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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!


Walleye in Dirty Water…
by: Captain Lance Valentine

If you have ever tried to catch walleye in dirty water you know what a challenge it can be.  In cold water periods, dirty water can be warmer and loaded with fish that will fill the sonar screen, but we still can’t get bit, no matter what we try.

Remember, walleye are primarily sight feeders and need to “see” their prey before they will strike, which makes walleye in dirty water a tough challenge.  Sometimes dirty water is all we can find, and as anglers we need to find ways to maximize the fish we catch under dirty conditions.  Here are some things that have helped me catch fish in dirty water over the years.

  • Pay attention to SOUND: Walleye have a very acute lateral line that can pick up low frequency vibrations from a good distance. While low frequency sound will attract walleye in all conditions, my experience shows it is crucial to dirty water success.  When trolling, add crankbaits to your spread with low frequency sound, made by a bait containing a small number of large bearings in the body cavity.  The low “thud-thud” made by a single large bearing travels a long distance through the water, and can help walleye zero in on your bait from afar and get close enough to find your lures in dirty water.  When jigging large jigs, up to 1.5 ounces, can be the key, even in shallow water.  The constant “thump, thump” of a heavy jig on the bottom will send out vibrations to help walleye find your bait, even in dirty water.  If you are trolling spinners, be sure to upsize your blades and use more Colorado styles than anything else to get maximum vibration from your blades.
  • Pay attention to COLOR: Walleye have eyes that see better in the yellow/orange/green spectrum and studies show that they can see fluorescent shades better than non-fluorescent ones.  In dirty water, I pay attention to color and contrast on my lures. Fluorescent orange, yellow and reds are some of my favorites.  I have also had great success on dark purple and blackbodied baits, especially those with contrasting spots or stripes of fluorescent colors.  Another of my favorites is a copper colored lure with orange, purple, or chartreuse belly and accents.  Remember, bright colors and contrast are important in dirty water.
  • Pay attention to SPEED: I have caught walleye in cold, dirty water going zero and trolling up to 2.5 mph.  If they are hungry, you can’t go too fast for walleye to catch your bait.  But, in dirty water pay attention to keeping a CONSTANT speed.  In dirty water, baits are hard to see and catch, and changes in speed make it even harder for walleye to find your bait.  Find the best speed for the day, and keep in constant for better results.  I also eliminate turns from my trolling when the water is dirty.
  • Pay attention to LURE DEPTH:  While walleye will often come 10-
    15’ to crush a lure in clear water, in dirty water your presentation needs to be much more precise.  When you find a productive depth for your lures, keep them there!  Sometimes a difference of only 1-3’ of running depth can mean a good catch or nothing!  If the water is dirty and the sun is out, don’t be afraid to run your baits in the top 4-6’ of the water, even over deep water.  You may be surprised how many walleyes are using the effect of the sun to see their prey better!

Dirty water walleye can be challenging……try some of these tricks next time you are faced with dirty water, and your fishing success should increase!

Tight Lines!


The Secret of the bead…
by: Captain Lance Valentine

One of the most common questions I get when doing trolling seminars is "how do you rig your trolling rods".  I use a method that keeps me efficient, makes it easy to know what is on each rod, and allows me versatility in my rigging.  I call it "The Secret of the Bead".  Here's how it works.  First, I calibrate my line counter reels.  Then, I use a bead on my line between the rod tip and the rest of my setup (see pic below).   After the bead, I tie on a crankbait snap, then attach a leader to the snap.  The leader has a high-quality ball bearing swivel at one end and a crankbait snap at the other.




So what does the bead do?  Well, it does many things, but here are just a few:

  • Keeps my clients from reeling in too far when landing a fish
  • Keeps debris off my lure (floating weeds, cottonwood etc.)
  • Helps me see when a fish is getting close to the surface for netting
  • Allows for easy adding/deleting of weights or divers
  • Helps keep track of what lures are in the water
  • Helps keep my rods organized and makes it easy to identify what rods need maintenance.

The first 3 are pretty easy to understand, but number 4 is where the bead rigging makes me a much more efficient angler.  By allowing me to quickly add or remove inline weights, Tadpoles, Diver Discs or other devices, I can fish the same rod regardless of what lure I am using and how I want to fish it.  In an instant I can go from running flat line crankbaits to running spoons behind a Tadpole weight, then quickly switch back again!

So how do number 5 and 6 work?  This is the TRUE beauty of “the bead”.  By putting different colored beads on each rod, it is easy to keep them straight…I have a “red” rod, a “blue” rod, a “purple” rod; you get the idea.  Now to make the real beareel-with-taped magic happen, I wrap a few wraps of electrical tape just above the handle of each rod, using the same color tape as the bead!

I have fished with lots of anglers who number their rod holders to identify what lures are in the water.  The problem with that system is that when you start moving rods around to change lures, juggle lines, bring in boards etc. the rods can get moved to a different rod holder position and now no one knows what lures are where.

By identifying what is in the water by the “color” of the rod, we can move rods anywhere and the “blue” rod has the same lure, lure color, distance back, etc. no matter what holder it gets moved to.  An invaluable piece of info when running 6-10 lines on a charter boat!

I carry a dry erase board in the boat (or use a piece of notebook paper) to keep my lure spread straight and to make it easy to quickly look at my spread and make a decision on changing lures, colors, depths etc. based on the conditions.  Each rod is identified the COLOR of the bead and the tape.

Identifying rods this way also works great if you need to fix one, recalibrate the line or any other maintenance issues.  I just make a note on my dry erase board, in my phone, or in a notebook.  So when I see “red rod lost 100 feet of line” in my notes I know the red rod needs to have line added and be recalibrated.  Easy!

Try the “bead”…..a very helpful piece of the trolling puzzle!