Warm water temps and summer sun make for a peak period of activity this time of year, both for fish and fishermen. That makes it a great time to be fishing for walleyes and few presentations are as effective during this period as trolling crankbaits. But just because its crankbait time, doesn’t mean that just any crank will catch walleyes. Ole’ marble eyes can be a fickle critter, and using a lure that exhibits the right attracting and triggering characteristics is critical.
For walleyes that means the lure must exhibit a “rolling” action. The “walleye roll” (as we have come to call this), combined with the bait’s color scheme, is what emits the lure’s “flash pattern”. In order to better understand “flash pattern”, picture this: A walleye crank that is colored with a dark back and a light bottom. As the bait runs through the water it’s action, when viewed from the side, rolls from top to bottom, meaning it shows you it’s top, then it’s bottom, it’s top, then it’s bottom (that’s the “roll”). Alternating of contrasting colors is what gives the lure its “flash pattern”.
Color can also have a big effect on a lure’s flash pattern and attracting effectiveness. As mentioned earlier, a contrasting color pattern will maximize the effect of a crankbait’s rolling action, so keep the “dark back – light bottom” idea in mind when choosing a crankbait color. The general color rules still apply, with natural colors for clear water, bright colors for dingy water … just make sure there’s a good contract to the bait. Color patterns like Holographic schemes take side flash to a new level. The amount of flash attraction these types of finishes emit make them great choices for clear, as well as dingy water.
“Roll” is a characteristic that comes from the bait’s overall design. In general, lures that are elongated in shape tend to “roll” better than lures designed with more rounded bodies. Will a good “rolling” walleye crank also have wobble? You bet. Typically, the larger the diving bill on a walleye crankbait, the more wobble it’s going to have. Of course there are other design characteristics involved, but the lip is the biggest factor.
The amount of wobble in a lure is how we classify them in correspondence to water temperature and fish aggressiveness. For instance, small lipped minnow baits such as Berkley Flicker Minnows have great rolling action with very little wobble. Baits in this category are classified as “subtle action” lures, and are dynamite fish producers when water temps are below 50°. The next classification would be the “moderate action” cranks, which would include lures like Berkley Flicker Shads. In water temps between 50 and 70°, these are the lures that generally perform the best. Finally there’s the “high action” baits, or baits with a lot of wobble. When you’re faced with 70+ degree water and highly aggressive fish, these baits will draw strikes like nothing else.
Just as important as knowing which crankbait to tie on is knowing how deep each lure is going to run. If you can’t put the bait at the fish’s feeding level, then no matter how good a lure is, it’s not going to get bit. Notice we said “feeding level”. That’s key. When marking fish on your locator, the depth at which you see them may not be the depth at which they’ll bite. Walleyes feed upward, and especially in clear water, will move up several feet to take a prospective meal. If you mark fish 10 feet off the bottom in 35 feet of water, run a lure or two at 25 feet, but also run one at 20, and maybe another one at 15. This is where knowing your lure’s running depth becomes imperative. If you do any crankbait trolling at all, you need to get yourself a copy of Precision Trolling ( visit https://thenextbite.tv/Precision_Trolling to order App). This App has dive curve charts for the most popular crankbaits, showing you how deep each lure runs depending on the amount of line let out, as well as lots of other great information on trolling.
There will be situations where the lure with the best action for the job won’t dive deep enough on its own to reach the fish’s feeding zone. That is a common occurrence in spring and fall, when subtle action cranks have the right action to catch fish, but they typically only dive a few feet due to their small lip. This problem is easily solved by adding a weighting system to your trolling pattern.
Off Shore Tackle Snap Weights are the easiest and most efficient way to add running depth in these scenarios. The set-up is simple … let the lure out 20 to 50 feet (known as the “leader”), attach a Snap Weight, then let out enough “dropper line” (the amount of line from the weight to the rod tip) to get the crank to the desired depth. The most common sizes of Snap Weights used for this are 1 to 3 ounces, depending on trolling speed and desired depth. The Precision Trolling book also covers trolling with Snap Weight with charts that help in making the right choices.
The biggest secret to being a successful crankbait troller is being able to wire the pattern … that is, being able to narrow down the right crankbait, in the right color, run at the right depth, to catch the most walleyes. Summertime is a great time to troll crankbaits for walleyes. Just be sure you know the anatomy of your crankbait selection so you can tie on the right one … and tie into some fabulous walleye crankin’ action.