Drop-shotting tricks for winter walleye

by Yannick Loranger | February 10, 2014

winter walleye - Photos: Yannick Loranger

Known for its ability to pluck smallmouth bass from the depths of open water, drop-shotting can be very effective and versatile for ice fishing as well.

On a deadstick or subtly jigged, drop-shot rigs and walleye go hand-in-hand. However, some minor adjustments to your soft water drop-shotting techniques will go a long way in getting trophy marble eyes on the topside of the ice.

Easy on, easy off
Tying uni-knots with frozen fingers or in windy conditions can be a nightmare, and unless you want to keep combos dedicated to drop-shotting all season, tie your drop-shot rigs in the comfort of your living room.

Mono or fluorocarbon line will do. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible and offers better hook-sets, but its stiffness limits bait movement. Mono will stretch on the hook-set, but is limp to allow for a more freely swimming minnow.

I’ve had success on both.

Use a small barrel swivel, a No.10 or 12 is best, at the top end of the rig to make switching on ice as easy as opening and closing a snap.

Keep rigs in individual plastic sandwich bags to keep things organized in your tackle bag.

Adjustable weights
Drop-shotting big minnows on a deadstick has put more trophy walleye on the ice for me than anything else.

winter walleye - Seen here are the SMART DS 90 dropshot hook (top) and the Stand-Out dropshot hook. Both are author favourites

Seen here are the SMART DS 90 dropshot hook (top) and the Stand-Out dropshot hook. Both are author favourites

A large minnow can easily stay out of the strike zone if not enough weight is holding it down, but too much weight hinders the bait’s movement. Being able to keep a large minnow near the bottom and mobile is key when it comes to enticing big walleye. For that reason, I tie an overhand knot anywhere from 6 to 18 inches from the bottom of the rig, and clamp on a large split shot just above the knot. Doing this allows me to adjust the weight of the rig in small increments.

Since drop-shotting on ice is a vertical affair, less weight is generally necessary than when dragging a rig for bass in the summer. Using split shots is also more cost efficient than using specialized drop-shot weights.

Hooks and setting
I’ve experimented extensively with different hooks for drop-shotting, and, regardless of what hook I use, 2 things remain unchanged.

The first is that there’s no need to rush to set the hook. With large baits being nose hooked, the fish seem to need more time than usual to get the hook in their mouth.

The second is once you do get a fish on, set the hook hard. I will stand up, hold the rod low, reel in slack, and sweep upwards as hard as I can.

Two models of hooks that have proven to get more bites, and hook more fish for me are the Stand-Out drop-shot hook and the SMART DS 90 by Ottawa-based manufacturer Canada Drop Shot. Both ensure a perfectly horizontal hook and tend to keep live bait hooked for longer periods of time.

On deadsticks or jigged, in 6 feet of water or 36 feet, drop-shotting has a place on the hard water. Lip hook a pike minnow, set the hook hard, and make room on the wall for a trophy walleye.

– Photos: Yannick Loranger

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