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When In Doubt
By Rick Olson
When it doubt, troll a crankbait With so many different presentations
at a walleye anglers disposal, it’s difficult to know just what to start
with, especially if your investigating a new lake for the first time. Or
maybe you haven’t been on your own lake for a while, and have lost touch
with what’s going on. In either case, there’s one tried and true method
that more good anglers reach for than any other, especially when in doubt,
and that’s a crankbait.
To help build confidence, anglers need to get some of the basics down,
and put the system to work in situations that have the best chance for
producing . One of the best situations is the one at hand, the late summer
and early fall period.
||The most difficult aspect of using cranbaits is confidence, or lack
there of. The fact is, crankbaits really do catch walleyes, and lots of
them. Not only do cranks produce, but they often get the attention of the
largest of the species in a given system. What it all means is that if
you really want to catch more fish, with a shot at a real hawg, you better
Late summer walleyes can be just about anywhere, and are often spread
out. Instead of being bunched up in specific, easily identified areas,
they can be found in many different areas, doing very different things.
You might find a few still holding on deeper structure, like underwater
points and humps, a few
lined up on shallow rocky reefs and bars, and a few somewhere in between.
Fish that are bunched up may be better approached with a jigging or
live bait rigging presentation, or maybe not. Late summer walleyes can
play hard to get, and may not fall for more traditional techniques. The
problem is the fact that by late summer the food supply usually reaches
a season high, and the walleyes
simply have to open their mouths to get their next meal. With all that
bait, you may have to give them something a little different; Something
that has the ability to attract, and elicit a positive reaction. That something
different is a crankbait, trolled at a speed that will let you cover some
Slowly working live bait, like a leech or crawler, through a pack of
walleyes, gives them plenty of time to accept, or reject, your offering.
A crankbait buzzing through the same area leaves little time for gawking,
and the decision to take a bait has to be made immediately. A quick moving
bait can trigger a reaction
strike, and may be exactly what ol’ marble eyes is looking for.
By late summer, many walleyes begin a deep to shallow migration that
can lead them back to rocky reefs, and bars. Rocks can present anglers
with plenty of problems, including the potential for snagging up and breaking
off. The key is choosing a crankbait that will run just over the top of
the intended structure,
without constantly digging in. Also, there are certain crankbaits that
are more snag resistant than others.
Rapala Shad Rap
Rapala Tail Dancer
|Specifically, the better running baits have a balsa wood
body, like the Rapala Shad Rap. The
Shad Rap is hands down, the all time winner for trolling shallow to mid
depth structure. A newer entry to the ranks is the Rapala
Tail Dancer, which has the balsa body, but has the added attraction
of rattles. Rattles attract walleyes, for whatever reason, and can be extremely
effective in darker water.
Good trolling equipment includes longer bait casting rods in the seven
to nine foot range, with softer actions and lighter tips. A light tip will
give you the ability read just how your bait is running. By watching the
tip, you can see if it’s running clean, is banging into the bottom, or
has become fowled with weeds or
debris. A light action tip will vibrate noticeably when a crank is
running true. No vibration means your bait is fowled, and a bait that vibrates
and pulls back occasionally is dragging the bottom. Pulling a fowled bait
will get you absolutely nowhere, and is something you better stay on top
of. Good trolling lines include monofilament, braided, and fluorocarbon,
and all have their place. Monofilament is still preferred, simply because
it’s so easy to use. The drawback is the extra line stretch it possesses,
which can limit how deep your bait will run. If you need some extra running
depth, try one of the new fluorocarbon lines. Fluorocarbon has little stretch,
and sinks (unlike monofilament ), which can buy quite a bit of extra running
depth. The fact that it has little stretch really shows up in the rod tip,
as the vibrations of a clean running bait are greatly accentuated. The
braided lines have virtually no stretch, and will allow your bait to achieve
maximum diving depth. The drawback is the fact that they are a little more
difficult to work with, and leave no room for error. For example, a backlash
( and everybody gets them), can render a reel unusable, and the whole mess
may have to be cut out with a sharp knife. However, if you really need
the extra depth it can get you, the drawbacks maybe worth the trouble.
Another method for getting a bait to run deeper, is to simply add an inline
weight, eight to ten feet in front of the lure. It may seem a little crude,
but it doesn’t seem to bother the fish. An inline weight can get a
shallow running bait to run at just about any depth you care to reach.
Although we’ve spent a good deal of time talking about working close
to structure, don’t be afraid to run a bait way up and off the bottom.
Walleyes aren’t always glued to the bottom, and many times can be found
suspended, chasing high riding schools of baitfish. The pattern is one
to look for, especially when you’re working deeper structure. Flat dead
calm days are one of the keys, and can make for some incredible fishing.
Flat dead calm isn’t normally associated with good walleye fishing, but
don’t let that stop you from checking it out and getting in on the action.
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