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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
When In Doubt
By Rick Olson

When it doubt, troll a crankbait With so many different presentations at a walleye anglers disposal, itís difficult to know just what to start with, especially if your investigating a new lake for the first time. Or maybe you havenít been on your own lake for a while, and have lost touch with whatís going on. In either case, thereís one tried and true method that more good anglers reach for than any other, especially when in doubt, and thatís a crankbait. 

Rick Olson with a nice Crankin Eye 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 get crankiní. 
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. 
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 ground. 
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 olí 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 Shad Rap
Rapala Tail Dancer
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 itís 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 itís 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 doesnít 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 weíve spent a good deal of time talking about working close to structure, donít be afraid to run a bait way up and off the bottom. Walleyes arenít 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 youíre working deeper structure. Flat dead calm days are one of the keys, and can make for some incredible fishing. Flat dead calm isnít normally associated with good walleye fishing, but donít let that stop you from checking it out and getting in on the action. 

Rick Olson

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