Back when I started fishing professionally over 30 years ago, walleye fishing was a little different. Yes, there were walleye way back then and no they did not swim with dinosaurs!
One of the presentations that routinely produced fish in those days was a technique known as “tipping” a wobbling plug. Tipping is the process of adding one or two inches of nightcrawler to either the belly or tail treble hook on a wobbling plug. Tipping presents a scent stream in the water and a little different action or look to the bait.
Talk about ole school, this Spring Frog FlatFish is not only an ole school bait it’s an ole school color choice as well. Mark, pictured here with this dandy walleye, on the other hand is just old!
Back in the day, tipping was hugely popular and yet today I can’t remember the last time I witnessed anyone else doing it. Strange how times and fishing tactics change over time.
CANDIDATES FOR TIPPING
Not all crankbaits are ideally suited to tipping. In part this is because hanging anything off the treble hook of a crankbait can seriously deaden the action. This is particularly true when dealing with lures like stickbaits that have a modest amount of action in the first place.
The best plugs for tipping tend to be high action wobblers like the iconic Yakima FlatFish, Heddon Tadpoly, Storm Hot n Tot and Wiggle Wart. All of these wobblers feature a pronounced side-to-side wobble that can handle a little “tipping” without seriously damaging the lure’s natural action. Other more modern wobblers that cry out for tipping include the Yakima Mag Lip, Luhr Jensen KwikFish and Brad’s Wiggler.
EASY DOES IT
The way fishermen think scares me sometimes. If tipping a crankbait with an inch of fresh nightcrawler works well, there are anglers out there who would say, “hell yes, let’s use the whole crawler”! The idea of tipping is to add an enticing scent stream in the water, without destroying the lure action in the process.
In this case a little goes long ways. Breaking a nightcrawler into three pieces is about the perfect “tipping” size for the wobbling crankbaits outlined in this blog.
USING WOBBLERS AS DIVERS
Another old school tactic for targeting walleye is to remove the hooks from a wobbling plug and use the plug as a diving device to get a crawler harness or trolling spoon to depth. High action wobblers work well for this chore because they have a steep “Dive Curve” and they are more than capable of towing other lures.
The most common set ups involves adding a 36 to 40 inch long nightcrawler harness to the back of a wobbling plug. A similar rig can be fashioned by using a 50 to 60 inch leader off the back of the plug with a small trolling spoon at the business end.
Some anglers might argue that there is no need to remove the treble hooks from the plug. My experience suggests that leaving the hooks on the plug leads to massive tangles in the landing net. Most of the fish are going to be caught on the trailing lure anyway, so removing the treble hooks from the plug helps to keep tangles to a minimum.
Back in the day, wobbling plugs like this ionic U-20 FlatFish were commonly used by tipping the treble hook with a small piece of nightcrawler to establish a scent stream in the water.
TWO LURE RIGS
For those anglers who insist on keeping the hooks on the plug, I’d suggest running a three-way swivel set up with the main line coming to one end of the swivel, a 36 to 40 inch leader trailing back to a spoon or spinner rig on the top swivel and a 12 to 24 inch dropper leader to the plug on the bottom swivel.
Two lure rigs are not legal in all states, so it pays to check with local regulations before putting this ole school rig into play.
BOTTOM BOUNCERS AND WOBBLERS
It was also popular in the day to combine using a bottom bouncer sinker with certain wobbling plugs. The goal here of course was to fish deeper than the lure was capable of naturally diving.
The Yakima Bait FlatFish was perhaps the most common choice because the FlatFish comes in so many sizes and color options. The other advantage of the FlatFish is this plug doesn’t dive very deep preventing it from dredging bottom and staging when fished with a bottom bouncer sinker or a three-way swivel rig. The F-7 FlatFish would be an ideal size for fishing in combination with a bottom bouncer sinker.
WRAPPING IT UP
Fishing tactics are constantly evolving, but that doesn’t mean that methods used decades ago will no longer work. On the contrary, some ole school walleye fishing methods are just as deadly today as they were back in the day. Throw back Thursday would be a good time to try out some of these oldies, but goodies.