W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
by Colin D. Crawford
It has often been said by many an expert that the walleye is probably one of the most finicky eaters that swims in fresh water. To combat that an angler must make his presentation seem natural and life like to the walleye.
It's true that sometimes these glassy eyed fish are very selective in which baits they'll accept, and there are times when a basic, natural appearing rig will be most productive.
With every rule there seems to be the inevitable exception. Walleyes love some of the flashy, quick moving baits and they race after them when nothing else in the tackle box will get them to bite. Probably the best example of gaudy color is Chartreuse. I don't know what it is but walleyes like that specific color whether it is on a spinner or a crankbait. Though day in and day out a basic live bait rig will take a number of walleyes, spinner rigs will be productive more often than many anglers think.
There are a couple of situations when I really like spinner rigs. One of those times is when the water is stained or dirty. The added vibration and flash of the spinner makes it much easier for the fish to locate the bait. There are some situations in which spinner rigs are more effective than others. When the walleyes are active and spread out, spinner rigs produce very well. A spinner rig can usually be worked quicker than a straight rig, which is important if the fish are scattered. The faster you can move a bait, the more fish you can show it to. The blade will also attract walleyes from a longer distance. Covering water quickly and keeping the presentation in the fish zone are the key elements. Power-trolling bottom bouncers and spinners accomplish both.
In dirty water, the fish obviously can't see as far. The blade will help in this condition. It throws flash and vibration, which enables the fish to find a bait much easier. In dirty water, use a blade that is larger and brighter than a blade used in clear water. Orange and chartreuse blades are good in stained water; silver and white are good in water that has more visibility.
When using spinners, snell length is important. The snell length is the distance from the swivel to the hook. When moving quickly, as a general rule increase the snell length. The faster you go, the lower the bait will ride. A faster presentation is usually called for in clear water, and you want the bait up high enough so the fish can see it from farther away. Also, walleye are more likely to go up for a bait than go down for it.
In dirty water, the walleyes will often be closer to the bottom. This calls for a shorter snell that will get the bait right down in the walleye's face.
One important thing Iíve found out about spinners is that the speed is very critical. If youíre getting bites from perch, sheepshead or other rough fish youíre going too slow. Just bump the speed up enough so they leave it alone. Sometimes, if you bump the speed up you donít even have to move spots and youíll start catching walleyes.
The bait of choice is a big juicy nightcrawler, twirling behind a spinner on a double hook rig. Leeches and minnows can also be used, but itís tough to beat a crawler, especially during early and late spring. To drag the whole package to the bottom and keep it in the fish zone, a variety of lead in different sizes and shapes is available. Yet, the bottom bouncer, an L shaped piece of wire with a lead weight on one end and an eye for attaching the line to the other end, has been the most popular approach for trolling spinner rigs. Bottom bouncers work well over rocks, sand, gravel and mud, in shallow to moderate depths.
Getting the bait to where the walleyes live has also been a piece of the puzzle. Until recently many anglers would use a 3-way rig to offer the spinners to walleyes suspended off the bottom.
The basic rig features a three-way swivel with two attached lines a 12 to 24 inch drop line with a 1 to 3 ounce bell sinker and a 30 to 40 inch leader tied to your bait or lure. The drop line positions your offering a set distance above the bottom, while the leader provides an invisible connection between the swivel and lure.
Use a 1 2/3 to 3 ounce weight to maintain trolling drifting speeds of 1.5 to 2.5 miles per hour with spinners or crankbaits, or to hold live bait steady in current. Lighter weights 1/2 to 1-ounce work better with subtle livebait rigs or floating jigheads fished slower with frequent pauses.
The 3-way is a good rig to use when the walleyes are spread out, and it's easy to put together. Simply tie the line from your reel to one eye of a 3-way swivel. The dropper holding a bell sinker is tied to another eye and the line for the bait or lure is tied to the third eye.
A large area can be covered quickly and effectively with 3-ways. In water 20 to 40 feet deep, it might be necessary to go with up to 4 ounces of weight, while in shallow water only a half-ounce sinker is necessary. The key is, enough weight should be used to maintain contact with the bottom at whatever speed you're moving.
Sometimes, when the wind is low and the fish are finicky about the offering I will downsize to a 1/4-ounce sinker, or I will trim off a hook on a 1/4-ounce jig to replace the dropper weight. This also is the weight that I would use on a Reef Runner Ripper or Little Ripper pulled on a long snell to make these walleyes more aggressive.
Experiment with dropper and snell length. The dropper is the line going from the swivel to the sinker. When the walleyes are tight to the bottom, use a short dropper, sometimes as short as 8 inches. Other times, when the fish are riding high, go with a dropper that is about as long as the distance of the fish from the bottom.
The snell is the line extending from the swivel to the bait or lure. In clear water, a long snell is usually more productive. Start with a 6-foot snell and experiment from there.
With the aide of my Lowrance LMS 350 I can identify good structure to pull spinners through. I will keep my eye on the depth and when it is legal I will use a multi-line approach. One rod is held in my hand the other in a rod holder. The one that is in the rod holder is called a "dead stick". Often the "dead stick will out-produce the hand held rod. A lot of the time with the dead stick you actually give the fish a little more time to suck in the bait. Sometimes with the hand held rod I become over anxious and set the hook prematurely. The dead stick is more forgiving and allows the walleye to set the hook naturally.
If you are interested in a guided trip, a personal media interview, or
photo shoot, please call 715-545-8347. I am located in Phelps,
Wisconsin area, close to several fishing lakes. See you on the water
this season. Remember NPAA #94 and get out and enjoy the great outdoors
and try trolling spinners. Hope to hear from you soon!
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Since August 1, 1998