Ah, summertime. Sunny skies, warm breezes ... great days for catching "Unreal" walleyes. No, we're not necessarily talking about catching unbelievably big fish (but it could happen!), we're talking about catching lots of walleyes with "unreal", or artificial baits, specifically crankbaits. If you're not convinced crankbaits are a great method for catching summertime walleyes, then just look at the winning strategies of the top walleye tournaments over the past few years. You'll quickly notice that artificials, particularly crankbaits, have become a dominant force in the walleye catching game. When analyzing crankbaits for summertime walleye fishing, consider three things ... the lure's action, color, and use of important accessories that can be used to improve crankbait performance. For a crank to be a good walleye catcher it needs to have the right action ... what might be called a "roll". This top-to-bottom "roll" is what gives off the side flash that resembles a baitfish in the water. The degree or aggressiveness of the action can be described as subtle, moderate or high action. In the warm waters of early summer (50 to 70 degrees) you'll want a lure with a moderate action. A crankbait's style (the body shape of the bait, and the size of lip) help determine a bait's action and running depth. Storm's new Lightning Shad is a deep diving crankbait designed with input from pro fishermen, to have the kind of "rolling" action walleyes (and other game fish) love. Other "Moderate" action lures would include the shallow running Baby ThunderStick and Deep Jr. ThunderStick. A real sleeper lure for this time of year is the Hot'N Tot Flash. A regular "Tot" is a high action crank, but add a Storm FlashTail and it dampens the action making it a great moderate action lure. With this line-up of crankbaits, you can cover any depth range the walleyes might be relating to. Color of a bait, while not the most critical factor for catching fish, can be important to a bait's effectiveness. Choosing the right color lure for the situations you fish will most often be determined by water clarity and preferred forage.
In clear water or when fishing shallow, muted, more natural colors are best. This is where it's a good idea to know the primary forage for the walleyes in your area. Popular patterns include Perch, Shad and colors with combinations of Blue, Silver and White.
In murky or stained water, or when fishing deep where light penetration is at a minimum, it's better to choose bright colors. Here's where the FireTiger and other flore scent colors come into play.
At times it's necessary to use a variety of "tools" or accessories in conjunction with crankbaits to help put them in front of more active fish. One of the most common uses of trolling accessories is to spread lines out away from the boat. Spreading lines serves basically two purposes...
1) It allows the angler to cover more water in search of hungry walleyes increasing the mathematical odds of finding them, and
2) By spreading out lines away from the boat, the angler can eliminate the "boat spooking" factor, especially in clear, shallower water.
In-Line boards are the "tools of the trade" preferred by most professional walleye anglers for spreading lines when trolling for walleyes. Not all boards are created equal however...a ballasted board, like the Off Shore OR-12 Side Planer, is keel weighted so that it sits upright at rest in the water, and will prove itself superior over unballasted boards when it comes to fishability. By definition the word ballast means "to give stability".
You may not think that stability is an important factor when it comes to designing in-line planer boards for walleye fishing, but the truth is, stability is probably one of the most important characteristics a walleye trolling board should have. Without it, the board would topple over at rest, be unable to plane cleanly in rough water, and generally would not perform adequately at the slow speeds we often use for walleye trolling.
We do our best board fishing running crankbaits at around 1.2 to 1.5 mph, and spinners at .5 to .75 mph. Having a board that works at those slow trolling speeds is vital.
A crankbait's depth is most influenced by the size of its lip. One of the most helpful tools for determining a particular crankbait's running depth is the book, Precision Trolling by Dr. Steven Holt. This is the "Troller's Bible", listing specific depths of the top walleye cranks on the market .
There are times though when walleyes are deeper than a bait can reach on it's own ... subsequently an accessory called a Snap Weight has found it's way into every pro walleye angler's bag of tricks. These are lead weights that can be easily attached to the line ahead of a bait to get it to dive deeper than it would on it's own.
Incorporating the same release system as their popular OR-12 Side Planer in-line boards, Off Shore Snap Weights attach easily to your fishing line ahead of the crankbait (or spinner) allowing you to drop that lure down to the exact depth that walleyes are holding.
An example set-up would be to let your lure out 100 feet, attach a 3 ounce Snap Weight, and then let out enough additional line to get the bait in the "Fish Zone". Snap Weights come in sizes ranging from 1/2 oz. up to 8 oz. to handle all your trolling needs.
The next step to zeroing in on the "Unreal" summertime walleye bonanza is using the right set-up. A couple of years ago we did a lot of writing, and even did a video describing what we called "The System" for trolling walleyes. This set-up calls for 71/2 ft. to 81/2 ft. trolling rods, teamed with line counter reels spooled with 10/4 FireLine.
The no-stretch, thin diameter FireLine gives greatly increased sensitivity, better long-range hooking, and up to 30% increased running depth to a crankbait than conventional monofilament. If you aren't trolling with FireLine, you should be ... it makes all the difference.
"The System" also calls for the use of Triple Grip Treble Hooks on the crankbaits. The inward bend of the Triple Grips helps to hold fish better when using no-stretch line, plus the light wire of these hooks makes for better hook penetration and crankbait action. This can also provide for the use of a larger size hook giving the lure a better "bite", without adding extra weight to the lure which could dampen it's action.
Whether covering open water or trolling contours, choosing the right lures and fine-tuning your crankbait tactics for summertime walleyes can yield some truly "Unreal" results.
by Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
Posted on Tue, December 29, 2015