Icing walleye with the right rod

by Tim Allard | February 15, 2023
Fish On Ice With Rod

A quality, well-balanced, sensitive ice rod is a beautiful thing. It transmits jigging strokes efficiently, and provides the feel needed for staying in contact with the lure. Here are the four I use to get the job done for walleye.

The all-rounder: for inland lakes with average-sized walleye

Every angler needs a versatile, everyday rod. It should perform well for aggressive jigging, but provide a light touch for finessing bites.

A 28′′ to 36′′ medium-light rod is a good choice for 1 /8-to 5 /16-ounce lures, while a medium power is likely better for 1 /4- to 3/8-ounce baits. Take these suggestions with a grain of salt as power ratings vary between brands. For instance, Brand X’s medium-light may be similar to Brand Y’s medium.

The rod I often use is a 32″ Thorne Brothers Custom Perch Sweet Heart, paired with either 5-pound fluorocarbon or 8-pound braid with an 18′′ fluoro leader. Despite its perch moniker, this rod is one of the company’s most popular walleye sticks. It’s perfectly balanced for jigging a 1 /8-ounce spoon, but handles 1 /4 and 5 /16 ounces without issue.

This rod has a crisp, responsive tip, which in my experience is important. A flick of the wrist is all that’s needed to give a lure a sudden, erratic action to trigger a strike. Hard, aggressive shakes to make a rattling bait sing are no problem with this stick.

The heavy: for heavy lures and trophy-walleye waters.

I use two heavy ones. The first is a deceptively strong 34″, extra-fast custom rod with a solid graphite blank. It’s labeled medium, but it’s more like a medium-heavy. The other is a 38″ heavy, fast action rod. This rod is not a broomstick and is sneakily versatile thanks to its length and action.

Both perform flawlessly when jigging 3 /8- to 5 /8-ounce lures. Their long reach, action, and power ensure quality hook sets, and easily handle powerful head shakes and runs from big walleye. Both see constant action on the Bay of Quinte. They’d also get used on a return trip to Lake of the Woods where I’d expect run-ins with big pike and lake trout.

I pair my heavy rods with 15-and 20-pound braid and a 20″ fluorocarbon leader.

The minnow soaker: for dead-sticking

My recommending a 28″ to 36″ dead-stick rod is likely unsurprising. I often share the virtues of soaking a jig and minnow in the pages of OOD.
The dead-stick rod is an all-star for catching reluctant walleye during the mid-winter doldrums. Their soft tip and a moderate action telegraph a minnow’s action. The upper half of the rod should bend easily for bites so it’s hard for the fish to detect any pressure. Using 6-to 8-pound monofilament increases the set-up’s sponginess.
Things change in the bottom half of a dead-stick rod. Here, the blank provides ample backbone for wrestling walleye. The bottom half of my dead-stick rod is about a medium power.

Ice Fishing

The finesse stick: for sweet-talking hesitant walleye with small baits

For fussy fish, I go with a 26″ to 32″ light-powered rod spooled with 4-pound test fluorocarbon. The rod should balance well with 1 /8-ounce baits or lighter. This rod is great for lightly jigging, or swimming 2 and 2.5-inch tubes and plastic minnows on 1 /16-ounce jig heads -a deadly mid-winter, daytime strategy.

I use this one the least, but often carry it in case there’s the opportunity to catch walleye as well as crappie and perch. It’s no pushover though, I’ve unintentionally hooked and landed incidental double-digit lake trout with it.

Need a rod that isn’t complete crap? Start your search with these reliable brands:

Headshot of contributor Tim Allard

Tim Allard is a full-time freelance journalist and photographer based in Ottawa. He’s the author of the multi-award winning book Ice-Fishing: The Ultimate Guide.
Reach Tim at mail@oodmag.com

Originally published in the Jan.-Feb. 2022 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS

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