Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Northland Leeches--Better than the Real Thing?

BEMIDJI, Minn Leeches have been a walleye fishing mainstay since the early 1960s. Prior to that, only a handful of savvy anglers trapped and used them. Just ask longtime Northland guide and angler, Dick “Griz” Gryzwinski, who was fishing leeches in the 1950s, but kept their walleye magic close to the vest.

Over the years, leech prices have inflated – especially for larges and jumbos – the bait currently fetching $50/pound or more—if you can find them. And if you’re a slip bobber or rigging angler, you know that you can go through a lot of leeches, sorting panfish and other species from walleyes. Of course, that’s not a bad thing for the table, but you can burn through a lot of bait.

Have there been other bait companies who have tried to mimic the unique look, texture, feel, and action of fishing leeches? Absolutely.

But until now, most have been crude, lifeless pieces of plastic. That’s where Northland’s Eye-Candy Jiggin’ Leech and Eye-Candy Riggin’ Leech differ. Molded of a highly-buoyant and scent-absorbing TPE plastic, they nearly float on a dropshot, jig, or rig hook, making them move just like the real thing with subtle rod actions, boat speed, or underwater currents, even at a standstill.

We talked with a few guides to get the skinny on these fat walleye-catchers, catching up with Brian “Bro” Brosdahl (northern MN), Donnie O’Bert (Rainy Lake), and Brad Hawthorne (Mille Lacs).



Bro Knows Leeches

“The new Jiggin’ and Riggin’ Leeches are ideal summer walleye baits,” says Bro. “The Jiggin’ Leech is the perfect size and works great on a long-shank, short-shank, or stand-up jig. They’re really as effective as the real thing without the fuss of live bait. Another thing: For going into Canada or places where live bait is restricted, they’re the perfect solution.”

Bro continues: “I’ve been fishing a lot of the black- and darker-colored leeches, but on guide trips I will have clients experiment with different colors based on water clarity. Bright colors on bright days and darker colors on dark days holds true.”

Both baits, Bro says, catch walleyes. “Fish recognize the size, shape, and movement and come over right away to eat it, which is super cool for a plastic bait. They have a real swimming motion, and rigged on a jig, rig, or dropshot, it’s pretty close to the real thing because of the TPE plastic which has a lot of buoyancy and will also absorb scent to kick it up a notch—like adding some Pro Cure.”

Lastly, Bro adds that now through fall, the Riggin’ Leech is going to be a dynamite solution for spinner harnesses—either drifted or trolled.

O’Bert Talks Tactics

Up on Minnesota’s Rainy Lake, guide Donnie O’Bert says the walleye fishing has been “epic,” thanks in large to the new Northland Jiggin’ & Riggin’ Leeches.

“Don’t get me wrong, we always catch fish up here on leeches, but these baits have made my life as a guide so much easier. I don’t have to worry about buying, carrying, and having to take care of live bait, plus they stay on the hook, and you can catch multiple fish on one bait, which you can’t do with live leeches. That means you spend more time with your line in the water, so you naturally catch more fish,” volunteers O’Bert.

For O’Bert, pitching a Jiggin’ Leech on a Tungsten Short Shank Jig or a Riggin’ Leech on a two-hook Northland harness have been producing fish, either slow-trolled or on the drift.

O’Bert concludes: “These things just flat out catch fish. I like live bait and there’s a place for it, but these are incredibly close to the real thing. I think where they’re different than some of the soft plastic leeches in the past is the buoyancy and how they wiggle like the real thing, whether you’re jigging, rigging, pitching, drifting, or trolling. That TPE plastic gives the bait a nice loft in the water.”











Hawthorne: Mille Lacs Mayhem

“I helped prototype the new leeches and couldn’t be happier with the result, which has been knocking the socks off Mille Lacs walleyes all season,” says the 20-year Mille Lacs Lake fishing guide veteran.

“For the Jiggin’ Leech, it’s like fishing a real leech or ‘crawler chunk,” says Hawthorne. “I like it on a Nedster Jig or Tungsten Short-Shank. If I’m swimming the Jiggin’ Leech, I like the long-shank Tungsten Jig in 1/16 or 1/8 ounce. That’s the deal. You whip that jig out behind them, drag it in front of them, and they suck it right in.”

For Mille Lacs, Hawthorne likes the 4.25-inch Riggin’ Leech on a dropshot. “I use a ½-ounce tungsten weight, a dropshot hook, and a four-foot leader with the Riggin’ Leech, and Mille Lacs walleyes whack the snot out of it. While I’ve been fishing primarily black and green pumpkin, there’s something magic about the reddish, translucent color called ‘Blood Sucker’.”

Hawthorne concludes: “All I can say is that after 20 years of guiding on Mille Lacs and going through countless pounds of leeches each season, the proof is in the pudding. These baits will go head-to-head with live bait—and without the worry that goes along with changing water every day on your leeches—or wondering if you’re going to be able to buy any later in the season when trapping ends. Get yourself a few packages of these and you’re good to go.











The Eye-Candy Story

The shapes, sizes, and colors were designed and chosen based on real-world walleye fishing experience of Northland team members. The goal was to create something entirely new, different, and effective. There was a lot of "if you could design the ultimate walleye plastic, what would it look like and how would it move?’”

But there’s even more to Northland’s new Eye-Candy than the striking new shapes with fish-attracting movements. Like Eye-Candy’s unique composition—a deviation from the typical PVC-type soft plastics—Northland chose a Super TPE material that’s ultra-stretchy, beyond tough, ultra-buoyant, absorbent, and incredibly long-lasting.

An addendum to TPE’s durability is its sponginess and ability to hold scent, a big deal with professional walleye tournament anglers like Northland Pro Staffer Tom Huynh, known to smear his baits with secret sauce.


The unique characteristics of TPE allows Northland to explore shapes never seen before. The new 4.5” Eye-Candy Riggin' Leech is just that. Its ultra-thin leech profile looks, acts, and swims like the real thing. Eye-Candy's durability allows anglers to rig this ultra-thin bait like live bait. Whether fixed on a jig, spinner rig or harness, this bait’s lifelike action is sure to bring more fish topside. The Eye-Candy Riggin’ comes in 10 eye-catching colors.

MSRP $7.99 (5 per pack)


A small juicy leech is like a dessert for fish – no matter their mood, it's hard to pass up. The new 3.25” Eye-Candy Jiggin' Leech imitates just that kind of snack. The bite-sized profile features a semi-flat worm body, making it super easy to rig with any jig. In the back it sports a super-thin leech shape that looks, swims, and acts like the real thing, giving anglers a step up when it comes to finesse fishing. Available in 10 eye catching colors.

MSRP $7.99 (5 per pack)

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ABOUT Northland® Fishing Tackle

In 1975, a young Northwoods fishing guide named John Peterson started pouring jigs and tying tackle for his clients in a small remote cabin in northern Minnesota. The lures were innovative, made with high quality components, and most importantly, were catching fish when no other baits were working! Word spread like wildfire, the phone started ringing… and the Northland Fishing Tackle® brand was in hot demand! For 40 years now, John and the Northland® team have been designing, testing and perfecting an exclusive line of products that catch fish like no other brand on the market today. Manufactured in the heart of Minnesota's finest fishing waters, Northland® is one of the country's leading producers of premium quality jigs, live bait rigs, spinnerbaits and spoons for crappies, bluegills, perch, walleyes, bass, trout, northern pike and muskies.

ABOUT Bagley Bait Company

The personality of any company comes from its founder. Jim Bagley was an inventive, fun-loving, passionate fisherman who became one the most respected legends in the fishing tackle industry. In late 2010, Jarmo Rapala and a group of investors bought Bagley Bait Company. As an admirer of Jim Bagley for his attention to quality and of his product ingenuity and innovation, Jarmo initiated significant changes in operations, enhanced production processes and quality control. Now in 2020, Northland® Fishing Tackle, along with Jarmo as its Chief Lure Designer, maintain the legacy of creating premium balsa crankbaits and topwater lures, as well as jigs and spoons for both freshwater and saltwater anglers.