Using Crankbaits For Night Walleye

by: Mark Martin

I'd like to share a few of the tips on how to choose and use the proper crankbaits for changing conditions to catch those big walleye at night.

Walleye are versatile fish. You can use a wide variety of lures to catch them.  My night trolling technique, however , is strictly a crankbait- type of fishing.  There are dozens of crankbaits available and each one has its own time and place.

CHOOSING AND USING CRANKBAITS

1.   Size of lure: Generally, the larger the lure used, the larger the walleye you will catch. I caught a ten puonder once with a 12 inch sucker minnow and several several shad in it's belly, yet the fish still struck a lure with a stuffed belly.  Size selection depends on what the fish are eating.  How do you know what size of lure to use? Sometiimes the season is a clue.  For example in my part of the country, the crayfish are molting in late June or early July.  They are very appetizing little tidbits for walleye because of their soft shells. At this time of year , I'll use a smaller crankbait 2-1/2 to 4 inches in length that are shaped round and fat like a crayfish.

If you see gulls feeding on concentrations of minnows in certain areas of the lake during the day you can be sure there is a healthy population of baitfish there.  At night these schools of minnows will move towards shallow water.   While you you are trolling these shallows, you"ll often hear the activity of the baitfish as they break the surface.  Move into the area with a flashlight and you will be able to see the type and size of minnows that are present.  One caution, if you shine the light on the water, you will spook any walleye in the area. Keep the light to a minimum.

If the lake, river or reservoir you're fishing has mostly minnows and baitfish for prey, you should use a minnow type lure.  I use a #13 or 18 floating Rapala with a couple #5 split shot two or three feet ahead of the bait.  I try to use a lure larger than the baitfish in the area so the lure draws a little more attention than the baitfish themselves.

2.   Lure Action:  A slow woblling action will generally catch more fish tha a rapid wobble.  Remember, walleye are basically lazy fish that wait for an opportunity.  They will lay in ambush for easy prey or swim slowly about and suck up unsuspecting baitfish.

You should keep your boat speed down to 1 to 2 mph.  I use an Lowrance Sonar GPS that has a speed indicator that actually calculates speeds from sattelite signals. If you don't have a speed indicator on your boat it is a good investment. otherwise watch for debris floating by . One to two mph is about the speed of a man walking at a slow pace.

This should be the speed of your boat, not your lure.  Why?  Because you don't want to use a steady trolling speed.  As you're trolling your crankbait, move your rod tip forward to speed the lure up, the let the weight of the lure pull the rod tip to the back of the boat. The end result will be a lure rushing through the water four to five miles per hour, then pausing, the rushing forward again. It's when the lure pauses that the walleye will usually take the bait. Be Ready!

3.  Color:  In clear water, under normal weather conditions a natural finish which resembles the food base (gizzard shad, alewife, smelt, perch, etc.) will work best.  I would call normal conditrions, clear skies, a slight wind and waves under a foot. my choice for colors here would be blue/silver, black/silver, gold/silver, perch(bar pattern), rainbow and crayfish. 

In clear water, rougher conditions, rain, thunderstorms, cloud cover, high winds and waves one to two feet, the water of a clear lake will begin to stain.  I would start using lures with flourescent trim. not solid flourescent. If this does'nt produce ,  I will try a lure with rattles like a Rapala or a Rattlin Fat Rap.

In a stained lake, where you can see two to four feet down, my lure choice would be basically the same as it would be in a clear lake.   However, when a stained lake begins to turn rough or the sky clouds up, I would again use lures with flourescent colors. As the waves build or the weather increases (storms or rains), I would use a flourescent lure with rattles to get the attention of the fish. You're competing with a lot of natural noises so the rattles and high visibility are neccesarry to get the walleye to notice and react to your bait.

In muddy, turbid water under normal conditions, I would start right out with bright flourescent colors for more visibility and rattles for extra sound and vibration. When visibility is limited, the walleye need something to zero in on and the noise can do the trick.

In rough conditions in muddy water, go to a larger lure. This will give you even more vibration and action to attract the walleye.

Doctoring the lure:  Some tackle stores will have tape you can use for doctoring lures.   For muddy water, used pieces of flourescent tape to spice up your crankbaits. put a piece of chartreuse of both sides of the front, then a piece of green or red on each side of the tail.  Experiment until you find which color or pattern combination catches the fish.  Color effectiveness can change from day to day.  What worked yesterday won't neccesarily work today. 

Sound and Vibration:  As the lure passes through the water it displaces water and creates vibrations which attract predators.  The l;arger the lure, or the more violent the action of the lure, the more vibration it sends out.  Vibration is'nt the same as sound, but it works the same. In very muddy water with low visibility, consider using lures with rattles to help the walleye zero in on the sound of the lure untill it can make visual contact and strike. 

5.  Lure Speed:  This is critical.  The best speed is S-L-O-W.  as slow as you can troll and manitain lure action, generallyu between 1 and two mph.  It it's very windy, choppy day you can fish faster.  Walleye tend to be more active under these conditions and will move a little faster.

These are just a few guidelines for you.  I hope they help.  the only way to really find out is get out there and wet a line.  Sometimes you get lucky and find the right place, the right time and the right lure with out to much trouble.  Most of the time, though, you'll have to work a little harder at it and experiment untill you find the combination that opens the 'walleye lock."

The most important thing of any fishing trip should be to have fun.  Don't let the details take the fun out of the fishing.   Make the challenge of finding the fish the enjoyable and you"ll learn more and become a better fisherman for it.
 

GOOD FISHING   MARK MARTIN
 

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