Get the drop on Ontario walleye

Campbell Whetter nets a nice Lake of the Woods walleye that his brother Liam hooked on a drop-shot rig.

Learn how to drop-shot walleye



While Spring took its sweet time arriving across Northern Ontario this year, the walleyes did the same thing, lollygagging in the cold water; however, things have heated up wildly over the past few days.

As a matter of fact, the Northern Ontario walleye bite right now is. . .ouch. . .scorching hot.

For the most part, anglers are finding the fish in post-spawn conditions and locations, and given the rapidly rising water temperatures, the fish are greedily feeding to regain the lost weight. It's all making for ideal shallow water fishing conditions.

How wonderful, you ask?

Lake of the Woods walleyeCampbell Whetter nets a nice Lake of the Woods walleye that his brother Liam hooked on a drop-shot rig. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Get this: fishing with my son-in-law and two young grandsons on Saturday, we landed 30 walleyes, a giant sauger, a 4-pound plus smallmouth bass and a muskie in the first 60 minutes upon arriving at our Northwestern Ontario honey hole. As a matter of fact, the boys hauled the first three walleyes into the boat before I even had rigged all of the rods. And the fish kept biting like this throughout the remainder of the day.

I have no idea what the final tally was at the end of the afternoon, but we released all the larger walleyes -- as well as the bass and muskie that are out of season -- keeping 10 small "eaters" for dinner.

But, here is the key to our success. We caught the vast majority of walleyes drop-shotting.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Isn't drop-shotting a bass technique?

Well, "no", it isn't.

Lake of the Woods (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

As a matter of fact, the technique was originally developed by saltwater anglers along the Atlantic seaboard, as a way to keep their live baits and cuts baits up, off the bottom and away from bait-stealing crabs.

Some clever Japanese anglers, then, took the technique and refined it for freshwater situations, using spinning gear, light lines and sharp, thin, wire hooks.

And while there is no question that the bass fishing community was the first to embrace drop-shotting -- okay, they gone gaga over it -- that doesn't mean it must solely remain a bass fishing technique. In fact, a savvy bunch of walleye anglers have been drop-shotting for years now and have been enjoying phenomenal success.

If you've never drop-shotted for walleyes before, it is deadly simple. In a nutshell, you simply swap the normal positions for your hook and sinker.

Here is how to do it.

walleye Liam Whetter hooked this nice Lake of the Woods walleye using a drop-shot rig tipped with a scented soft plastic minnow. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Start with a sharp, short shank, wire hook, my favourite being a #2, #4 or #6 Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap hook. Take your 6- to 8-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon main line (or leader if you're using a braid) and put the line through the eye of the hook, always remembering to go into the eye from the hook point side first. Now, pass the line back through the eye of the hook so you can tie a Palomar knot.

The Palomar is by far the simplest knot to use as it offers superb strength and a tiny knot. (By the way, if you don't know how to tie a Palomar, Google it up and watch a demonstration on YouTube. It is simple to learn.)

Here is another key. Always give yourself lots of tag end to work with when you're tying the knot because once you've fashioned it, you want to pass the tag end back through the eye of the hook and pull it snugly. When you do that, the hook will "stand out" perpendicular to your mainline.

If this all sounds a little complicated, trust me, it is not, but if you really want to make it a "no brainer", you're in luck. The good folks at Stringease Tackle and VMC hooks have both recently come out with fully assembled Zero-Twist and No-Spin drop-shot hooks, so all you need to do is tie one onto your mainline, using your favourite knot, and you're all set to catch walleye.

sunset country walleye Drop-shotting is a deadly technique for smallmouth bass such as this beauty that Liam Whetter caught on the weekend fishing in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. (Gord Pyzer)

I know, why didn't I just say that at the start!

Either way, you want at least a foot of line hanging below your hook, the precise length depending on the depth you can see the walleyes hovering above the bottom on your sonar screen. Ten to twelve inches is a good starting length if you're not quite sure.

Now, attach a tungsten drop-shot weight -- the best are made by southern Ontario's Ultra Tungsten -- to the end of your line. The amount of weight you'll need to use, of course, will depend on the depth you're fishing, but 1/4-ounce was perfect on the weekend when we fishing in 18- to 24-feet of water.

Drop-shotting is a deadly technique for smallmouth bass Drop-shotting is a deadly technique for smallmouth bass such as this beauty that Liam Whetter caught on the weekend fishing in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Now, all that remains is to bait your hook and present it to the walleyes. Minnows are usually the ticket when the water is cold, as it is right now, but don't underestimate leeches and crawlers. More importantly, we used 3- to 5-inch GULP! and Trigger X scented soft plastic minnows on the weekend and the walleyes gobbled them faster than we could drop them down. Another advantage of using scented soft plastics is that you don't have baby live bait all day, so you can spend more time fishing and less time baiting your hooks.

Oh, yes, one last key bit of information if you've never drop-shotted before for walleyes. You always want to rest the weight smack dab on the bottom. Remember, you've positioned your hook above the sinker so it is in front of the fishes' faces. And keep a tight or at least a taunt line directly down so you can feel a walleye hit.

Although, on the weekend, the fish were still lethargic enough that they didn't smack the bait. Rather, you'd feel weight on the end of your line, lift it up smartly, drive the needle sharp hook into the fish's mouth and raise another Northern Ontario toad walleye into the boat.

boy holding walleye Try drop-shotting for walleyes the next time you fish in Ontario and you'll wind up hooking plenty of fish like this one caught by Liam Whetter. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

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