5 pros share their secret swimbait tricks for slamming summer walleye, bass & trout

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Pro angler Jeff Gustafson catches hundreds of summer walleye on swimbaits

ANGLER: JEFF GUSTAFSON

TACTIC: SLOW ROLLING FOR SHALLOW WALLEYE

Pro angler Jeff Gustafson who, in 2023, became the first Canadian to win Bassmaster Classic, lives in northwestern Ontario, where he splits his time between guiding and fishing with his wife, Shelby.

One of his favourite summertime walleye presentations is a swimbait. Gustafson says he fishes it with confidence because the local walleye feed on crayfish, shiners and perch, and a swimbait imitates all of those. “I catch hundreds of walleye a year on them,” he says of swimbaits. “Find the fish and you’ll catch them.”

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Some of Gustafson’s top spots for throwing swimbaits are small, windblown coves, which create mud lines that walleye use for cover to ambush prey. He also targets sand bottoms under calm skies, and the edges and fishable clumps of coontail and cabbage weeds, the latter using his Humminbird Mega 360 Imaging unit. “I watch for weeds, rock piles and bait on the screen, giving me an excellent idea of where I can make high-percentage casts,” he says.

For summer walleye, Gustafson likes a Northland Slurp! jig with a Z-man MinnowZ

Gustafson fishes only one swimbait, a three-inch Z-Man MinnowZ in either pearl, smelt or green lantern. In fact, he prefers this artificial bait to live minnows because the stretchy plastic is resistant to tearing, meaning he loses fewer baits and spends less time rigging. He pins the soft-plastics to Northland Slurp! or Z-Man Finesse EyeZ jigs. Usually, a ¼-ounce jig gets the nod in four to 10 feet of water, while a ⅜-ounce jig is best for deeper water or heavy current.

To find fish, Gustafson uses a steady retrieve. “Many walleye stay shallow to eat,” he says. “Keep moving around until you get bites.” After making contact, he’ll slow down, keeping his bait hovering just above bottom. Where there’s one walleye, he says, more fish will often be nearby.

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