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Keep On Crankin'


Editor's note: John Kolinski is the Professional Walleye Trail's 2002 Angler 
of the Year and a 13-time championship qualifier during eight years as a pro 
angler on the PWT, RCL and Masters Walleye Circuits. His articles can be read in many Midwestern outdoor publications and at several web sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Normark/Storm Lures, MinnKota, Lindy Legendary Tackle, Flambeau, Tempress Rod Holders, Optima Batteries, Panther Marine, Off-Shore Planer Boards and Berkley Trilene.

As long as there are rules, there will be those determined to bend them. 
Walleye fisherman are among the worst offenders.Not so long ago, we were told that walleyes couldn't be caught in the heat of the summer because they lost their teeth and had sore mouths. We learned that crawlers wouldn't work in cold water. We were taught that 'eyes couldn't be caught trolling faster than 2 mph.The rules said walleyes went dormant for two weeks while recovering from the spawn and that they spent 99 percent of their lives glued to the bottom of a given body of water.
Myths, all of them. Modern anglers and modern technology have proven that the only rules in walleye fishing are the ones that apply on a given day.That applies to cold-weather crankbaiting, as well. I've been asked many times when is it too cold to crank? Experience has taught me that it's never too cold. In fact, it's often the best possible presentation even when water temps dip into the 40s.
Walleyes never stop eating. They probably eat more in cold-weather months 
like November as they store up reserves for the winter when food isn't quite as 
available and they aren't as willing to search for it.

It follows that a properly presented crankbait will catch its share of fish, and come November, some of them will be huge. I've seen it happen time and again. While some anglers insist on bouncing jigs or slow-trolling live bait for cold-water 'eyes, a handful of others are piling up the fish with crankbaits.The keys to cold-weather cranking are location, gauging the concentration of fish present and putting the bait in the fish's kitchen.
I rely on my Lowrance X-19 to give me an accurate picture of what's beneath 
my boat. Not much gets by the X-19 as far as detail, and I can usually tell 
immediately if a given piece of structure or an area are holding walleyes.
If it's a small hump, a rockpile or just a slight pocket or indentation along 
a breakline, cranking is not the answer. Those smaller spots are better 
fished with jigs or Lindy rigs and live bait.
Where cranking excels is along those long, sand breaks and inside corners 
that occur in river systems and along sloping points or flats in lakes and 
These are all among the prime staging areas for November walleyes and ideal 
locations for trolling cranks. 
As far as what crankbaits to use, there isn't any rule about that, either. 
I've been in situations where one boat is catching fish on Shad Raps while 
another is catching them on Storm Thundersticks. 
It's all about matching the available forage, and in some bodies of water 
it's a combination of shad, chubs, perch, smelt, etc.
In general, stickbaits tend to work better on larger bodies of water while 
shad-style baits are the way to go on river systems and some smaller lakes. 
One clue an angler often receives in November is that many shad are nearing 
the end of their life cycle and can be seen flipping on the surface. It follows 
that a Shad Rap is probably the right choice there. 
Once you've settled on a style of crankbait, the trick becomes finding the 
most effective way to put your lure in the fish's face and keep it there.
In warmer water, a walleye will travel some distance to eat a bait. In clear 
water, that might be 10-20 feet. In dingier or stained water, that might be 
4-6 feet.
As the temperatures cool, their metabolism slows and they aren't as willing 
to chase a lure. It's imperative that we get it where they want it and keep it 
there as long as possible.
There are a number of ways to get crankbaits into the strike zone -- 
lead-core line, Berkley Fireline, three-way rigs, bottom bouncers, keel sinkers and snap weights. Each has its place.Rivers and lead-core go together like slip bobbers and leeches. When current is present, walleyes tend to hug the bottom. Often, they will tuck in behind the sand dunes created by boat and barge traffic. Lead-core line takes your crankbait to the desired depth and follows the contour. Make sure you have a good set of rod holders, such as Tempress' Fish-On model, because when you snag up with lead-core, nothing gives until you can back off the motor.Lake and reservoir situations often mean changing depths as you follow a sloping point into deep water. That's where three-way rigs and bottom bouncers shine. If you've located walleyes on top of a flat or reef, Fireline can give you enough extra depth to get to the fish and stay there.
Sometimes, late fall walleyes hang in the deep water adjacent to structure. 
When there is consistency in depth, keel weights or snap weights are a good 
choice.However, in many situations, hungry walleyes are shallow walleyes. They may be scattered along a shoreline or atop a point, but they can still be taken with crankbaits if a bit of stealth is employed. 
MinnKota Maxxum 101 bow mount trolling moto4r
Minnkota 101
That's when I set up with Off-Shore Planer boards and turn to my MinnKota Maxim bow-mount trolling motor. Powered by Optima batteries, I can work those fish over all day long without spooking them.At times, I've encountered late-fall walleyes that hit but don't stick while 
trolling cranks. That's a sign to slow down. The fish are telling us that they want what we're offering, but can't quite catch it. Sometimes, the solution is changing from a shad-style bait to a stickbait.Trolling isn't the only way to take November walleyes with crankbaits. On river systems and big water alike, a popular method for hooking up with some real giants is slow-rolling crankbaits over extremely shallow structure at night
Clearly, there are many situations where crankbaits make sense if we can get 
them where they need to be. 
Cold weather used to make trolling enthusiasts cranky. Now it just makes them 
crank E-mail John Kolinski

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