Veteran guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl shares his system for more walleyes
Since 2001 when Kim “Chief” Papineau first won big on the Detroit River with a Jigging Rap—followed by subsequent refinement by the Lindners and other pros/guides—glide baits have put countless fish into livewells across the Walleye Belt.
Now, in 2023, there are easily a dozen different glide baits on the market, if not more. You’ve got the original Jiggin’ Rap (still Rapala’s highest selling lure); CLAM’s Tikka Minnow; a few different baits from Acme; Custom Jigs & Spins’ RPM Minnow; and the list goes on.
In Minnesota—next to the venerable Jiggin’ Rap—both the CLAM Tikka Minnow and Northland Fishing Tackle Puppet Minnow are also used by a lot of walleye anglers. And now, new for 2023-24, Northland has introduced a new version of the Puppet Minnow without a nose-hook, aptly-named the Pitchin’ Puppet.
To get the scoop on the why, when, and where of fishing this new glide bait, we talked to year-in-advance completely booked Northern Minneseota fishing guide, Brian “Bro” Brosdahl.
VA: We noticed there are three sizes of the new Pitchin’ Puppet. Why, when, and where are you using each size?
Bro: Yep, there are three different sizes: 2-inch, 5/16 ouncer; the 2 3/8-inch, 5/8 ouncer; and the big momma, which is a hefty 1-ounce and girthy 2 ¾ inches.
Probably 80% of the time I’m fishing the 2-inch, 5/16 ouncer, which really excels in about 12 feet or less. You can left it above the weeds and let it crash down into pockets. It’s also good for areas with intermittent weeds and shallower stuff. Don’t let the smaller profile fool you; it’ll catch plenty of big walleyes.
I will stop up to the 5/8-ouncer if I’m pitching sandbars, basins or edges. And in deep water I’ll even break out the big honker. Both work for casting shallower and working deeper, subtly working the bottom on the retrieve. What’s where not having a nosehook is really handy. You just don’t get snagged.
A lot of our lakes also have big flats and you can mark the fish and then pitch these two larger sizes at them and get down to the mark quickly before the fish swim away.
If I’m fishing deeper flats in the 20s to 30s, the 1-ouncer is perfect. If I’m working the edges and breaks in the 10 to 20 foot range, then I’ll use the 5/8-ouncer. But I’m fishing a lot shallower each year so the lightest one gets the most workout in my backyard.
VA: What type of cadence are you using with the Pitchin’ Puppet?
First off, I don’t rip it. I kind of gently hop it and let it fall back down. Sometimes when you go to hop it again there will be a fish on it that’s grabbed it on the drop or sucked it in off the bottom. Bigger walleyes definitely inhale it.
Remember: fishing a glide bait is not about keeping the bait away from the fish. What catches the most fish for me are little, sharp hops.
I see anglers all the time fishing glide baits like terrorists. They overwork them, thinking they have to rip the snot of ‘em. All they’re doing is scaring the walleyes away in a lot of situations.
I call it “hate fishing.” If I see guys working a bar, point, hump, or island like that, I don’t even bother fishing it because they’ve most likely driven the fish away. It’s like they’re thinking about the Vikings and working their frustration out on the bait. That’s a bad deal that just doesn’t usually catch fish like working the bait with short, subtle snaps and pops.
VA: Do you ever fish a glide bait slowly behind the boat on a slow forward troll?
Absolutely. I call it “taking the dog for walk”. The 1-ouncer is perfect for that because you can cover depth and increase your speed a little bit to cover water.
VA: How do you like to fish glide baits in a river situation?
On rivers like the Mississippi I’ll definitely use short but sharp 6-inch hops. Because the water’s typically stained I don’t use as many pauses as I would on a clear natural lake. I’ll keep it hopping because river walleyes are feed more on feel than sight. Their lateral needs to be able to pick up the presence of that bait. In sandy and rocky areas I’ll also make sure I’m deliberately hitting bottom to make some ruckus and attract those fish. It’s like trolling cranks in the river—you always catch more walleyes when your baits are digging into the bottom occasionally.
VA: What are your glide bait confidence colors?
As a guide, I always start each day with the color that worked the day before. And I tie a different colored bait on each one of my clients’ rods and we kind of go from there.
But my mainstays up here in Northern Minnesota are natural perch, blue racecar, and silver racecar. Those three colors are all I really need, maybe a bright one thrown in for good measure, because sometimes walleyes do want something offensive. Like the Northland color called Sneeze—a chartreuse base with multi-colored spots. I’ve caught a lot of fish on that pattern. Wonderbread, too. Clients like that color and are willing to keep it in the water longer, which means more fish caught. For whatever reason, Wonderbread gives a lot of anglers confidence—and it does produce.
VA: So the standout feature of the Pitchin’ Puppet is its lack of a nose hook, so you don’t have to clip the front hook off it, like a lot anglers will do with other glide baits. Besides not snagging up as often, what are the other benefits of no nose hook?
As you mentioned, the big thing is avoiding snags when working a glide bait on the cast. My backyard lakes have a lot of logs covered with zebra mussels which seem to snag up most glide baits.
It’s also more weedless so you can work through vegetation easier—either over it, into pockets, or through sparse stuff. It’s also not as prone to pick up filamentous algae, which we have in a lot of walleye-holding locations.
It also seems like you can hop or double-hop it easier and more smoothly, and make it change directions, then have it crash and walleyes will literally pin it to the bottom and then suck it in.
Lastly, not having a front hook makes netting and unhooking fish way easier. Have any idea how many times I’ve had the front hook of a glide bait like a Puppet Minnow or Jigging Rap stuck in my hand? Too many times to count.
VA: Do you use a snap clip, use a loop know, or tie direct?
Bro: I’ll use a little snap. But if I don’t have one available—or if I go with the 1-ouncer—I will use both a loop knot and a heavier fluorocarbon leader. The heavier fluoro accomplishes two things: first, it keeps pike or some sharp zebra mussels from cutting you off; and second, the stiffer, heavier fluoro doesn’t tangle into the bait as much. 16-pound Sunline Assassin fluorocarbon has 10-pound diameter, so it’s a no-brainer.
VA: Do you ever fish glide baits vertically?
Bro: There are three instances where I’ll fish the Pitchin’ Puppet vertically: 1) If I’m marking fish below the boat over a deep basin; 2) In fast current on a river; and lasty, 3) Through the ice in winter. There are a lot of places like the Devils Lake, Lake of the Woods, Canadian Waters, and lots of river situations where walleyes do want a bigger profile and you can get away with sitting on top of them because you’re in deeper or river current with limited visibility. You can also get away with it in the wind, too.