkier in profile than walleye lures. I believe because of their more subtle action, they can trigger bites from neutral or inactive fish in cold water.”
Mohr explained he has found he can throw a much brighter colored lure for bass than he does for walleye. Part of what he has found is a color that is close to the color of the forage the walleye are feeding on to help trigger a feeding response from walleye.
“I think bass are some of the most aggressive fish I've seen with taking lures,” explained the Minnesota angler. “Walleye have always struck me as a more finesse take. And I think that speaks to the retrieve as well, I've found that a more aggressive retrieve is better for bass than walleyes”
The Simple answer
“The simple answer is that walleye and bass are both predatory fish who live in similar areas and eat similar things,” explained Jason Karol of Rochester, NY. “Our lures, whether for bass or walleye, represent the forage that the fish eats. Walleye and bass don't know if the lure an angler is throwing is supposed to target one fish or the other, these fish just see the bait as food.”
“Now of course, walleye prefer some baits that bass do not, but in the larger picture both fish will eat similar baits,” explained Karol. “I have personally caught walleye pitching jigs in deep weed beds targeting smallmouth, and likewise have caught smallmouth on grubs while targeting walleye.”
Karol also noted that great lures that catch both types of fish include jigs, grubs, and even a Missile Baits Drop Craw on a drop shot. He also noted an angler should have a good pair of polarized shades to see rock piles and weed edges out in deeper water.
“#7 Flicker shads and #7 & #9 Shad Raps are 'eye’ lures that catch bass pretty regular. Casting or trolling. They don't cast so great because they are really meant to be more of a trolling lure but on a spinning rod or a Medium light casting rod they work well,” Brad Huston of Columbus, NE. A typical bass cranking setup can handle the #9 sizes well if you don't want to drop all the way down to the #7. Those Wally cranks shine in cold water or tough bite conditions.
“I also catch walleyes on bass lures. I've caught quite a few walleyes on drop shots and other finesse rigged soft plastic setups,” Huston noted. “I often catch smallmouth, largemouth, walleyes, pike, drum, rock bass, etc. off the same spots with the same lures. Until I get it to the boat I don't know what I have most of the time, unless it's a drum or a pike, they like to bend the rod. A jig head with a grub body or a minnow will catch about anything.”