Dust off the planer boards and fire up the kicker motor because it’s trolling season! That’s right crankbait aficionados, it’s your time to shine! This time of year fish are still relating to deeper flats and tapers, where a typical set-up of Berkley Flicker Shads and Flicker Minnows trolled behind Off Shore Planer Boards will rule the day. This is also the time of year that walleyes are beginning to move to steep breaking structure, especially offshore rock structure. Since this is an “in-between” time, both spots are likely to be holding fish and will have to be checked out when you get on the lake.
The best way to maximize your time on the water is to check areas you are targeting by graphing for fish before you start trolling. The recently released free software upgrade from Lowrance called “Fish Reveal” has changed the game for how you see fish on your screen. Fish Revel takes the “walleye arches” that you have been accustomed to seeing on your sonar for years and “transfers” them over to the various StructureScan screens. Not only are the fish images “crisper” than in the past, but there is more definition between walleyes and baitfish on the screen. This technology is absolutely amazing!
If you are fishing areas with deeper structure, the Lowrance StructureScan can help you locate the rock edges. As you travel through the area, place waypoints along the edge of the structure to make a trail. Follow that trail on your first trolling pass so you can cover the entire structure. If you are fishing a body of water where six lines are allowed between two people in a boat, send out two lines on planer boards on the shallow side of the boat to troll lures over the rocks. To effectively fish the drop-off, run two “flat lines” (lines without planer boards) off the back of the boat. Complete the spread by sending out two lines behind planer boards off the deep end side of the boat along the basin. The purpose of running this spread is to make contact with fish that are eager to bite!
It is imperative that you use the Precision Trolling App to know how to set your lines at the proper depth. Just select the crank bait you are using, dial up the depth you want the lure to run and let the app tell you how much line to let out. It’s that easy! When you are setting each of your lines for the set-up described above, be sure that the shallow lines are only a foot or two off the bottom. The flat lines should be running close to bottom and the lines being pulled through the basin should be just above where you are marking the majority of the fish to trigger the most bites. Once again, the Precision Trolling App data is invaluable, especially with the new snap weight data that they just updated to help your lures reach those deeper fish!
It is also important to pay attention to your speed when trolling warm water. The speed of your boat should not be dictated by the temperature of the water, but the crank and the action of the particular crank. It is a common belief that 2 mph is a great trolling speed, but we have found that it can be too fast for some cranks. A lot of cranks have a great trolling speed of 1 mph. The bottom line is that you should constantly be changing your trolling speed to find the best action for your bait!
What makes this kind of fishing so great is the ability to be flexible. Many times we hear anglers talk about being bored while trolling and that shouldn’t be the case. You should constantly be mixing up your speeds and baits until you find what they want. Experiment with different color setups so you can hone in on the exact pattern they are looking for. While “factory colors” can work great, we’ve expanded our horizons with the addition of custom colors from Renegade Outdoor Innovations, which includes some incredibly realistic “natural” looking baits. These patterns are really cool and the fish eat ’em up! The ultimate goal is to dial in your presentation so well that all of your lines are running the same style as the lure in the same color pattern at the same depth!
.When it comes to equipment, the 9.5-foot telescopic Walleye Angler Trolling rods from Bass Pro Shops are real sweethearts! We run the baits off of 10lb. Berkley XT line, which has been the standard for trolling walleyes for years. The Off Shore planer boards we run have a very heavy ballasted system so boards can be trolled slowly without tipping. They are also great for handling rough conditions. When trolling crankbaits we like to modify the clip set-up on the boards to what we call “The Pro Set-Up”. We remove the release hardware and the OR16 (Red) release from the back of the board. The board comes from the factory with and OR19 (Orange) release that is mounted straight out on the arm and we add another OR19 just behind that one so it’s aimed back at about a 45- degree angle (the board comes with a pre-drilled hole for this modification). The advantage of the “Pro Set-Up” is that it makes the boards easier to read because they will “tip back” more when a fish is on. It also makes removing the boards easy, especially when you are fighting a fish by yourself.
Remember, there are a few key things that will make you get your Next Bite when trolling cranks. Graphing for fish, watching your speed, finding the right color pattern and most importantly precise lure placement! If you can bring all of this together, you will have a fishing trip that you will be talking about for years to come!