Dawn and dusk are arguably the best times of day to target most gamefish species, especially low-light hunters like walleyes. But that presents a couple problems: First, as we all know, it’s not always possible or practical to be on the ice at those times of day. More importantly, even if you are there, those peak bite windows are exceptionally brief.
Walleye pro Jon Thelen keeps the bite going around the clock, however, by matching his jigging strokes to the time of day and mood of the fish.
At midday—a time when conventional wisdom tells us to employ finesse—he goes the opposite direction.
“I work my baits with the maximum aggressiveness—I mean I really snap them,” Thelen says. “That gives the lure the most flash and calls more fish to your area.”
Although such an action often triggers reaction strikes from fish you might not even mark before they hit, neutral to negative midday fish often appear in the sonar cone and slowly approach a bait. That’s when Thelen tones it down.
“I go to what I’d call ‘medium aggressive.’ I basically I turn the volume down to a 5 instead of the usual 10,” he says.
Thelen reserves the real subtlety for those peak primetime hours when fish are actively feeding, making a natural presentation the most effective. To match, he gently jiggles baits at the level of fish he marks on his flasher. But it’s not just a scaled-back version of the same action he used at high noon—it’s a totally different movement.
“Switch from the vertical lift-drop rod motion you used at midday to a horizontal one,” he says. “Move the rodtip back-and-forth versus up-and-down.”
The new Lindy Darter plays heavily into this all-day gameplan, as it lends itself to each of Thelen’s go-to actions. As its name implies, the lure darts well past the sides of the hole when jigged aggressively, making it extremely effective at during off-peak hours—the more water you can cover, the better your odds of triggering a reaction strike.
“Fish it on superline to get an even more aggressive action and movement outside the hole,” he advises.
The Darter also excels when it’s time for a dialed-down action; horizontal rodtip movements impart a subtle swimming action that engages the three-chamber, four-BB rattle and often seals the deal with selective feeders.