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Maximize Your Walleye Catch with the YUM FF Sonar Minnow

The same lure that helped Jason Christie win the 2022 Bassmaster Classic is also spectacular for catching walleyes – with presentations catered to the species’ preferences.

walleye on YUM FF Sonar Minnowwalleye on YUM FF Sonar Minnow

When Jason Christie was designing the YUM FF Sonar Minnow, which he would use to win the 2022 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell, he wasn’t focused on walleye fishing. No. He was creating what has become a bass plastic extraordinaire. 

However, walleye anglers shouldn’t sell this one short. My experience with the FF Sonar Minnow proves it’s at the top level for walleye as well. In the first year since it’s introduction, I’ve caught walleye in three states, including fish weighing more than 12 pounds. 

FF Sonar Minnow Appeals

YUM FF Sonar Minnow sizesYUM FF Sonar Minnow sizes

Let’s start with a description. Whether you are using the original 3.25-inch version or the new 4- and 5-inchers, the “hot buttons” are the same. Unlike other fork-tailed baits with a smooth body, the YUM FF Sonar Minnow has detailed scales, gill plates and eye bumps which add subtle vibes as this thing slithers through the water. And it looks so real you might just mistake it for a live minnow on your hook. As small a detail as these scales and gills may seem to be, they are a BIG DEAL! Whether fishing with finesse tactics or faster triggering approaches, realism in both visibility and FEEL is something that pays big dividends.

Couple realistic body detailing with great color options and the visual appearance is quite impressive. I live in a region with mostly clear water, which has me reaching for the various clear and clear combo FF Sonar colors:

  • Sight Minnow
  • Tennessee Shad
  • Houdini Shad
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Clear Shad

And even in my clear lakes, high contrast opaque colors catch attention and draw strikes-especially in dim light or around weed beds. These patterns combine dark backs with lighter bellies to simulate the various tones of natural minnows:

  • JC Natural
  • Ayu 
  • Natural Shad 
  • Goby 
  • Tenkiller Gold

Another important factor in the success of the FF Sonar Minnow is the oh-so-alluring action. It has an action noticeably different from other split-tail-type baits. Instead of just wiggling the split tail, this bait wiggles farther forward on the body. This makes a fishier swimming movement as the back half of the body has swimming action. This bait is particularly interesting because the swimming motion is side-to-side, like a real minnow swimming. Hold one in front of your face and try to make the tail swim up and down. Can’t be done.  The engineering of the body taper not only MAKES it move side-to-side but prevents the unnatural, up-and-down swimming motion. The FF Sonar Minnow has the right action for walleyes and other predatory fish!

Scent is something seldom discussed in walleye circles. With those oversized eyeballs, it is pretty obvious walleye don’t sniff out their prey. Still, having an aroma and flavor that appeals to walleye is important. Back before YUM was a soft-plastics brand, they were concocting a scent and flavor profile for bass – and the walleye liked it too. More than 20 years ago, when YUM plastics were in the testing stage, I caught walleyes weighing 15 pounds 2 ounces and 13 pounds 4 ounces on plastics with YUM’s signature scent. I use those huge fish as examples because gargantuan walleyes don’t make many mistakes. If trophies are fooled, the rest of the walleyes on earth will be too! This level of scent and taste buys me time to feel the bite and set the hook at my leisure. Walleye don’t just strike this bait, they feed on it!

Jig-Minnow Approaches

trophy walleyetrophy walleye

Coupled with the FF Sonar Jig Head, the FF Sonar Minnow fits the techniques most common for walleye. You may have noticed the commentators on this year’s Bassmaster Classic mention that the jig-minnow method popular with forward facing sonar bass anglers is “classic walleye jigging.” To an extent that’s true, but your forward facing finder will clearly show that the methods to trigger walleye often differ from bass triggering.

The Shake – The “shaking” wiggle is common in bass circles, with some anglers tapping the rod to create movement. But you’ll generally find that walleye seem to prefer less movement, longer pauses and more random action. Of course, your sonar screen will tell you what they like better each day – and what each fish prefers. So don’t ignore shaking approaches, but don’t count on that being your best choice either.

Deadsticking – Once again, walleye deadsticking isn’t exactly the same as deadsticking for largemouths. While walleye are very interested in pauses, your live-action sonar will show you that an extended pause will eventually cause ‘eyes to lose interest and wander away. In walleye circles we discuss “jigging cadence” to try to dial in the length of pause between jig strokes. Personally, I’m a counter, like a ref at a wrestling match. My most common count, especially when fish are non-committal or when water is cold, is a four-second pause. Yep, painfully slow cadence, but the walleyes really like it. It’s a timed version of deadsticking. And the bite happens during the deadstick pause. Walleye love to slurp unmoving baits up from the bottom!

Drop Shot – Summer smallmouth tournaments have proven how deadly moping can be. That above-bottom hover with almost no action eventually turns neutral fish into biters. There are days when moping is the ticket for walleyes too. However, walleyes often shy away from your boat. It’s tough to hover a jig-minnow a foot above bottom 60 or 70 feet away from the boat. That’s when you change it up and run your Forward Facing Sonar Minnow on a drop-shot rig. But here’s a walleye approach. Instead of nose-hooking the plastic, try threading it on the drop-shot hook to mellow the action. When you nose-hook an FF Sonar Minnow it dances, wriggles and flicks around like crazy. Perfect when the bite is on or when you are fishing schooled walleyes. But day-in and day-out, walleyes tend to like things a bit calmer. Threaded FF Sonar Minnows caught me a lot of nice walleye last year and I’m guessing the lower action of a threaded bait will trip more walleye triggers for you this year. It’s more like moping with the reduced action, and you can fish it farther from the boat with a drop shot rig. 

FF Sonar Minnow dropshot rigFF Sonar Minnow dropshot rig

Darting – This technique is a full-on walleye approach since I don’t see many bass pros doing it for either brown or green bass. Darting is a way to use aggressive action without moving your bait very much. The key to darting is to pay attention to your live sonar. Starting from a pause with your jig and FF Sonar Minnow on bottom, give a quick and short POP snapping your rod tip straight upward. Ideally. the rig pops almost straight up off the bottom, lifting about a foot and dropping back only a few inches from where you popped it. The FF Sonar Minnow works surprisingly well at this and tends to dart a few inches randomly to either side or forward. You’ll find that the darting game plays out best with jigs built with an up-eye like the FF Sonar Jig. When it only moves a few inches, your bait stays close to your target on the sonar. Jigging cadence is important with this technique and walleye have a well-documented affinity for pinning baits to the bottom on the pause. Be sure to give them a long enough pause to pin your jig-minnow down before your next pop. That could turn the pop into a short hookset! 

The Scoot – This method is somewhat the opposite of darting as described above. For “The Scoot” you want a jig with a forward line tie. I’ve been using YUM’s Scottsboro Recon Jig Heads for this technique. The forward eyelet helps you scoot the jig along the bottom with minimal rise and minimal side-to-side movement. And unlike the pop when darting your jig-minnow, when you do the scoot, you’ll probably find that a 2- to 3-foot scoot along the bottom really gets ‘em interested.  I tend to run my rod side-armed to keep the scoot down as close to bottom as possible. Your sonar will show the ‘eyes scooting along with your bait, clearly tantalized. It often takes a few scoots forward before a walleye can’t stand it and slurps it up off bottom. Sometimes you’ll drag following non-biters all the way back to the boat where you can try moping or darting or deadsticking to get that bite.

walleye on FF Sonar Minnow and Recon Jig Headwalleye on FF Sonar Minnow and Recon Jig Head

So, the next time you hear Mark Zona on TV describing the jig-minnow method as being “traditional walleye jigging,” accept that he’s mostly right. But use your forward facing electronics to dial-in the nuances that will trip the trigger on those walleyes. It’s very similar to what the bass crowd is doing, but with some walleye twists.