Walleye season is in full swing as late spring transitions to early summer. That means it’s time to hit it hard before the bite settles into a slower, hot-weather pattern. One way to score big right now is by triggering reaction strikes with rip jigging, a technique for which Northland Fishing Tackle’s Rippin’ Minnow was specifically designed.
Combining the trademark dart-and-circle action of Northland’s popular Puppet Minnow hard-water bait with the allure of a baitfish-shaped soft-plastic body, the Rippin’ Minnow features a gliding jig head that propels it in a darting motion walleyes just can’t resist. Its pre-rigged, soft and chewy body acts and feels like the real deal as it works throughout the water column to spark high-velocity pursuit and vicious strikes from the kind of walleyes you’ll want to photograph or ice.
Veteran guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl knows the value of the Rippin’ Minnow. In fact, the renowned walleye expert counts on it to connect his clients with all the walleyes they can handle. “Even though this lure is designed specifically for ripping through the water, it’s very versatile and works great for casting and retrieving along with a variety of other jigging presentations,” Bro says. “Depending on how you fish it, you can cover a lot of water quickly or jig vertically with pinpoint precision and a lifelike presentation. With just about any retrieve, you can make it dart erratically and then glide. A regular jig just kind of goes up and down as you work it. The Rippin’ Minnow, by comparison, sails forward, creating a fleeing action that really riles up the fish.”
One of Bro’s favorite ways to catch big walleyes is to deep bomb 15- to 30-foot depths with a ripping retrieve with a ¼-ounce Rippin’ Minnow. “Cast out and let that lure hit the bottom, then instantly use a big upward sweeping motion to really work that thing,” he explains. “I’ll point my rod tip at the lure and sweep it up over my head. As the lure drops back down, I keep the rod tip pointed right at it and take up most of the slack because a ton of hits come on the drop, and you have to be ready to set the hook on the slightest bump.”
Another way Brosdahl works the Rippin’ Minnow is with a submergent walk-the-dog retrieve. “Let the bait sink to the appropriate depth,” he suggests, “then snap your rod tip left and right, again and again, as you keep reeling. Get a good rhythm going with this retrieve when water temperatures are around 70 degrees and the walleye will just about rip the rod out of your hands.”
While spring and early summer often see walleyes respond best to snappy retrieves, as the waters continue to warm, subtle jigging motions are sometimes needed to provoke more strikes. For this, Brosdahl recommends gliding the lure with long, smooth rod lifts. If you find the fish are following without striking, add a little twitch now and then. “That causes the Rippin’ Minnow to suddenly dart and glide away,” notes Brosdahl. “A big walleye’s not going to let that happen, especially with that soft body and thin tail flipping around as the lure takes off.”
Because the Rippin’ Minnow is lightweight and glides easily through the water, Brosdahl likes to use it with relatively light tackle. His favorite outfit for late spring and early summer walleye action is a 6’ 8”, medium power St. Croix Legend Elite spinning rod with an extra-fast tip (#ES68MXF). He’ll pair this with a Daiwa Tatula 2000 reel spooled with 10-pound test Sunline SX1 green braid. If the water is gin clear, he’ll also add a 3-foot fluorocarbon leader.
“In addition to walleyes, the Rippin’ Minnow also wakes up smallmouth bass,” adds Brosdahl. “When those bronzebacks get stubborn and tuck themselves into the rocks, you can bounce it off the bottom to trigger solid strikes. Everything seems to hit it, actually. Jumbo perch jump all over it and lake trout love the bigger sizes. White works great as a search bait color, and I’ve had a lot of luck with the glo pink, parrot and natural patterns, too.”
Rippin’ Minnows come packaged with one pre-rigged bait and two additional bodies for $7.99. Available in 3/16, ¼, 5/16 and ½ ounce versions, 12 tested colors assure anglers can easily match local baitfish species and adjust for water clarity.