There are a lot of things to consider when putting together the ultimate Walleye box. We'll just assume that we are putting one together for the Mighty Mississippi River as apposed to the Great Lakes.
One should always have an assortment of Jointed Shad Raps, including all four of the crawdad patterns and shad patterns, along with the go-to "firetiger" color and Cabela's exclusive color "Fire Perch." There are also two new color patterns for 2006 that should prove to be a mainstay as well.
There is also the possibility of having some jointed shad raps custom painted by "Hutch" to give you the extra edge over the guy in the boat next to you. Regular shad raps and the Glass Shad Rap all have colors that are very effective, too. Fat raps and tail dancers could also be added to this box in some of the same color patterns.
Rapala also produces the DT series of cranks, which, specifically the DT-10, is very effective on wingdams in Blue Shad and Bluegill. Strike King Pro Series crankbaits in the size "3" can also prove to be deadly at certain times as well.
Wally Divers and Reef Runners should also be considered in this box in assorted colors and sizes similar to those mentioned above. Cabela's also produces a few cranks that are worth taking a look at, particularly the Grave Digger series, Rad Shads, Jointed Rad Shads, and Walleye Runners. All have color patterns that are a little different than the name-brand cranks and have subtle, but yet important differences in action and vibration.
The river fisherman can't ever have enough jigs in his box. Jigs consist of bucktails or marabous, and plain jigheads. Jigs can also range in size from 1/16 oz to a full ounce and sometimes heavier, depending on the technique. An assortment of 1/16, 1/8, 3/16, ¼, 5/16, 3/8, ½, 5/8, ¾, and 1 oz round out my box.
Hutch's jigheads are one of the better heads I've used, and the assortment of colors will produce in almost any situation on the river, as well as the old stand-by roundhead in assorted colors. Casting, long-lining, vertical jigging, three-way, and slow-troll or dragging are all methods used. Color can vary depending on water clarity, depth, temperature, and time of day. The best method is to experiment with colors to find out what works the best.
Hair jigs are another versatile jig to bring on the water and can be fished in a number of ways. They can take the place of plastics or can be used in conjunction with plastics to add a new bait profile in the water.
An assortment of plastics including ringworms, twister tails, large tail grubs, and shad bodies should also be considered in the box. I have found that any plastic in a purple or chartreuse color are go-to colors on the river. Red, black, brown, and orange all have their places as well, but the two colors I wouldn't be without are purple and chartreuse.
Ringworms are one of my favorite plastics. They're very versatile and can be used practically all year 'round. I typically start by counting five to six rings down on the head of the bait and cut the head off. This shortens the bait a bit, and, depending on the strikes you are getting, you can adjust by cutting down more rings to get rid of short strikes.
Large tail grubs are also a favorite of mine, especially in the fall when fish tend to bulk up on large targets of prey. These include - but are not limited to - Kalins, Action Plastics Grubs, Zoom Fat Alberts, Yum Muy Grande Grubs, and Yum Samurai Tails.
Mister Twisters and Sassy Shads should not be overlooked. Sassy shads typically work better in the fall because of their larger profile, but with an abundance of gizzard shad, they can be used all year around. Regular twister tails generally work better in the winter and spring due to their smaller profile, but are great all year 'round, too.
Live Bait Rigging
Willow cats are largely becoming a mainstay for river live bait rigging. Typically, an egg sinker is placed above a swivel, along with 2-3 feet of fluorocarbon or mono leader, tied up with a 2 or 4 octopus hook or size 4 shiner hook. One could also replace the egg sinker with a walking or no-snag sinker for fishing wingdams or other rocky bottoms. The same rig can be used for minnows.
Nightcrawlers are very similar to willow cats, but the leader can be lengthened all the way to six or seven feet, depending on the situation. Ball-bearing swivels are a good idea because they prevent nasty line twist.
Another rig to consider is the split shot rig, which replaces the swivel and sinkers to just a few split shots, and an octopus hook placed 18 inches to 3 feet away from the sinkers. Red octopus are one of my favorite hooks along with chartreuse, although they do come in an assortment of colors. Experiment with colors and lengths of leader to find out what the fish want.
Dan Molokken is a Fishing Department Sales Associate at Cabela's in here in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, with over three years of service. He’s been there for over three years. Thanks for the great article Dan!!!