Power Trolling Spinners
By Ross Grothe
There are some situations in which spinner rigs are more effective than
others. When the walleyes are active and spread out, spinner rigs
produce very well. A spinner rig can usually be worked quicker than
a straight rig, which is important if the fish are scattered. The
faster you can move a bait, the more fish you can show it to. The
blade will also attract walleyes from a longer distance.
Covering water quickly and keeping the presentation in the fish zone
are the key elements. Power-trolling bottom bouncers and spinners
In dirty water, the fish obviously can't see as far. The blade
will help in this condition. It throws flash and vibration, which
enables the fish to find a bait much easier. In dirty water, use
a blade that is larger and brighter than a blade used in clear water.
Orange and chartreuse blades are good in stained water; silver and white
are good in water that has more visibility.
When using spinners, snell length is important. The snell
length is the distance from the swivel to the hook. When moving quickly,
as a general rule increase the snell length. The faster you go, the lower
the bait will ride. A faster presentation is usually called for in
clear water, and you want the bait up high enough so the fish can see it
from farther away. Also, walleye are more likely to go up for a bait
than go down for it.
In dirty water, the walleyes will often be closer to the bottom.
This calls for a shorter snell that will get the bait right down in the
One important thing I’ve found out about spinners is that the
speed is very critical. If you’re getting bites from perch, sheepshead
or other rough fish you’re going too slow. Just bump the speed up
enough so they leave it alone. Sometimes, if you bump the speed up
you don’t even have to move spots and you’ll start catching walleyes.
The bait of choice is a big juicy nightcrawler, twirling behind
a spinner on a double hook rig. Leeches and minnows can also be used,
but it’s tough to beat a crawler, especially during early and late spring.
To drag the whole package to the bottom and keep it in the fish zone, a
variety of lead in different sizes and shapes is available. Yet,
the bottom bouncer, an L shaped piece of wire with a lead weight on one
end and an eye for attaching the line to the other end, has been the most
popular approach for trolling spinner rigs. Bottom bouncers work
well over rocks, sand, gravel and mud, shallow to moderate depths.
Getting the bait to where the walleyes live has also been a piece
of the puzzle. Until recently many anglers would use a 3-way rig
to offer the spinners to walleyes suspended off the bottom.
The basic rig features a three-way swivel with two attached lines
a 12 to 24 inch drop line with a 1 to 3 ounce bell sinker and a 30 to 40
inch leader tied to your bait or lure. The drop line positions your
offering a set distance above the bottom, while the leader provides an
invisible connection between the swivel and lure.
Use a 1 2/3 to 3 ounce weight to maintain trolling drifting speeds
of 1 1/2 to 2.5 miles per hour with spinners or crankbaits, or to hold
live bait steady in current. Lighter weights 1/2 to 1-ounce work
better with subtle livebait rigs or floating jigheads fished slower with
The 3-way is a good rig to use when the walleyes are spread out,
and it's easy to put together. Simply tie the line from your reel
to one eye of a 3-way swivel. The dropper holding a bell sinker is
tied to another eye and the line for the bait or lure is tied to the third
A large area can be covered quickly and effectively with 3-ways.
In water 20 to 40 feet deep, it might be necessary to go with up to 4 ounces
of weight, while in shallow water only a half-ounce sinker is necessary.
The key is, enough weight should be used to maintain contact with the bottom
at whatever speed you're moving.
Sometimes, when the wind is low and the fish are finicky about
the offering I will downsize to a 1/4-ounce sinker, or I will trim off
a hook on a 1/4-ounce jig to replace the dropper weight. This also
is the weight that I would use on a Storm Thunderstick pulled on a long
snell to make these walleyes more aggressive.
Experiment with dropper and snell length. The dropper is
the line going from the swivel to the sinker. When the walleyes are
tight to the bottom, use a short dropper, sometimes as short as 8 inches.
Other times, when the fish are riding high, go with a dropper that is about
as long as the distance of the fish from the bottom.
The snell is the line extending from the swivel to the bait or
lure. In clear water, a long snell is usually more productive.
Start with a 6-foot snell and experiment from there.
With the aide of my
LMS 350 I can identify good structure to pull spinners through. I will
keep my eye on the depth and when it is legal I will use a multi-line approach.
One rod is held in my hand the other in a rod holder. The one that
is in the rod holder is called a “dead stick”. Often the “dead stick
will out-produce the hand held rod. A lot of the time with the dead
stick you actually give the fish a little more time to suck in the bait.
Sometimes with the hand held rod I become over anxious and set the hook
prematurely. The dead stick is more forgiving and allows the walleye
to set the hook naturally.
Rainbow Spinners will increase more walleyes in the boat this spring and
summer. Keep these simple ideas in mind and remember to practice selective
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