Ever notice how a subtle, but enticing wiggle catches your eye? Fish notice that wiggle too, but the motivation is different. When we see an attractive wiggle, it causes us to think of sex. When a fish sees something wiggling, the thought process centers on food.
Many predator fish use their sense of sight as their primary means of finding and catching prey. The unique eyes of the walleye put them in a class all by themselves. This popular species has evolved with oversized eyes that help them see and hunt more effectively in low light conditions.
High action crankbaits like this Mag Lip are often at their best when fished in contact with the bottom. Notice how the paint has been worn off the lip of this bait. Fishing these lures tight to bottom is a deadly way of triggering strikes from walleye and other bottom loving species.
The walleye can see equally well in bright light conditions, and often feeds during the daylight and in shallow water. It’s the exceptional vision walleye posses that has enabled this species to evolve into a highly successful sight feeder.
Sight feeders like walleye use all their senses to find and catch food, but it’s the sense of sight that triggers the final reaction. In other words, a lure or bait can smell, sound and even feel right to their lateral line, but if it doesn’t appeal to the walleye’s advanced visual powers it’s not likely to get eaten! Lures with a lot of action and also ones that appear to be getting away quickly combine to create a powerful strike rendering stimulant.
Walleye have evolved to trust their eyes. Walleye anglers need to trust that catching these fish boils down to understanding what visual stimulants trigger strikes and why.
TEMPERATURE AND ACTIVITY LEVELS
Fish are cold blooded creatures and as a result their activity level and metabolism rate is closely tied to water temperatures. Most species (walleye included) feed most actively within a specific range of water temperatures that in turn causes their metabolism rate to peak. For walleye that water temperature range is between 50 and 70 degrees.
Across the northern part of the US and southern Canada where walleye are the most abundant, these ideal water temperature ranges correspond very closely with spring and early summer.
It’s safe to say that the more active a walleye becomes, the more likely it will be attracted to lures with a pronounced wiggle. A select group of crankbaits we’ll dub as “high action lures” do an exceptional job of not only getting the attention of walleye, but triggering savage strikes as well.
DEFINING A HIGH ACTION CRANKBAIT
Crankbaits come in every size, shape, color and action imaginable. High action crankbaits are a specific category of lures that boast the widest range of movements. Exploring a little closer we discover that the defined motion of a “high action” crankbait is obvious when viewed from both the top and side of the lure. In fact, these lures are actually rocking top to bottom in a vertical plane, while at the same time wobbling side to side in a horizontal plane.
High action crankbaits share obvious features that make them easy to identify. Crankbaits with a diving lip that is wider than the body tend to produce a more violent action. Secondly, most high action crankbaits run in the water with a steep nose down orientation. Thirdly, lures with a short and fat body profile are more likely to have lots of action than lures with a slender build. Lastly, high action lures generally fall into a group that function best when used at faster trolling and retrieve speeds.
A lot of high action lures are loosely categorized as bass baits, but there are a number of popular crankbaits that qualify as cross over or hard core walleye lures. The popular Storm Hot n Tot is an excellent example of a hard wobbling lure that does an exceptional job of triggering strikes from walleye. Popular almost everywhere walleye are found, the Hot n Tot is a good standard when comparing and selecting other lures.
Other good high action crankbait choices include the Cotton Cordell Wiggle-O, Worden’s Fat Wiggler, Bandit 300 series, Storm Wiggle Wart, Bagley’s Killer B, Rapala Fat Rap series the Salmo Hornet and a new comer known at the Yakima Bait Mag Lip. The Mag Lip is turning heads and catching lots of fish everywhere walleye are abundant.
The Mag Lip takes the wide wobble of “high action” crankbaits to another level. This unique lure features a “skip beat” action that enables the lure to dart to the side momentarily then return to it’s normal side to side wobble. This darting action is unpredictable and triggers savage strikes as predators like walleye who aren’t about to let food get away!
CAST OR TROLL?
High action cranks like this are best fished for walleye during warmer water periods of the year. The ideal conditions for casting or trolling these baits occurs when the water temperature is 50 to 70 degrees.
Most anglers consider crankbaits as primarily trolling lures. Actually high action crankbaits like those described above can be effectively used as both casting and trolling lures. The places and habitat types where walleye are found will in part dictate which of these common presentations is best.
Casting crankbaits is a good option when walleye are found among scattered or sparse weed cover that would be difficult or impossible to troll in. Shorelines with downed timber trailing into deeper water represents another excellent place to sight cast crankbaits. Rock faces, cliffs, cut banks and other places where there is relatively deep water close to shore marks a third situation where casting crankbaits is an obvious choice.
When walleye are found scattered out over sprawling flats or suspended in the water column, trolling is a more practical way of covering water and contacting fish. In both cases, using planer boards to fish multiple lures and cover more water is a critical part of trolling success.
Cast or troll? Actually both presentations can be effective when targeting walleye with high action crankbaits. Casting is best when fish are in tight to cover and trolling tends to work best on scattered fish.
SUMMING IT UP
In late spring and early summer when walleye are cranked up from a metabolism standpoint, high action baits definitely appeal to their refined sense of sight. The more action these lures produce, the better they seem to work. Casting and/or trolling high action crankbaits are definitely not finesse presentations. The key to these lures is they have lots of action and they appear to be getting away quickly!