Walleye Slowdown? Not With This Trick ...

This technique is used to slow down the walleye bite transitioning from spring to summer.

I saw the first mayflies of the season gracefully lifting off the water the other day while out walleye fishing in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. I've always thought we should call them Juneflies because the month of June brings forth massive hatches of majestic flies across all of Northern Ontario.

I say majestic, too, because everything about these regal bugs is good news for walleye and walleye anglers.

For starters, mayflies don't have a mouth—their sole mission at the end of their lives is to mate, lay their eggs on the surface of the water and then die—so they don't bite.

Better still, however, is the fact that Ontario fisheries’ managers have discovered that walleyes hatched in even-numbered years, like this one, are far more likely to survive than had they been born last year or next year. In other words, a year bearing an odd number.


The reason, as I have mentioned in the past, is that the life cycle of the handsome mayfly Hexagenia Limbata stretches over two seasons. For most of that time, the creatures live unseen as juicy nutritious bite-size nymphs in the bottom of our lakes, before finally hatching as the adult flies that we see for a few brief days each June.

Amazingly, however, the mayfly hatch is so pronounced in even-numbered years that the billions of nymphs—there can be as many as 120 per square metre—crawling along the lake bottom act as a buffer crop that is devoured by almost every fish in the lake. As a matter of fact, yellow perch, northern pike, and adult walleye so relish eating mayflies that they turn their attention away from munching on small young-of-the-year walleyes.

Manitoba buddy, Mike Watt joined Gord Pyzer for some Sunset Country walleye action last week and when they saw mayflies hatching they dug out the Slow Death rods.

But the billions of mayfly nymphs scurrying across the bottom—walleye peanuts, I like to call them—can spell trouble for the walleye angler looking to temp the fish to bite their lures. I mean, that is one heck of a lot of competition.

Enter the Slow Death rig

Invented by walleye angler and guide Dave Spaid back in the 1990s, Slow Death was designed to offset and counter the slow-down of the walleye bite as we transitioned from spring to summer. It involves removing the blade from a traditional crawler harness and using a #1 or #2 True Turn hook that, when you thread on half a nightcrawler, causes the bait to corkscrew and spin when you troll it slowly behind a bottom bouncer.


When walleye anglers tried the technique in Northern Ontario, they discovered not only that it worked extremely well, but also that it mimicked a hatching mayfly.

Part of the reason for the effectiveness of the Slow Death technique is that you can troll the spinning crawler nub much more slowly than you can pull a standard crawler harness. So you can put it into cracks and crevices, nooks, and crannies that walleyes are prowling.

I've long believed, too, that the pinched-off piece of nightcrawler exudes a special scent that walleye find particularly taste-tempting and delicious. In other words, finger-lickin' good.

Gord Pyzer says baiting a Slow Death hook with a piece of a real or artificial nightcrawler is the ticket to catching walleye when the mayflies are hatching across Northern Ontario

Having said that, however, the one downside of using a real nightcrawler is that when you feel a walleye hit your hook—many companies make bent Slow Death ones these days—and you miss it, it almost always rips apart the bait, causing you to waste time putting on another chunk.

For this reason, I stick almost exclusively these days to using soft plastic scented worms. They hold on to the hook much better and allow a walleye to strike the bait repeatedly before you finally hook it—especially if you leave a short tag on the knot you've used to tie on your hook and then carefully threaded the head over the connection. In this way, it functions as a killer bait keeper.

Oh, yes, one other critical attention to detail that will pay big walleye rewards is to always inspect your Slow Death rig alongside the boat, before you put it down, to ensure it is spinning absolutely perfectly. You'll be amazed how adjusting the position of the head or trimming a fraction of the tail will increase or decrease the spin. So keep adjusting and experimenting until you have it corkscrewing through the water properly.


And a corkscrew is what you're going to need, when you pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate another splendid day on the water in Northern Ontario, catching walleyes feeding on majestic mayflies.

The highlight of any Northern Ontario fishing trip is stopping at noon to enjoy a walleye shore lunch.   
About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

Recommended Articles

5 Places to Shore Fish

Fish’n Canada shows you where to go shore fishing in Ontario.

Top 5 Baits for Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

What baits do you use to target bass? Find out why these 5 are the best!

Four Seasons of Bass in Ontario

Northern Ontario is home to year-round bass.

3 Great Ontario Walleye Destinations

Karl of Extreme Angler recommends must do walleye lakes in Ontario.

Catching Ontario Walleye

Pro Tips for Bait and Walley Presentations

Top 5 Flies for Smallmouth Bass

The inside scoop on bass flies from the hosts of The New Fly Fisher.

Discover the 3 Best Bass Fishing Lakes in Ontario

Check out these lakes for hard-fighting smallmouth bass on your next fishing trip to Northern Ontario.

Awesome Algonquin

World Class Brook Trout Fishing in Algonquin Park.

Eating Northern Pike

The Best Recipe to Cook This Fish

Fishing and Foraging

Add some fresh foods and forage to your fishing adventures!

Don’t Be Afraid Of Muskies

Muskies are fish of 10,000 casts and are found in large bodies of water in Northwestern Ontario.

Lake of the Woods

10 Facts You Didn't Know

Top 5 Musky Destinations in Ontario

The Musky Hunter shows you where to land the best musky in Ontario waters.

Wind, Cloud & Walleye

How Weather is Important to Walleye Anglers

The Eyes Have it

How to Use a Natural Resource as Bait

Summer Brook Trout

Expert Advice for Fishing Ontario Lakes

Ontario Brook Trout

Fish these 10 sweet spots.

Bear Creek Bruisers

Fishing Musky on Lake Nipissing

Talon Lake Lunge

This 3500-acre lake holds trophy muskies and should not be ignored!

Fly-in Ontario Lodges

Today’s fly-in fishing vacations are no more expensive than most other getaways.