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Even walleyes can be caught with today’s realistic looking artificial baits under the right conditions. (Contributed photo)

Now that the new fishing season has finally arrived, it’s time to look at some of the artificial baits that more and more anglers are using for fishing walleyes.

For years many anglers counted on minnows, night crawlers and leeches as their primary arsenal for fishing old marble eyes. But with the introduction of new, more realistic looking baits, there is a growing number of anglers who are switching from live baits to artificial ones with some real success.

Moving from live bait to artificial bait is a big step for many traditional walleye anglers. The transition to artificial bait is much easier when fishing for crappies and bass, but the finicky walleye can be another story altogether.

One area where anglers have been having success with artificial baits is tournament fishing. When experimenting with new techniques and bait, tournament anglers have demonstrated over time that artificial baits do indeed catch walleyes under the right conditions.

Trolling crankbaits is a very effective technique for fishing walleyes that has been around for a long time. However, there are many new colors and designs of crankbaits on the market today as well as techniques for using them that didn’t exist a few ago.

Additionally, more anglers are also starting to use crankbaits and casting for walleyes.

I think one the most exiting newer techniques for fishing walleyes is the use of soft bodied swim baits. That includes paddle tails, split tails and hard tails.

These are baits that are designed to imitate bait fish, crawfish or leeches. Some of them are so realistic looking in the water that it is hard to tell if they are real or artificial.

Skilled anglers try to match the hatch by using bait that looks like the real prey of the season. One example of this is casting soft-bodied artificial shiners in shallow water in low light conditions. This can be a very effective technique for catching walleyes hunting in the early morning or late evening.

Anglers who have the best luck with soft plastics are the ones who know what bait is present in the area being fished and know how deep the walleyes are hunting.

The two most important considerations for bait selection are color and size. Smaller baits will be more effective in the early season and larger baits will be more effective in mid to late season fishing.

There will be days when artificial baits just won’t work and those are the days to go back to live bait for a change of pace. But there will also be days when you will be amazed at how good the soft plastics catch fish.

One thing is for certain, you won’t catch them on artificial bait if you don’t try it!

Ray Gildow is an APG outdoors columnist

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