Hall of Fame Anglers Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz discuss the use of Snap Weights in walleye trolling.
Spend any time fishing for walleyes and you’ll come across a situation where the lure that has the right attraction and triggering characteristics to catch fish won’t dive deep enough on it’s own to reach them. That’s when walleye pros reach for Off Shore Tackle Snap Weights.
Incorporating the same type of release system as their popular OR-12 Side Planer in-line boards, Off Shore Snap Weights are lead weights that attach easily to your fishing line ahead of the lure (be it a crankbait or a spinner) allowing you to drop that bait down to the exact depth that walleyes are holding. They come in sizes ranging from 1/2 oz. up to 8 oz. making them an extremely versatile trolling tool. The “standard” set-up many anglers use is the “50-50” method. That is to let the lure out 50 feet (referred to as the “lead”), attach the Snap Weight, and let out another 50 feet of line (this is referred to as the “dropper line”). The size of Snap Weight used, and the speed at which it’s trolled, will determine how deep the lure will run. While this is a good starting point, many variations of the “50-50” set-up can be used to fine-tune the presentation and trigger more walleyes to bite.
Another good scenario for using short leads and heavier Snap Weights is when Open Water fish are hugging the bottom and you are running spinners to trigger the biters. In this case the Snap Weight is working very much the same as a Bottom Bouncer. Keep the weight just off the bottom so as not to drag it through the mud and allow the spinner to stay within a foot of the bottom.
If you troll for walleyes, and you want to put a lure in a depth it can’t get to on its own, you need Off Shore Snap Weights in your boat. Use ‘em and you’ll start “snappin’ up” more walleyes this year!
Let’s say you’re fishing extremely clear water for instance. Since walleyes in clear water tend to be more “spooky” than those in dirtier water, it’s a good practice to get the lures as far away from the boat as possible. In a case like this, you would want a lead of at least 100 feet. Then by using a smaller Snap Weight, like a 1 ounce model, it may take 100 feet of dropper line to get the lure into the strike zone. While you could use a heavier weight, like a 3 ounce model, and a shorter dropper line to get to the same depth the larger weight may scare the fish. A second consideration is that a heavier weight also increases the “line angle”, which can affect hooking percentage. By using a lighter weight the line-angle is much straighter, giving you a more direct line to the fish and better hooking.
A good method for determining the length of dropper line needed to put your offering on fish is what’s known as the “Bottom-up” technique. Once you’ve let out the lure and attached the Snap Weight, let out line until you can feel the crankbait ticking bottom. This will tell you the length of dropper line it takes to get that lure to the bottom. Now, by taking into consideration the depth at which that particular bait runs with the amount of lead you have out, and the amount of dropper it takes to get that lure to a certain depth (in this case the bottom), you can begin varying the dropper to put the lure into the zone where you’re marking fish. Be sure to keep track of the dropper length so when you start catching fish, you can quickly re-produce the set-up to get the lure back to the catch zone. The most effective way to keep track of your dropper and leader lengths is to use a good line counter reel.
There are times when you’ll want to run a short lead instead. Anytime you’re fishing on or very near the bottom, a short lead will give you more control of your presentation. Bottom hugging walleyes tend to be less “spooky” than fish higher in the water column, so the weight running 10 to 25 feet ahead of the lure doesn’t pose any problems that way. This is a situation where you’ll want to use a heavier Snap Weight, again to give you better control. Choose a weight that will get the lure down to the desired depth while keeping the dropper line at about a 45 degree angle off the rod tip. You don’t want to use a weight so heavy that your dropper is any more vertical than that due to the fact that the line angle would again hamper hook setting capability. A good tip here is to replace your lure’s standard treble hooks with Mustad Triple Grips. These fine wire, super sharp hooks will make a big difference in “compromised” hooking situations. That is to say, the greater the line angle, the more “compromised” the hooking percentages will be, and the more important it is to use superior hooks like the Triple Grips.
This “short lead” set-up is particularly effective in rivers when “the program for the day” calls for running crankbaits against the current. Because of the ever-changing bottom depth in most rivers, the rod is “hand-held” as opposed to just setting it in a rod holder. That way you can adjust the dropper to keep the bait just off the bottom.
Just a little side-bar to this story.
Incorporating Off Shore Tackle’s Snap Weights with the Off Shore Tackle Side Planer Boards is a great way to cover water both vertically as well as horizontally in your search for walleyes. Keep in mind however, that the maximum weight Snap Weight that you’ll want to use with the boards is 3 ounces. Anything heavier than that and the boards will not function properly.