You’ve seen the social media posts and video commentary from winning walleye pros like Tom Huynh, hardcore guides like Brian “Bro” Brosdahl and Brad Hawthorne, young sticks like Nick Lindner and Michael Showalter, to seasoned experts like Jason Mitchell.
Yes, Northland Fishing Tackle’s Eye-Candy soft plastics have taken the walleye world by storm.
New for 2023, Northland’s Eye-Candy had been in development for more than a year before it launched this past spring to almost immediate sold-out status.
The good news? There are plenty of Eye-Candy walleye soft plastics in stock now, just in time for the fall walleye bite.
With waters cooling across the Walleye belt, there’s probably no better bait in the five body style family to focus on than the 3- and 4-inch Eye-Candy Minnow.
“Our goal was to create a minnow profile that basically moves without any angler motion,” said Charlie Peterson, Northland marketing manager. “It’s unique among other walleye soft plastic profiles on the market with its streamlined, slender shape; forked, flickering tail; and ribbed top. We also went with an incredibly elastic, buoyant, and scent-absorptive Super TPE plastic to ensure dozens of fish on a single bait. It’s been a real fish-catcher everywhere and will be a great bait this fall.”
Matching typical forage size on walleye waters, the 3- and 4-inch Eye-Candy Minnow swims, moves, and suspends just like the real thing — thanks to the stretch, durability, and buoyant qualities of Northland’s Super TPE material.
“The Eye-Candy Minnow will perform head-to-head with live bait in a lot of situations,” said Brosdahl, northern Minnesota fishing guide. “Try to hold it still by the boat and it doesn’t stop moving.”
Walleye anglers can choose from a dozen colors in the Eye-Candy Minnow line, including: Pearl White, Black, Smelt, Green Pumpkin, Purple Shad, Smoke Shad, Sunrise, Chartreuse Shad, Glo Moonlight, Sculpin, Pink Silver, and Glo Fathead — in both 3- and 4-inch sizes. MSRP is $7.99 for 5 baits.
Bro’s Fall Moves
Post-turnover, fall walleyes can be found roaming and feeding in anything from a foot of water to 30 feet or more.
When fall walleyes are shallow, Bro turns to the 3-inch Eye-Candy Minnow on a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce Northland Tungsten Jig or a Northland Deep-Vee Jig, “bombing shallow shelves” with long casts, hopping the bait back to the boat in his inimitable and deadly fashion.
“Tungsten makes a good deal of noise on hard bottom, which can be key, and stays down on bottom, while the lead Deep-Vee has a slower fall and kind of tips side to side with the Eye-Candy Minnow on it,” said Brosdahl. “Both combinations catch fish, I just need to find out what the fish want on the given day.”
Bro believes that one key to successfully catching fish on the Eye-Candy Minnow and jig combo is not working it too fast — not ripping it as water temperatures fall.
“It’s amazing how many clients I’ve had who set their rod down to check their phone and lift the jig off bottom and there’s a walleye on. Even when you’re not moving it, the Eye-Candy Minnow — with its thin, streamlined, and forked tail — is moving ever so slightly, just like a real minnow.”
When Bro locates fish deep — like 15 to 30 feet — especially on waters with good numbers of trophy-size walleyes, he’ll test both the 3- and 4-inch Eye-Candy Minnow threaded on a Northland MVP Jig.
“The MVP Jig’s angled hook shank design just keeps big fish pinned. They don’t get off,” said Brosdahl. “And that’s where the jig came from — salmon guys using the same Gamakatsu Big River hook design that Northland uses on the jig. It wraps around the big jawbone of large walleyes. Plus, it has a great bait-keeper that keeps the Eye-Candy Minnow on straight and snug.”
As far as colors go, Bro suggests running through a host of Northland’s available patterns when fish are spotted — made even easier if you can watch their real-time behavior on today’s forward-facing sonar.
Bro’s other piece of advice? Dabble around with the different scents available to today’s walleye angler.
“When you find a scent that works well where you fish, fill a storage tackle tray with it and keep your Eye-Candy Minnows in there like a walleye marinade,” said Brosdahl. “Northland’s TPE material really soaks it up, and you’ve got a live bait rival.”
Tournament Pro Talk
Like Bro, National Walleye Tour pro Tom Huynh is a big fan of the 3-inch Eye-Candy Minnow. In terms of color, Huynh has a penchant for Black, Green Pumpkin, and Northland’s natural, match-the-hatch minnow colors.
“Even in fall, I’m locating singular or small pods of fish with my forward-facing sonar and casting right to them,” said Huynh. “And a lot of times, these are big fish, so you might think I’d be bulking up, especially since it’s fall.
“But for me, the 3-inch Eye-Candy Minnow on a Northland Short-Shank Tungsten Jig is the perfect finesse approach to get older, wiser, big fish to bite. They might be suspended in deeper water, and I’ll watch them follow it all the way down to the bottom. Then I’ll slowly lower it, give it a few gentle raises, and watch how they react. If the walleye follows it a few times and there’s no reaction after about three or four raises and lowering of the bait, then I’ll make a couple, quick 6-inch snaps to try for the reaction bite.”
The other way Huynh likes to fish the Eye-Candy Minnow for fall walleyes? As a trailer on a small ChatterBait, sizing up to the 4-inch Minnow.
“This combo operates on the same principle as the blade bait used so often in fall but with a slightly different action and profile,” said Huynh. “Because of the Eye-Candy’s tapered design down to the forked tail, you really get a lot of action combined with a ChatterBait’s vibrating blade.
“For me, I’ve had the best luck just slow rolling it along bottom. And you can also trigger walleye reaction bites by sizing up to a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce ChatterBait with an Eye-Candy Minnow and alternating the slow roll with pauses, letting the bait hit bottom, and then popping it hard. I’ve watched bigger walleyes on LiveScope follow it a good, long distance, only reacting after I give it the hard pop.”
A Young Ace Shares Big Fish Tips
Guiding most of the open-water season in Ontario, but spending the fall season fun fishing the lakes and rivers of Minnesota and Wisconsin, 22-year-old Michael Showalter is a dedicated big walleye hunter with a résumé of trophies that belies his short time on the planet — including a 14-7 caught on an open-water section of the Mississippi River late last January.
“During fall, I fish the Eye-Candy Minnow on a 3/8-ounce Northland MVP Jig or Tungsten Jig,” said Showalter. “Come October and November, the walleyes are generally a bit deeper on the lakes I fish, so I size up in jig weight. The trick can be threading the TPE plastic up the MVP jig shank and getting it snug against the head. I use a special snapping action to get the bait perfectly in place and then add a dab of superglue.”
Showalter’s autumn playbook starts with identifying marks on LiveScope, then positioning his boat a long, precise casting distance from the fish.
“Sometimes walleyes like a hard pop and glide back to the bottom, other times I’ll pop the Eye-Candy Minnow three times off bottom and let the tail flutter,” said Showalter. “It really depends on what kind of mood they’re in. If they seem to be on a reaction bite, I’ll even switch to a 1/2-ounce jig and really rip it in front of their faces. Other than that, my main cadence is three soft pops, let it fall and hit bottom, and repeat the process back to the boat.”