To catch really big walleye it’s important to learn to troll crank baits. I’ve caught more big fish – 8 to 13 pound plus – using crank baits than with all my other techniques combined.
Every fisherman knows there are many variables involved including speed, water temperature, fishing pressure, water clarity and location; but one thing remains consistent no matter what – trolling hard plastic produces!
Crankbaits for Walleye
Most good walleye crank baits have a roll to them. Watch the baits’ eyes as it moves through the water; they should move up and down. Crank baits that consistently catch walleye have a rolling side to side movement. Color combinations change, but in clear water I’ll use more natural colors such as black-silvers, blues, and green fluorescent.
Studies have shown that in dingy water chartreuse and orange are two colors that walleye see best. Fire tiger is good almost any time and lures with some sort of orange on the underbelly are preferred. Natural colors also still work.
Every crankbait puts out a vibration and sound while moving through the water, and some feel this is more important than shape and color. Every crankbait is different when moving through the water and that is why it’s important to find the right one that fish want on that particular day.
If you’re not catching fish, it is good to experiment with different baits until you’re confident in a certain one. When you put certain crankbaits in the water, you’re looking for a pronounced whipping action in the tail that almost all predatory fish find hard to resist.
When water temperatures are below 55 degrees, I like stickbaits with small diving bills and a longer thinner body such as Rapalas, Thundersticks, Bombers, Smithwicks, Husky Jerks, and Reef Runners.
When water temperatures are above 55 degrees and you are fishing deeper water, crank baits with moderate action and larger diving baits will produce more flash and vibration. Storm Deep Jr. Thundersticks, Deep Diving Little Ripper Reef Runners and Rapala Shad Raps all produce, just to name a few.
Nearly all lure manufacturers have added some sort of rattle system to make distinctive sounds to help produce strikes. Everyone knows that sometimes we buy lures because they look good to us. With all the technology in the high definition scales, gills, fins, holographic finishes, detailed 3D eyes and colors, it’s easy to see why even the wariest of predators are fooled.
Speed is certainly as important as anything. Some days we have trolled 1.3 to 1.6 knots while other days 1.8 to 2.0 and yet some days at 2.0 to 2.4. Sometimes a giant oval pattern of steering instead of a straight line will give you two different speeds. If the slow side gets hits, it will give you an idea of what your speed should be going in a straight line. The same is true if the fast side produces hits.
We love to fish structure and all of us know trophy walleye and browns love structure. Baitfish also like structure, so it stands to reason that is the place to fish.
We are very fortunate in the Henderson Harbor area to be where there is plenty of structure, baitfish, and trophy walleye. There is also a variety of other species which helps in producing fishing action.
Other methods of fishing including jigging, casting or trolling with worm harnesses all produce; but our production of trophy walleye along with other charter captains and pro walleye anglers tend to agree that the big ones really like a well presented noise-making hard bait. When fishing for these giants you definitely need to be persistent and patient!
What is nice about the stickbaits that we use for walleye is that they can also be used to catch brown trout, lake trout, northern pike, catfish and bass.
Early in the brown trout season we like using non-diving smaller sticks in shallow water and also Michigan Stinger spoons.
When fishing derbies in the spring, some of our biggest football browns are taken using stickbaits. So have fun this spring experimenting with a variety of hard baits, and hopefully you can land that trophy of a lifetime walleye or brown.