Recent years have witnessed explosive growth in our understanding of the hardwater walleye. As more anglers tread familiar and exotic walleye waters, our repertoire of productive techniques for everyone’s favorite Perciformes has expanded rapidly. Gone are the days when we were limited to set lines dangling sucker minnows along weedlines, hoping for a random bite or two as the sun tucked behind the trees. The most successful walleye anglers have adopted a power fishing approach, running-and-gunning with big baits and aggressive presentations; a mobile mindset that has been rewarded with more and bigger fish.
Ground Zero for this hardwater walleye revolution is the lipless rattlebait. A mainstay of open water anglers throughout North America, the lipless rattlebait is just as deadly when presented through an eight-inch hole. Wait, better make that a ten-inch hole, because when you fish lipless rattlebaits to their full potential, you’ll need that extra space.
There is no better way to shorten the learning curve on a new technique than to pick the brain of an expert. North Dakota-based angler Chad Maloy, past president of Fargo-Moorhead Walleyes Unlimited and a veteran of the Masters Walleye Circuit, is a lipless rattlebait specialist, bringing trophy walleyes topside using ice fishing’s hottest presentation on both sides of the international border. We asked Chad to help direct budding rattlebait warriors along the path to success, and he did much more: Chad provided a veritable roadmap that is guaranteed to help you catch your first lipless rattlebait walleye this season.
Maloy is a big believer in LIVETARGET lipless rattlebaits, which he fishes throughout the hardwater season. “I use LIVETARGET lipless rattlebaits all season long. They do an awesome job of locating and attracting the most active fish in an area, and turning those fish into biters.
“First of all, LIVETARGET rattlebaits have an infinite dive curve. They can literally be fished from shallow water, less than a foot deep, to the deepest section of the lake. That allows me to target walleyes with lipless rattlebaits all season long, and at all hours of the day.”
What is the most effective way to present the lipless rattlebait through the ice? Maloy continues, “I start out dropping the lure to the bottom. There have been times when it never gets there because it’s intercepted. If that doesn’t happen, I give it a few very long and aggressive rips to the lure, which sends out a shock wave of sound and vibration.”
That shock wave, easily audible to anglers on the ice, originates from LIVETARGET’s unsurpassed internal rattle system. “What I have witnessed over the years, landing giant walleyes from Devil’s Lake in North Dakota to greenbacks from Lake Winnipeg, is that the rattles in LIVETARGET rattlebaits are unlike any other. They have a special, effective sound that others don’t…and it’s killer!”
Let’s get back to that hole in the ice. Once Maloy rips his LIVETARGET rattlebait to call fish in, he starts paying close attention to his electronics, watching for, “any blip in the water column. It’s not uncommon for larger fish to be anywhere from bottom to 3 feet below the ice. I see a promising mark, I bring my lure right above the fish and try to seal the deal with one of three different moves. First, I get the lure to shake, activating the rattles without making large vertical moves. Alternately, I imitate a fleeing baitfish by giving the bait shorter rips. My ace-in-the-hole is to slowly lift the lure an inch or so, then drop the rod tip quickly to throw slack in the line. This makes the lure freefall, turn on its side, and rattle. All that’s left to do is set the hook and enjoy the ride!”
(Grab a pen and notepad, because what Maloy just said is mission critical. Let that rattlebait fall with zero resistance to maximize the flutter. With even a touch of tension on the line, the shimmy is marginalized, even negated.)
Setting up shop over the biggest, most aggressive walleyes on your favorite frozen lake is no time to break out the whippy noodle rods, either. Thirty to thirty-six-inch rods with a medium to medium-heavy power rating are preferred. Consider the St. Croix Mojo Ice (MIR36MH) while hole-hopping, or the Frabill Bro Series 30” Large Walleye/Pike Combo for fish house operations where lateral space is limited.
When it comes to line, a stout braided line like 10 lb. test Seaguar Smackdown, tipped with a leader of 15 lb. test Seaguar Blue Label 100% fluorocarbon, will bring lipless rattlebait walleyes topside. Rather than joining the braided main line to the fluorocarbon leader with a typical Double Uni or Alberto knot, use a small swivel instead, which will further reduce line twist with the added benefit of being easier to tie in bone-chilling winter walleye weather.
Back to the baits… “I normally carry two sizes of LIVETARGET rattlebaits, size 70 and size 60,” said Maloy. “If we have had a severe cold front I will use the smaller size 60, and if the fish are on the chew, I use the larger size 70. During the later part if the ice season, when the fish are very aggressive in advance of the spawn, I will also start with size 70.
“The first lure I rig is a LIVETARGET silver/blue Golden Shiner Rattlebait. I would guess this lure has put more Manitoba Master Angler walleyes on the ice for me than any other lure. The size and shape of the lure will match the hatch of several baitfish, including shad, but certainly is a dead ringer for a golden shiner minnow. The paint and finish are extremely realistic, and the lure produces lots of flash and contrast. And did I mention the sound? The rattle output is deadly, and unmatched by anything else on the market.”
“My second choice is the LIVETARGET Yearling Rattlebait 65. The Yearling Rattlebait mimics the appearance of a baitball of minnows, but with the action and sound of a rattlebait. An equally productive alternative is the LIVETARGET Sunfish Rattlebait. Its three sizes bracket perfectly around the sizes of the Golden Shiner. These three baits: the LIVETARGET Golden Shiner, Yearling, and Sunfish Rattlebait have produced the biggest hardwater walleyes of my life.”
While LIVETARGET baits are widely recognized as having the most anatomically accurate, 3-dimensional designs and incredibly detailed, lifelike finishes, there are times when a hint of other-worldly glow will help to close the deal. Maloy remarks, “When water clarity is low due to sediment or tannic stain, I turn to the four glow colors in the Golden Shiner family. Unlike most hyper-bright glow lures, these LIVETARGET patterns offer a subtle hint of glow, and have been excellent the past two seasons.”
Welcome to the future of hardwater walleye angling, produced by a decade of refinements in baits, tackle and presentations. Fold the family of LIVETARGET lipless rattlebaits into your walleye repertoire this winter, and let the good times roll…and rattle!