A lot of people don’t know it, but tournament walleye pro Korey Sprengel spends good deal of time chasing both largemouths and smallies, which, he says, has taught him a lot about walleyes.
“One of the cool things about fishing smallmouths up in Door County and Sturgeon Bay is I’m drop-shotting a lot of the time. As long as I’ve been doing it I’ve caught loads of walleyes fishing the same method and the same spots,” says Sprengel.
“Of course, as soon as I discovered this, like a lot of other smart walleye anglers out there, I started fishing the finesse bass rig for walleyes, too.”
Along the way, Sprengel has experimented with a bunch of different drop-shot baits and his personal experience is walleyes definitely key into certain shapes, sizes, and bait types.
“Seems like walleyes are attracted to the Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm and Flatnose Minnow. With the Flat Worm, I use a tan-colored bait; and in the Minnow I use the smelt pattern. From early season all through June, I’m catching a lot of walleyes mixed in with smallies on those two baits. There’s definitely something about MaxScent that walleyes and smallmouths love. Obviously, they have the scent worked out, but I think there’s also something to the matte finish and material itself, too”
Drop-Shotting Under Pressure
Besides catching random walleyes bass fishing, Sprengel has also had a lot of success actually targeting walleyes with drop-shots during national tournaments.
“I’ve cashed checks drop-shotting on the walleye trail. Specifically, I’ve fished a drop-shot the past couple of years on the Missouri River at Chamberlain and it’s put lots of fish in the boat for me,” notes Sprengel.
“For example, on the Missouri River, I used Lowrance SideScan to see how the walleyes were situated on the sand flats. There’s a lot of current so you can’t really use forward-facing sonar as much because of how you have to position your boat to sweep the bait. So I was using SideScan and then pitching the drop-shot into the current to pass through the fish. It allowed me to suspend my bait off the bottom and get the neutral to negative fish to bite when a traditional jig and plastic or live bait was hard to control,” describes Sprengel.
Sprengel continues: “Instead of pitching a jig where you’re constantly trying to lift it off the bottom in current situations—and keep it drifting back with the current—I’ve turned to a drop-shot. Basically, when it hits the bottom it stays there or only moves slightly with nudges of the rod tip. If you want to position your bait 4- to 8-inches off the bottom you can do that—and work things a lot slower which often gets the bites.”
Easier Bites For Newbies
Sprengel says drop-shotting also translates to easier fishing for anglers who have a hard time feeling bottom with a traditional jig and meat or soft plastic.
“You can have a less-experienced anglers fish a drop shot and stay right in the zone above bottom. But you need a clean bottom. Too many rocks and you’ll get snagged. But it works excellent, especially with newbie anglers,” continues Sprengel.
And if the situation calls for it—like during early season—Sprengel will fish live bait via a drop-shot—typically some kind of minnow, which also ups the percentage for less experienced anglers.
“I always have a drop shot rod on deck because when you’re pitching a jig it’s not always off the bottom where walleyes can eat it. With a drop-shot, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got on a minnow or a soft plastic, the bait just stays in front of their faces longer. Especially with less experienced anglers, it’s just a great way to keep baits in the zone and get bit.”
Sprengel’s Rod, Reel, & Line Set-Up
“For drop-shotting walleyes, I like a 7’ medium-power rod with an extra-fast tip like the Abu Garcia Fantasista X. And I go with a little bit thinner line like 6-pound FireLine to cut through the water and provide more sensitivity. Then I’ll use a 6- to 10-lb fluoro leader, which can vary depending on how far you want to be off the bottom,” divulges Sprengel.
An Interesting Hook Choice
While a lot of walleye anglers experimenting with drop-shotting are using octopus-style hooks with built-in swivels or line-clips, Sprengel’s a fan of the old-fashioned Aberdeen-style hook.
“As far as hooks, I use a #1 or #2 Fusion 19 Aberdeen straight-shank hook to get the bait out a bit farther from the main drop-shot leader. Then I’ll thread my bait on fully rather than just nose hook it. Threading the bait completely on the hook gets it to stand up more, which leads to a much better hooking percentage than just nose hooking,” instructs Sprengel.
Looking to add some refined finesse to your walleye game? Take a page out of winning walleye tournament angler Corey Sprengel’s playbook and up your walleye drop-game! Also consider rigging up a couple rods for friends—and kids—not necessarily as experienced with walleye fishing ways!