Fall Cranks for Walleye
by: Captain Lance Valentine
Fall…if you are a walleye fisherman you thoughts turn to cooling water
temps, falling leaves and trophy walleye schooled up and hungry! The fall is one of my favorite times to chase walleye, especially giants. Fish are feeding heavily for winter, fish are usually in groups of several dozen or more fish, and fish are usually suspended in open water making them easy to find on our Lowrance HDS sonar units and fall walleye LOVE crankbaits.  Crankbaits account for more trophy fall walleye than any other method of fishing, especially in the Great Lakes region where I live and guide. But what crankbaits are best? In general, here are a few characteristics to look for when picking out productive cold water crankbaits.  
Look for long, skinny baits in the 4-8” range. Choose lures that have a good action, even at slow speeds. Having multiple sizes, shapes and styles is important, since each one has a unique profile, action, sound and diving angle that can make one better than all the others on a given day.  For ease of filling a tackle box, break fall walleye crankbaits into 3 categories:
1) Deep Divers (Nose Down Runners)—lures that run “nosedown” usually achieve target depth with less line out and have a“wide” tail action, even at slow speeds. Wide bills and line ties placed away from the lure body create a superb action that cold water walleye like. Some examples of Deep Divers include Reef Runner 300, 600, 800 series, Smithwick Top 20's, Bandit Deep Walleye Cranks and Rapala Tail Dancers (I like the TDD series in size 9 or 11).
 
2) Deep Divers (Flat Runners)deep diving lures that run “flat”
have a tendency to need more line to reach a specific depth and have
more of a “roll” action than a wide tail action. These baits work great at slow to medium speeds and the faster you go the “tighter” and faster the action
becomes, a trigger some days, especially in clear, calm water. Some “flat” runners to include in your tackle box are Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (size 12 and 14) and Smithwick Deep Rattlin Rogues and Smithwick Perfect 10's.    
3) Shallow Diverssince most fall walleye in open water are caught at depths of 15-
40’, many anglers neglect to stock some shallow diving crankbaits, and this can be a huge mistake. Some days a shallow diving lure will out fish a deeper diving lure because of the difference in action. Because of the smaller bill surface on shallow divers they have a wider tail action like deep divers but combine it with a tight roll. Most shallow divers need some sort of weight to achieve the desired depth and my favorite in fall is a 2 oz. inline weight about 4’ above the lure.
Some shallow divers to stock up on include the ReefRunner 700 and 900 series and no tackle box for fall walleye is complete without a few Smithwick Perfect 10's. 
I am a detailed record keeper, and over the past 10 seasons or so I have collected and analyzed LOTS of data from my boat and the boats of angling friends. From all that data and hundreds of hours of on the water experience, some patterns concerning lure color have emerged. Here are some guidelines that we know work:

...continue reading "Fall Crankbaits Options"

Trolling setup-which lures go where
by Lance Valentine

Trolling setup is a topic that gets heavily discussed every spring as angler prepare to head out for some open water trolling.  The most asked question we get is “do you run your shallowest or deepest lures on the outside of your spread?”  The answer is quite detailed and has a few variables.  Let’s discuss how and why to set the proper trolling spread.

First, we need to determine if we are trolling with lures that “float” at rest and dive when trolled (unweighted crankbaits) or are we using some sort of weight (inline, tadpole, snap weight) or diving device (tadpole, dipsey, jet etc.) since the setup for each will be different.  In this article, we will cover setting a spread using crankbaits with NO weight added, the most common way to run them.  Before we can talk about setting a spread, we need to establish a few “rules” that crankbait trolling is effected by

.Crankbaits achieve their depth by “pulling” line under the surface

  • All things being equal, the more line you let out the deeper a crankbait will dive. Each bait has a “max” depth it can reach and at some point the lure will actually dive shallower with more line let out
  • Line has a VERY significant amount of drag in the water
  • MOST of the line you let out is actually on the SURFACE! The crankbait only pulls a small percentage of the line down below the water.

So, with those rules in mind, let’s discuss setting a spread of crankbaits.  Most anglers start by putting the shallowest bait on the outside of the spread (see pic) for several reasons.  One, is the perception that fish are “spooked” to the side of the boat (another topic for later discussion) and two, that if you catch a fish on the shallow line, you can simply pull it over the deeper lines and not get tangled.  But this is actually backwards thinking!  Remember, most of the line you are letting out to achieve deeper depths on the middle and inside board is actually FLOATING on the surface, which will make it easy for the lure and fish on the outside board to catch the line and cause a tangle, and most often a lost fish!

Knowing that most of the line we let out is on the surface should make it easier to understand that running the LONGEST lead on the outside is much more efficient and results in significantly less tangles.  I do this every day with inexperienced anglers, running 3 or 4 Off-Shore inline planer boards per side and have very few tangles without ever having to reel in or move one of the other boards.  The longer lead simply comes over the top of the shorter leads and makes it easy to get the fish in without tangles.  With this setup it is also very easy to get the outside lure reset back to the outside without a tangle or having to move the remaining boards.  Simply let the lure back out straight behind the boat, snap on your Off-Shore Inline planer board, free spool the board straight behind the boat to the amount of line you want to run the board to the side (I run 100’ to outside, 75’ to middle and 50’ to inside) then engage the reel and let the board carry the lure back to its original position.

Remember, this setup is for floating crankbaits with NO weight attached to the line.  Hope this helps you catch more fish, have less tangles and have more fun while trolling this season!  In future articles I will cover the best way to set spreads with weighted lines, divers and some advanced techniques for being a more efficient open water troller!

Lance