The lipless crankbait is hardly the new kid on the block, but for walleye anglers these lures are just starting to make a splash. Classic lipless crankbaits like the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap or Cotton Cordell Super Spot have been catching bass for decades. Most often used for fishing among submerged wood or aquatic weeds, the lipless design of these crankbaits allows them to fish through cover with amazing efficiency.
Lipless crankbaits are making a big splash among walleye anglers these days. Once thought of as a “bass lure” lipless baits do a great job of triggering strikes from walleye like this.
Not only do lipless crankbaits fish well in cover, they produce a lot of vibration and rattling noise in the water. Bass fishermen reach for these baits not only when fishing in cover, but when faced with stained and off color water.
Walleye fishermen are arguably late to the party when it comes to understanding the virtues of lipless crankbaits. Thankfully a whole new evolution of lipless crankbaits are hitting the market that are designed as much for walleye fishing applications as they are for bass. The Rapala Rippin’ Rap is a good example of a lipless crankbait that has made huge inroads in the world of professional walleye fishing.
Ice fishing for walleye is a game that is primarily played with live bait. Lipless crankbaits, especially the smaller sizes, are changing that tradition all across the ice belt. Lipless cranks produce best on winter walleye when the water is stained or in places where current is present. Recently on Lake of the Woods, the Fishing 411 crew caught walleye and also sauger almost at will on the No. 4 Rippin’ Rap. The bite on this reaction lure was best early and late in the day when fishing in very low light conditions. In fact, glo-in-the-dark color options consistently produced the best.
Using a subtle “tight line” jigging approach produced best. This presentation starts by lowing the bait to the bottom and then reeling up slack line. Once the weight of the lure can be felt, simply raise the rod tip about 12 inches. The vibration and rattles of the lure can clearly be felt when lifting the bait. Complete the presentation by lowering the rod tip and dropping the bait back to bottom on a tight line.
Most of the bites occur when the bait is being slowly lowered back to bottom. To get the most from this presentation it helps to spool up your reel with fused line such as Berkley Nanofil or Fireline using about a 24 inch leader of 10 pound test fluorocarbon line.
Lipless cranks in the smaller sizes are becoming an important tool for ice fishing, especially in areas where the water is stained or when fishing in current.
Lipless baits are also gaining popularity among river fishermen who spend a lot of time vertical jigging. Using a lipless bait in place of a traditional jig/minnow or jig/plastic presentation is surprisingly effective. Because lipless crankbaits are not as heavy as the jigs routinely used for vertical jigging in rivers, this presentation is limited to shallow water situations or rivers that feature a rather sluggish current. The No. 6 and 7 sizes of the Rippin’ Rap are the best suited for vertical jigging and also casting applications.
Lipless cranks are getting a quick reputation for producing trophy class walleye like this giant.
The lipless crankbait is also finding a niche among walleye anglers who concentrate on pitching to reefs, rock piles and other hard bottom structure. Often these fish are located by using side-scan sonar technology that enables anglers to spot fish without having to move the boat directly over top of the structure the fish are relating to.
Using a wireless electric motor like the MotorGuide Xi5 that features an “anchor” mode it’s easy to hover the boat in place while casting to nearby structure.
FAN CASTING THE FLATS
Lipless crankbaits are also useful for fan casting huge flats that walleye often use during the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods. A good example of this is the waters of Green Bay, where the lipless crankbait has emerged as one of the most productive lures for tempting trophy walleye.
On Green Bay anglers drift over the flats fan casting as they go. This approach helps to cover water quickly. When a fish is hooked, the boat is immediately held in place using the wireless electric motor. Once the fish is landed, other casts to the same immediate area typically produce follow up strikes.
Recently on Green Bay the Fishing 411 crew discovered that in windy conditions it is best to use the “anchor” mode on the wireless electric motor to throughly cast out an area, then allow the boat to drift for a few yards before “anchoring” again and repeating the process. In windy conditions the boat simply drifts too quickly to adequately fish the flats.
When casting, vertical jigging or ice fishing with lipless crankbaits it is important to spool up with a low stretch super braid or fused fishing line to maximize casting distance and the ability to detect light strikes. We strongly recommend adding a 24 to 36 inch fluorocarbon leader using a double uni-knot. For ice fishing applications an eight to 10 pound leader is ideal. For open water casting applications a 12 to 15 pound leader works best.
The beauty of fluorocarbon is it is clear making for the perfect terminal connection to lipless crankbaits. Fluorocarbon line is also stiff which helps to prevent the leader from tangling with the treble hooks that come standard on lipless baits.
Switching the factory treble hooks for after market premium hooks is a good way to get the most from lipless baits. Stick with the same size hook or in some cases a hook that is one size larger to avoid damaging the natural action of these lures.
Our favorite treble hook is the Eagle Claw TK310 a wide bend style hook in the Trokar series. These hooks are the sharpest we have ever used and are tough enough to withstand heavy use.
Adding scent is the final piece of the puzzle when using lipless crankbaits. Matching the hatch by using a scent product that naturally replicates what walleye are feeding on is helpful. Pro Cure Super Gel is a natural scent that is available in a host of formulas including emerald shiner, alewife, smelt, gizzard shad and trophy walleye which are ideally suited to ice fishing and open water walleye applications.
Super Gel is a sticky paste that adheres well to hard baits, soft plastics and can even be used on live bait. A dab about the size of a pencil eraser puts out a natural scent stream for about 30 minutes.
The lipless crankbait may have been made famous by bass fishermen, but walleye guys are also discovering that going “lipless” can be the fast track to more and bigger fish.