To catch the most pre-spawn walleyes in clear-water natural lakes “Up North”, cast Rapala® Shad Dancers® on Sufix® Nanobraid® where water temps remain unseasonably cool. Shallow walleyes in clear water are notoriously spooky, so making long casts with moving baits often out-produces vertically jigging live bait or trolling this time of year.
“The biggest key element is remaining quiet, getting in stealthy and pitching away from the boat – not fishing right below the boat,” explains Tony Roach, an in-demand guide on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake. “The water in that famous walleye factory this spring is extremely cool and extremely clear,” Roach reports. As a result, “The fish are going to be spooky,” he says. “But as long as you’re pitching, you’re going to be catching fish.”
“Those walleyes are going to be jam-packed in the shallow waters – whether it’s rock reefs, sand flats, even old weed beds,” Roach adds. “Those walleyes are going to be up there doing their thing. And guess what? They’re going to be feeding.”
One of the best baits to pitch to actively feeding, (but spooky) pre-spawn, shallow walleyes is a Rapala Shad Dancer.
“It’s half Tail Dancer®, half Shad Rap® – both proven fish-catching baits,” Roach explains. “This is going to be one of your new favorite baits, I guarantee it. It’s going to be a bait you’re going to want to have in your tacklebox.”
Swimming with a silent but aggressive, hard-thumping and sweeping tail action, the Shad Dancer offers the excitement of a Rapala Tail Dancer in a shad-profile bait. It features a tough balsa body that dives 7 to 10 feet whether cast or trolled. And its triggering action rivals that of the legendary Shad Rap, but with the added ability to fly farther and dive deeper.
“It casts like a bullet,” says James Holst, host of In-Depth Outdoors on the Fox Sports North television channel. “It’s a balsa bait that you can heave about twice as far as a Shad Rap.”
For wind-dependent walleye bites, that’s a game-changer.
“If it’s not windy, the fish probably are not biting,” Holst explains. “So you’re going to be casting into the wind, that’s just the way it is. Having that Shad Dancer that you can really rifle out there – and get that balsa action – is really important.”
Shad Dancers twitch, quiver and wobble with inimitable life-like action on the retrieve because they’re made from balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material. It’s what makes them so much better at catching fish than copycat baits.
“That’s one thing that separates Rapala baits from all other competitors,” says award-winning tournament angler Randall Tharp.
Pause when retrieving a Shad Dancer to witness the real magic of its balsa construction.
“When you stop the retrieve, the bait starts floating up,” explains Minnesota Fishing Hall of Famer Mark Fisher, chief lure designer at Rapala USA.
“The bait kind of just hovers there, rising ever so slowly,” adds award-winning tournament angler Michael Iaconelli. “That often, in itself, triggers a bite.”
Shad Dancers measure 2 inches, weigh 1/4 oz. and come armed with two No. 6 VMC® Black Nickel Round Bend Hooks.
Cast Farther with Sufix Nanobraid
To make the longest possible casts with a Shad Dancer, tie it on to some Sufix Nanobraid.
A long-casting, super-sensitive micro-braid that increases hook-up ratios, Nanobriad works well in wind and doesn’t require a special knot to tie. Made from 100 percent HMPE fibers, it boasts both an ultra-thin diameter and extreme sensitivity.
Because Nanobraid is “ridiculously thin,” Holst says, it creates less wind resistance. Ten-pound-test Nanobraid measures only 3/500th of an inch in diameter; 2-pound test measures a mere 1/1000th of an inch. That also makes it ultra-sensitive for superior bite detection and practically invisible in water.
For best results, tie a Sufix fluorocarbon leader to a Nanobraid main line with a uni-to-unit knot. Using Nanobraid does not require learning a new, complicated knot. Just about any knot that you are used to using with regular braid you can use with Nanobraid.