Will Nalley is an extremely accomplished angler. Not only does he catch a lot of big fish but also takes some awesome photography of his catches and the places he fishes. There are a lot of topics I could have talked to Will about, but I chose to discuss his fishing big plastics for walleye. So whether you live near walleye waters or want to take a walleye fishing vacation, make sure to read what Will shares about fishing big plastics for walleye.
How long have you been chasing down Ontario walleye?
I grew up in Prescott, a small town in South Eastern Ontario. When I was young we never pursued walleye, rather we spent time fishing yellow perch, pike, and smallmouth.
My first walleye was caught on a Lindy Fuzzy Grub on the famous St. Lawrence River in the early 90’s – a late bloomer. From there I started my assault fishing the Kawartha lakes extensively, and following up with guiding stints at a few famed lodges including Kesagami Wilderness Lodge, Knee Lake Resort in Manitoba, and a short time at Minor Bay on giant Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan.
I noticed that you will use big plastics for walleye. When was the first moment that you began to experiment with baits that weren’t the traditional sizes for walleye?
Typical presentations have never ceased catching fish however I found that pre-conceived notions of what a fish would eat, be that color or profile, were rather limiting. So using larger baits seemed like a no brainer. I started experimenting with 5 inch baits while guiding. It was plainly evident that larger baits did not deter walleye from striking as many were caught while fishing large spoons and plastics for trophy pike.
Using soft jerkbaits on long shank jig heads has proven to be a great presentation and is a little more unconventional. With the popularity of the swimbait segment, I have put a lot of emphasis on fishing Z-man’s Diesel Minnowz and Swimmerz on 1/2 and 3/4 ounce heads to fish fast.
What is the time of year/weather conditions that you think big plastics for walleye should be fished?
As spring changes to summer and then to fall, I upsize my baits accordingly as water temps rise. As water warms, the majority of bait fish and sport fish have spawned. The offspring from these spawning events put on the feed bag, and the whole ecosystem is fired up. It’s at this time I feel that bigger baits can really shine. Of course these observations are only a rule of thumb, and rules are meant to be broken!
I did notice that your post about big plastics for walleye was taken at Lake Kesagami. I have not been there but from what I understand the walleye fishing is so good there that you could probably not find a bait that wouldn’t catch a few. How do big plastics for walleye stack up on waters that are a bit more pressured?
In walleye factories like Kesagami, catching a hundred fish in a day is NOT a myth. Here’s the deal though. When we take these kinds of trips, in my mind there are two reasons why upsizing your bait can be of huge benefit. Employing larger baits presents a larger profile that can yield a two-fold benefit.
Firstly, when the walleye get pressured, showing them something different like larger 4” Diesel Minnowz or a 5” Scented Paddlerz can trigger a bigger bite from larger walleyes in the school where fish are conditioned by a barrage of standard twister tails. Secondly, monster pike hang out in the same areas as these large schools of walleye. So effectively, it can be at any time that you may hook up with a fish of a lifetime. Giving a trophy pike a shot a decent one-bite meal can stack the odds in your favor.
Here in the Ottawa area, I’ve pretty much switched to using swimbaits on heavier heads almost exclusively. I learned one of the best lessons in my fishing life by spending several days in the boat with Gary Roach, Mr. Walleye himself. I found that I could catch fish in the same areas he could, but consistently Gary would catch larger and more fish than I was able to muster.
While observing his technique, I noticed how fast he fished a jig. That speed was targeting the active fish and triggering the larger ones to chew.
I have since adopted this approach. Fishing heavy and fast allows me to cover water quickly and triggers those active fish. I feel like this presentation along with larger baits, is less popular with many walleye anglers, so it gives me confidence to fish walleye in particular, more effectively and efficiently.
What are some of the bigger baits that you like to throw in the right conditions?
I tend to lean toward boot tail swimbaits like the Z-man 4 inch Diesel Minnowz and the 5 inch Scented Paddlerz. With the benefit of Elaztech, the durability and suppleness allows me to fish two or three baits for an entire season…ya, I actually said that.
The only way to gain confidence in any bait is to fish it consistently enough to actually catch fish on lakes and rivers, and gain the confidence to tie on a bait and catch a fish no matter where you are fishing or what weather conditions are thrown at you. I think this applies to any class of bait, whether it’s a hardbait, jig, soft bait, or a spinnerbait.
I throw swimbaits in all kinds of conditions, letting seasonal shifts guide my decisions when choosing a bait size. Spring typically equals smaller baits, and summer/fall equals bigger baits. I think swimbaits particularly shine for walleye, bass, and pike in and along weed beds and edges.
What colors do you like for these big plastics for walleye?
The best color to throw is the one you have confidence in. The tanic stained waters of Kesagami have proven to be a great place for bubblegum colored baits as we discovered years back.
The baits we first started to fish were standard plastisol soft jerkbaits…effective yes, but not durable enough for the trips we were taking. We plowed through multiple bags of these baits and were left scrounging through discarded baits trying to catch one more fish. We have since been employing Z-man Elaztech baits, which simply keeps us casting and catching, and not retying/re-baiting.
I believe it to be true that the main consideration is getting your bait to the fish, then color becomes another consideration along with water clarity. In waters around the Canadian Capital, I have been successful with Z-man’s Redbone and Goldrush colors for most swimbait presentations.
I don’t feel that size of bait necessarily calls for oddball colors. It’s through a trial and error sessions that I settle on a handful of colors to throw.
What gear are you throwing the big plastics for walleye on?
I most definitely prefer spinning gear, reel sizes 2500-3000, for jig fishing. Mechanically I feel it gives me more flexibility to work the bait for hours on end. I lean toward pretty heavy rods with fast tips, in 6’6” to 7′ rods.
In the past number of years I have fallen in love with Berkley Nanofil line for many presentations from dropshotting to jigging. The suppleness of Nanofil is unsurpassed for casting distance. The other plus is the sensitivity making this line a great choice.
In pike waters, I don’t hesitate to tie on a heavy, 60 to 80lb, hand tied fluorocarbon leader. I used to be hung up on the leaders detracting from my presentation. I now have overcome this consideration in favor of losing baits to a mouth full of teeth. Furthermore, I do not believe that in most instances, my catch is affected by the inclusion of a leader.
Overall, what are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anglers who want to start trying big plastics for walleye on their home bodies of water?
#1 – Keep an open mind. The baits I’m fishing are not larger than 5 inches. But they are larger than the typical 2 and 3 inch baits which are so popular for finessing walleye.
#2 – Use the right gear. This isn’t the place for soft sticks. This is heavier gear in contrast to the norm. Heavier rods allow a quicker and more firm hookset with heavier jig head weights.
#3 – Spend a day on the water fishing just bigger baits. Learn the nuances of each bait. If you’re having a great day on the water, and fish are on the chew, this is the best time to try larger baits.
#4 – Fish faster. A heavier head is more efficient than slowly dragging or teasing walleye to bite. They are relentless killers. Tempt them to do what they’re wired to do! Swimming, and snap jigging account for the majority of my bites in any given season. I feel like I am fishing much more efficiently by covering water quickly instead of trying to slowly tempt a bite.
#5 – Lastly, experiment with color. So often we decide what color works. Let the fish tell you by trying a few options
Who are your sponsors?
I am currently pro staff with Z-Man Fishing Products, and field testing YoZuri/Duel Hardcore baits.
Z-man’s proprietary Elaztech material is just second to none for durability. It’s easily as soft as a hand-pour plastisol bait but lasts so much longer. The durability of this material and the range of baits offered in the Z-man line-up make a great choice for fly-in fishing trips like Kesagami Wilderness Lodge. Places like this can put you in contact with over 100 fish days with a mixed bag of walleye and Northern pike surpassing 40 inches!!
I have field tested a number of the YoZuri/Duel Hardcore baits this past year for Agence Evasion Nature.
I’ve noticed the premium finish, and sticky sharp hooks are a real supporting benefit to the flash and shimmy action these baits put forth. The Yozuri 3D finish is choice! The build quality of all these baits is evident in and out of the package.
Not only do they look great, but they fish very well, the suspending minnows. I produced my first video on this particular lure which can be viewed here.
The Duel Hardcore Vibe series has become an instant favorite! It’s a very productive rattlebait that works in all seasons.
Your photography is outstanding. When did you start to mix your love of the outdoors with professional photography?
Thank you for the compliment! I’m an avid angler, so I’ve always aspired to capture the beauty of the fish we put so much time into pursuing!
My first brush with photography began as a child with film cameras. I did not start to hone my craft until my first digital camera in 2001. Since then, the immediate gratification of digital cameras provided an easier and quicker basis for me to learn about composition and lighting.
Through my fisheries career I always traveled with my Nikon to make sure I could capture the beauty of the natural environment. The bulk of my career was spent on the tundra in the Northwest Territories. So you could imagine the opportunities to capture nature in such a pure form.
The development of my photography skills came together through working as a professional guide, and as a fisheries professional. The avid angling was a natural avenue for expansion. My photography can be viewed in several places, and I can be contacted through my Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram accounts.
Awesome! So much great information. I keep rereading it. I am hoping Will is up for another interview in the future as he is also an amazing bass angler.
Read more Dock Talk about Lake Kesagami: Fishing Lake Kesagami from a Guide’s Perspective