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By Norb Wallock
Walleyes can be a sucker for livebait, especially if it’s put in the right place at the right time. Minnows, leeches, and crawlers are tops on the list, and all have their very own time and place. Knowing when and where to use the right bait can mean more walleyes (a lot more), and is determined by seasonal factors and activity levels.
A good rule of thumb to follow is sticking with minnows early and late in the season, leeches from late spring to early summer, and crawlers throughout the summer period. A rule of thumb is just that and not set in stone, as at any given time the opposite of the “rule” could be the most effective presentation. However, day in and day out you’ll probably find that the aforementioned rule of thumb will prove reasonably accurate.
Live bait has a natural appeal that walleyes find hard to resist, even
though the bait being used is not normally found in the system you happen
to be fishing. For example, leeches are not normally found in good
walleye waters but still are quickly gobbled up by hungry ‘eyes.
The reason they’re not available in appreciable numbers is the fact that
they get eaten. To do well leeches need a safer environment, absent
any fish, where they can grow and multiply. Crawlers aren’t often
thought of as a naturally occurring bait but they will show up in rivers
and lakes after a hard rain, where a rush of water and current
Delivering minnows, leeches and crawlers can be done several different ways including using live bait rigs, and tipping jigs. Rigging and jigging is one of the best ways to strain an area, and will allow you to extract most of the biters. Although extremely effective, rigging and jigging can be a painstakingly slow process. In most cases, if you’re moving too fast your presentation will probably fail.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why standard rigging and jigging techniques are too slow for finding fish. Finding and catching walleyes is often a simple matter of eliminating water, and the usual fare restricts the amount of acreage you can cover in the course of a day.
An excellent alternative is a spinner and live bait combination, which takes live bait and all of it’s attractions and gives it some needed speed. Certain spinner rigs can allow for trolling speeds of two mph or more, which means more water eliminated, or proven, in the course of a day.
Conventional spinner rigs include a monofilament snell, a blade and clevise, some beads, and a multiple hook harness. Snell length can vary depending on the situation you’re faced with, and will add up to untold numbers of pre-tied snells, especially when you include all of the different blade colors that are available.
An alternative to the pre-tied snell variety is the Wired Spinner from Pro Tackle of Aberdeen, South Dakota (1-877-377-6698), which comes without a snell, and utilizes a wire shaft instead. This unique combination produces the utmost in flash and vibration, and allows for maximum flexibility as you determine the snell length needed.
Simply tie in a piece of mono in the pound test you desire, in the length you need, and you’re in business. This method will also allow you to get away with using lighter line, which can be a huge advantage when using a bottom bouncer over rough terrain that has lots of irretrievable snags. By using a heavier line from your reel to the bouncer, the lighter line to the spinner can simply be broken off, and a new one quickly tied in. By doing so you lose only the spinner, instead of the spinner and the bouncer, which ultimately saves time and bouncers.
The Wired Spinner comes with a long shank bait hook designed to be threaded through a good portion of a fat juicy crawler, which gets the point of the hook further back in the bait, and helps to hold it in place. While the most common use for a spinner is to combine it with a night crawler, they can also be effectively used with leeches and minnows.
When using leeches, try hooking them through the nose (opposite the sucker), as it will allow it to stretch out and track better than one hooked through the sucker end. Minnows present a unique problem as they should be rigged to run upright, producing a more lifelike appearance. To do so, run a long shank hook through the mouth, out the gill, and back up next to the anal vent. This will keep the weight of the hook underneath the minnow, helping to keep it running with the topside up, and the bottom side down.
While spinners allow for covering plenty of water, they may not be the very best presentation for a given set of conditions. For example: Fish that aren’t all that charged up ( like after the passing of a cold front ), may be looking for something more subtle and without all the speed. In that case, you may have to put the spinner away and dig out the rigs and jigs.
Another option is to use the spinner to find fish, and the rig or jig to
completely strain an area. Even when the walleye action is a little
off, there’s usually a fish or two willing to take a faster moving bait,
especially if there is enough of them around.
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