By Dan Johnson

The past few days provided a whirlwind tour of several of northern Minnesota’s many panfish and walleye hotspots with Lindy’s Jon Thelen, Jeff Sundin, Jonny Petrowske and longtime fishing scribe Jeff Samsel.

As I look back, one of the trip’s most important lessons was on the importance of continually tweaking presentations to meet ever-changing fish moods and environmental conditions.

On the panfish leg of our journey, a hot crappie bite was punctuated by a few midday lulls—but switching tactics from aggressive vertical jigging to slower-paced, horizontal maneuvers kept the action going until the fish turned on again. My favorite weapon was a Lindy Ice Jig tipped with a Watsit Grub body, hovered and shimmied in front of the fish.

On Upper Red Lake, where we hunkered down in the nicely-appointed sleeper houses of Red Lake Remote Ice Fishing, tactical tweaks also paid off when a front and pressure change rolled in late in the day and slowed the red-hot bite a bit. Walleyes would still cruise in to eyeball a spoon, but often flared away at the last second. After the fish got skittish, finesseful options produced far more strikes.

Sundin led the charge in one sleeper brigade with a Lindy Foo Flyer tipped with a wriggling minnow. In the other house, where I was ensconced, a Frostee Jig and minnow yielded similar success, though Slick Jigs tipped with plastic trailers or small minnows hooked to swim on their sides were a close second.

Since I had an underwater camera covering my jigging line, it was fascinating to see how the walleyes reacted to different baits and jig strokes, especially as the weather change dampened their activity level. Although the bite bounced back that evening, making a few timely adjustments helped us keep the walleyes coming topside without missing a beat.

No matter where you fish, being able to roll with the punches is critical to consistently icing the most fish possible no matter what kind of curveballs Mother Nature or the fish throw our way. The tweaks might be as subtle as switching lure colors or as profound as using totally different tactics, but in the end, the solution is there if you take the time to experiment and find it.