Spinners, blades, beads ... fundamentals for walleyes.
THE CRAWLER HARNESS IS A BEAUTIFUL THING. NOT JUST FOR ITS METALLIC, PAINTED, OR HOLOGRAM-TAPED BLADE SPIRALING AROUND BEADS OF EVERY POTENTIAL HUE, BUT FOR ITS ABILITY TO FOOL WALLEYES JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE. TROLL ONE NEAR THE SURFACE ON A LONGLINE BEHIND A PLANER BOARD WHEN FISH ARE FEED ING ON SUSPENDED SHAD. CLIP ON A SNAP-WEIGHT AND MANEUVER ONE THROUGH A GAGGLE OF BUGS AND SHINERS MASSED NEAR THE THERMOCLINE. DRAG ONE DOWNSTREAM THROUGH A RIVER HOLE OR ACROSS A LAKE BASIN WHEN FISH ARE BELLY-TO-THE-BOTTOM. TROLL ONE QUICKLY ALONG A STEEP ROCKY BANK IN A RESERVOIR, OR PERHAPS ALONG BRUSH OR A TIMBERLINE.
"If I could choose only one type of bait it would be a nightcrawler. And if I could choose only one way to fish that crawler, it would be on a spinner," says tournament pro Todd Riley of Amery, Wisconsin. Riley, long a familiar face on the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT), digs the spinner for its diversity. But like most walleye aficionados, he says there's more to its walleye-catching ability than just a blade of many colors and a haphazardly picked rainbow swath of beads.
Riley uses a simple system to determine spinner blade size, starting with small blades and working up from there. Like a fly fisherman who matches the size of his fly to the insect de jour, Riley often matches his blades to the forage at hand. For inland lakes, where insects and minnows are key forage, tiny #0s on up to #4 blades work to get the attention of fish and, finally, to trigger them. Riley also uses small blades when walleyes are fussy and want a rod-in-the-hand presentation rather than rod-in-the-holder. "It takes a lot of lead to hold a big thumper blade down," he says, "more than I want to hold for long. Most anglers fish the big blades on a rod in a holder."
On big water--such as Little Bay de Noc on Lake Michigan, where Riley placed second by pulling spinners during an August 2006 PWT event--he again starts with smaller blades and works up. "I start with #4 blades on big water and work up to #5s and #6s. I try different blades during prefishing to dial in blade size, depending on factors such as wind and other water conditions--plus the forage consideration."
The trend in recent years has been to bigger blades. "Giant blades just aren't for muskie anglers any more," says Tommy Harris of Tommy Harris Custom Painted Blades. The Kenosha, Wisconsin, painter has seen increased calls for #8 Colorado and #6 willow blades. These blades are a step up from what walleyes have commonly seen before. "Professional anglers don't use big blades all the time, but many of them put one out along with more traditional blade sizes--and they're catching fish," he says. "When fish are feeding aggressively, bigger can be better in attracting attention and getting bites. Sometimes it also works to get the big bite."
Riley doesn't run all his lines with only one size blade, even when he knows he has a pattern going. "I never run more than two rods with the same size, shape, or colored blade," he says. "Even fish in the same school don't always show a group preference for something. It pays to keep part of your rod program in experimental mode."
To make sure spinners are spinning correctly, he puts his trolling motor in gear at a creep, dangles the spinner and weight over the side of the boat, and gradually increases speed until the blade spins right. That's the speed he tries to maintain.
Speed also plays a role in choice of blade shape. "First, I dial in the speed that's tripping the walleye's trigger and then I fine-tune blade choice from there," says PWT pro Mike Gofron of Antioch, Illinois. In his years of professional fishing, Gofron's taken several top finishes while pulling spinners, including two wins, one on Michigan's Saint Mary's River system in 2000, the other on Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas, in 2004.
"When walleyes want it at a creep--say 0.5 to 0.7 mph--I use Indiana blades," he says. "You don't feel that thump-thump of the Indiana telegraphed through your rod tip like you do a Colorado. Indianas turn much easier than Colorados and are a step subtler in terms of vibration and flash." Colorado blades spin well at speeds of 0.7 to a maximum of about 1.5 mph. These heavy-cupped blades work well in stained water where fish need the extra vibration to zone in. They also work well on big waters, where fish tend to be more aggressive.
Willowleaf blades also have a place. When Riley finds fish with a need for speed, he breaks out the long, thin blades. "I tie them on when I have to heat things up. At trolling speeds of 2 to 2.5 mph, the big thumping Colorados just spin out, tangling leaders."
Gofron suggests that anglers must keep experimenting when the fish aren't snapping. "It's easier to snap a crankbait on and off than it is to change out spinner blades and beads. Anglers get lazy and just leave what they have out there rather than experiment. But it takes constant experimentation to find what fish want. Preferences often change as a day progresses. The fish can be selective."
Changing the look of a spinner rig, Gofron says, goes beyond just popping a blade off a quick-change clevis and replacing it. He works with the beads, as well. Matching color to the forage at hand makes sense to him. If a system's full of white perch, he tries pearl and purple blades to match the iridescent colors of the fish. If yellow perch are present, beads of yellow, orange, and green might work better. "Bead color is as important as blade color," he says.
Beads, leader, clevis, and blades need to match. Harris says that #8 blades match best with beads from 9 mm to 11 mm. On the other hand, using big beads with a small spinner just keeps the blade from spinning.
Big blades also match best with heavier line and a larger clevis. Twelve-pound-test mono--the average for #4 to #6 blades--should become 20-pound test for anything larger. Eight- to 10-pound test is a good choice for #3s and smaller.
Meanwhile, the fundamental clevis remains a #1 folded or quick-change for small blades. Here again, you must experiment. "If it's not spinning like it should, try the next size larger clevis," Harris says.
THE LINDY-LITTLE JOE SHAKE-E BLADE AND THE NORTHLAND ROCK-N RAINBOW add shake, rattle, but no roll ahead of a harnessed live- or softbait crawler.
EYELIMINATOR TROLLING SYSTEMS--a spoon-and-spinner combo maker on Saginaw Bay, in conjunction with Tommy Harris Custom Painted Blades--matches spoon, blade, and beads in coot colors and three sizes.
JT CUSTOM TACKLE offers the "Pro Pack" and "Sportsman's Box" bead kits in the iridescent colors of bait-fish, in 4-, 5-, and 6-mm sizes.
* David A. Rose, Traverse City, Michigan, is a frequent contributor to Walleye In-Sider.
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|Title Annotation:||fishing lures|
|Author:||Rose, David A.|
|Date:||May 1, 2009|
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