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 Divers—since 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:
A) Four colors stand out as the most consistent producers in the fall. Purple, red, orange and pink (PROP).It is very rare that I fish a bait without one of these colors somewhere on the bottom of the lure. Remember, fish are looking UP at your lure…the color on the bottom catches fish, the color on the top catches fishermen! B) Have some baits with white, grey or bone colored bodies. These produce well all fall, especially in very cold water. C) Have some baits with black, dark purple or dark red bodies.
D) Finish your selection with some clear bodied baits. Can be very good in clear water and I always have one in my spread. E) Spots, stripes and bars seem to make a lure more effective in cold water.Specific color choice is obviously a personal preference, but here are my favorites. I am listing the Reef Runner color since they are readily available to view online.
Here are the 10 colors I would not be without inthe fall (in no particular order)…
1) Pink Lemonade
2) Orange Peel
3) Lights Out
4) Metallic Watermelon
5) Raspberry Dolphin
7) Purple Demon
8) Purple Barely Naked
9) Red Hot Tiger
10)Baby Blue Minnow
Building a good selection of fall crankbaits is a fairly easy task. Be sure to have a few lures from each of the 3 categories listed above and work from there. You are better to have several different lure styles in one or two colors than to have a lot of colors in only one lure style. Get out there, find some fish on your sonar, put your baits 4-10’ above them and hang on…the next fish you catch could easily be the fish of a lifetime!
If you have never experienced great fall fishing, join us each fall on Lake Erie. You can book a charter with Captain Lance or attend our 4 day Walleye Education Weekend with a large group of anglers. Our Walleye Education Weekends combine on the water fishing, information sharing, nightly seminars, workshops, lodging and meals for one low price. You can find information on booking a charter, buying Lance's favorite Crankbaits or attending a Walleye Education Weekend at www.walleye101.com. F