The calendar has flipped into March, and in the Green Bay area, this can only mean one thing: the Fox River is beginning to open, and with that, open-water fishing is beginning for the year. Early spring can be a great time to target fish as they haven't been as pressured by anglers the last few months and can be particularly aggressive, yet at times, we can find ourselves in situations where Walleyes are lethargic and negative. My name is Trevor Gantz, and I am part of the Piscifun Pro Team and an avid Walleye Tournament Angler. In this article, we will discuss my Top 3 lure choices and how to fish them to increase your chances for a successful outing. 

Hair Jig: The First Walleye Lures

With the ice just coming off in the last few weeks, we are going to be in heavy pre-spawn conditions with water temps in the low to high 30s. With these conditions, finesse presentations are key to putting lethargic fish in the boat. My number one bait of choice on any river system is going to be a hair jig. These baits are effective since they can be fished slowly yet give off the action needed to trigger a cold water Walleye into eating. A slow "snap" motion or a simple reel handle crank is all needed when working these baits back to the boat. When this is executed properly, the bait will snap up in the water column and slowly fall; when it hits the bottom, the hair will "poof" out, which is an inciting action to any cold water Walleye. 

Some of my favorite colors anywhere on the Great Lakes, but particularly in Green Bay on the Fox River, include oranges, golds, and, of course, anything with purple is always a staple. Sizes can range from ¼ up to ½ oz jigs depending on current wind conditions and the depth of water being fished. Don't forget a stinger hook to increase your chances of hooking fish that may not want to commit fully! A hair jig allows an angler to offer a presentation to any cold water Walleye like no other and do a great job of imitating a variety of forage, making them a fantastic cold water presentation. 

Blade Bait: The Second Walleye Lures

My second lure of choice will be a blade bait. These baits are a river staple and have gained popularity over the last few years, especially for early-season Walleye. Blades are especially deadly in cold water applications due to the subtle vibrations they give off when worked slowly, allowing fish to find your bait and react when they may not be in the mood to chase more aggressive presentations. A short, subtle "snap" motion is needed to present these baits, just enough to feel the vibration in the butt of your rod. The key is to not overwork these baits, and with that, you will need a quality rod selection. I prefer a 7-foot medium-light with a fast tip. This allows the bait not to be overworked yet still have the backbone to fight any sized Walleye you could potentially encounter. 


Sizes here can also range from ¼ to ½ oz, depending on conditions. Ideal blades are manufactured with quality paint jobs that can handle the abuse of being worked over structures and the mouths of aggressive fish. Colors are similar to a hair jig, with golds and purples being dominant over other options, but I recommend experimenting on the water! Consider stocking a few blade baits in your arsenal if you are looking for a deadly tactic to coax any cold-water Walleye.

Jig and Plastic: The Basic and Popular Springtime River Setups

Finally, my last bait of choice is a jig and plastic, one of the most basic and popular springtime river setups, yet there is so much more to this presentation that many people need to consider. I like to think of plastics a lot as a crankbait, where if your plastic is not rigged properly, just like a crankbait it will not run true and decrease your chances for success. When threading plastic on a jig, you will want to be sure the plastic is rigged straight and even on the hook shank. This will allow for your presentation to be tuned and be presented properly increasing your chances for success. When fishing rivers, I tend to lean to current cutter jig styles as this allows for less drag and more action on the plastic. For the meat and potatoes, I don't shy away from any particular style of plastic. Ringworms, fluke or split tail minnow, and paddle tails can all be fantastic options. On sunny days, I tend to lean toward the natural colors, with oyster shells being my top choice. When it's cloudy, or there is some stain to the water, I will trend to brighter colors, with chartreuse and orange being my number one choices. 

The fisherman smiles and holds the walleye caught in early spring.

Plastics can be worked a lot like the first two lure options, with a slow "snap" motion being the most common. Also, these baits can be dragged slowly, which is a good tactic, especially early in the season or during a cold front situation, to keep the plastic in the strike zone 100% of the time. When rigged and presented properly, plastics can be a fantastic option to increase your success for cold water Walleyes.

Reel Choice: Piscifun Carbon X 2000

With all these presentations, my reel of choice is a Piscifun Carbon X 2000. An all-carbon fiber body makes this reel super lightweight, reducing fatigue on your wrists and arms. This allows you to fish all day, knowing your ability to present baits to early-season fish won't be compromised due to an oversized setup. Your drag system is also super important, especially when lethargic fish barely eat. A buttery smooth drag is needed for these fish, and the ten ball bearings in this reel are a perfect complement to ensure you have the best chance at landing any fish that bites. Lastly is affordability. I cannot speak enough about the price point on these reels, making them incredibly affordable for any angler to enjoy the fish ability of a Piscifun reel. 


In this article, we discussed my top 3 Walleye lures and how to present them. Minor details become major when dealing with lethargic fish; the smallest subtleties can increase your odds of success in the early season. As the calendar flips further into the open water season, I wish everyone continued luck and success on the water, and I hope you consider the topics of this article the next time you are on the water, targeting early spring river Walleyes. 


Trevor Gantz

Trevor Grantz

My name is Trevor Gantz, and I am part of the Piscifun Pro Team and an avid Walleye Tournament Angler.





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March 06, 2024 — Trevor Gantz
Tags: Fishing Tips

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