Summertime is the time to get out looking for big walleyes in the big open water! Big open water fisheries, the Great Lakes and some of the large reservoirs out West come to mind … the types of waters where open water trolling techniques rule the summer walleye patterns. But don’t rule out your favorite walleye lake. In most cases, walleye will move off structure and roam the large basin areas of the lake in summer, and you’d be surprised how good the bite can be for these suspended schools of ‘eyes.
Sometimes you won’t see the big “arcs” characteristic of large walleyes, but you will find large schools of baitfish (these will appear as “clouds” on the unit). Arcs or clouds indicate a good place to start fishing.
Once a school of fish is located, then you can circle around to set up on them. It’s best to set up so that you will be trolling with the wind. This will greatly improve your boat and speed control, and speed is a very important factor. GPS will enable you to accurately pinpoint the school of fish and make precise trolling passes through the school.
Slow is the way to go when fishing Open Water Spinners. Trolling speed will run somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/2 to 3/4 mph (at such slow speeds a speedometer’s accuracy usually isn’t to reliable). Basically you want to move fast enough to keep the blades turning.
A spinner designed specifically for open water trolling will be much more effective than a standard walleye spinner. For years we have tied our own open water spinners using 14 pound test/6 pound diameter FireLine for durability, Mustad Triple Grip Treble Hooks for superb hooking and holding power, Quick Change Clevises and large #5 and #6 Blades for better flash and attracting capabilities. Many companies offer great blades for this application, with our favorite being Northland Tackle’s Holographic Rainbow Baitfish-Image blades. These are extremely shiny blades that give off a tremendous amount of flash and have a unique 3-D color effect that really attracts walleyes.
A good all-around set for trolling suspended fish would be to run the spinner out 100 feet (this is called a “lead”), add a 3 ounce Off Shore Snap Weight and then let out a “dropper” of 10′, 25′, 35′ etc. to get the rig to the fish zone. Varying your depths to start with will give you more coverage and let the fish tell you what zone will be most productive. A 3 ounce Snap Weight gives you the best overall depth control, and is the heaviest weight you can use and still run the rig on an Off Shore OR-12 Side Planer in-line board. If you are going to run the spinners close to the bottom, it is better to go with a shorter lead to the Snap Weight, say 10 feet, and let more line out on the dropper to get it down. This will give you much better control of the spinner and help to keep it from dragging the bottom as you troll.
It’s important to have the spinner running nice and straight, so letting it out slowly is essential. If you put the spinner and crawler harness in the water and start letting it out too quickly, the chances of it fouling are greatly increased. Anyone who has reeled in a spinner and found it to be a tangled and twisted mess at the end of their line will understand how important this step can be.
First, put the spinner in the water and inspect it to be sure the blade is turning and the crawler is running straight. Let out the “lead”, add a Snap Weight, feed out the “dropper” and attach the Side Planer. Once the board is in the water, loosen the drag on the reel and put the rod in a rod holder so the board can pull line off slowly. This will allow you to begin setting another rod while that one heads out to the side of the boat. When the board is where you want it, tighten the drag and you’re open water spinner fishing.