All Crankbaits Wobble
By: Mark Romanack
Wide wobbling crankbaits like this 3.5 Yakima Bait Mag Lip are better known as trout and salmon baits, but they are also ideally suited to warm water walleye trolling situations. As shown here, even at fast trolling speeds, summer walleye have no issue chasing down and inhaling wide wobbling crankbaits.
It’s safe to say all crankbaits wobble. It’s also safe to say that for every crankbait that consistently catches walleye, there is another one that doesn’t measure up in the “catching” department. Serious crankbait trollers know and understand that not all crankbaits are created to accomplish the same goals.
Thanks to the amazing fishing success that Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, Green Bay, Lake of the Woods and many other fisheries have been coughing up in recent years, more anglers than ever before have taken up walleye fishing. Many of those anglers have also dipped their toe into the crankbait pool.
Crankbaits are king when it comes to catching walleye and in part that’s because crankbaits (in their various different shapes, sizes and forms) catch walleye pretty much any time the water isn’t frozen! Fooling a walleye to strike a wobbling piece of plastic takes some unique angling skills that starts by understanding which baits work best at the various times of year and at varying water temperatures.
The second boat launches are free of ice, the pre-spawn walleye crankbait bite begins. The assortment of crankbaits that consistently catch walleye early in the year when the water is cold and walleye are lethargic is surprisingly small. In fact, these baits can be counted on the fingers of one hand! The top walleye crankbaits for cold water fishing applications include the Rapala Deep Husky Jerk 12, the Bill Lewis Precise Walleye Crank, the Smithwick Perfect 10, the Rapala Husky Jerk 14 and the Bandit 5/8 Deep Walleye. Each of these lures features that necessary top to bottom roll or slow rocking action.
Some of these baits including the Husky Jerk 14 and the Perfect 10 are stickbaits that don’t dive very deep. These lures are commonly fished in combination with an Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight to achieve the necessary diving depth.
Just because a bait looks like another bait, doesn’t mean both lures share a similar action. Subtle changes in crankbait design can and do dramatically impact on the lure’s action. This is why so few baits produce walleye consistently in icy cold water and at ultra slow trolling speeds. The Precise Walleye Crank (PWC for short) pictured here isa good example of a deep diving minnow that excels at catching walleye in cold water and at slow trolling speeds.
The key is finding baits that not only have the right “roll” but also baits that deliver this subtle action at slow trolling speeds. When the water temperature is barely 40 degrees, trolling speeds that range from 1.0 to 1.5 MPH routinely produce the most fish. A lot of crankbaits just are not designed to have the right action at ultra slow speeds.
In the world of walleye trolling, the post-spawn period is that time frame following the spawn, but before water temperatures start to peak in summer. This period is marked by water temperatures that range from the high 40’s to low 60’s degree mark.
In this slightly warmer water a different class of crankbaits begin to shine. Baits that include a little more side to side or tail wiggle start to become important. Baits that fit into this category include the original Reef Runner 800 series, the Bandit 5/8 Deep Walleye, Rapala’s Deep Tail Dancer TDD11, the Berkley Flicker Minnow series and the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow are exceptional lures to own.
All of these lure have a little more action, especially when trolled at slightly faster speeds. Commonly speeds ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 MPH produce the best success at this time of year.
Once the water temperature reaches 60 degrees things in the crankbait trolling world start to take on a very different look and feel. Because the water is warm and the fish are becoming much more active, trolling speeds can be significantly increased and lures that feature a more aggressive action start to fire up.
During the summer peak trolling speeds start ramping up from 2.0 to 3.0 and even as high as 3.5 MPH. The beauty of faster trolling speeds is it becomes much easier to cover water and contact more fish. A crankbait is never more effective than during the summer peak when anglers can cover massive amounts of water while keeping baits in the strike zone 100% of the time.
The traditional “minnow diver” crankbait profile so important in the pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn periods will continue to catch some fish during the summer peak, but a different class of crankbaits start producing the lion share of the fish. Two distinct styles of crankbaits including “shad profile” and “wide body wobblers” become critically important.
Successful walleye crankbait trollers are going to arm themselves with a selection of baits that produce at different times of the year and in different water temperatures. Baits every troller needs include Minnow Divers, Shad Profiles, Stickbaits and Wide Wobblers.
In the shad profile category baits including the Berkley Flicker Shad series, the Rapala Shad Rap series, the Salmo Hornet series and the Berkley Money Badger series become “go to” baits. In the wide wobbler category the Yakima Bait Mag Lip and the Storm Hot n Tot are baits that walleye will destroy when trolled briskly in warm water.
The summer peak lasts until cool weather in the fall dips the water temperatures below 60 degrees when the crankbait fishing cycle repeats itself. As the water temperature cools, baits that worked in the post-spawn period will begin to fire up and as the water gets colder yet, those baits described as deadly in the pre-spawn once again start to shine.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
This crankbait fishing cycle repeats itself year after year. To consistently catch walleye on crankbaits, anglers need to understand how different lure profiles and actions produce different results at different trolling speeds and also at different times of year.
Once an angler has invested in the baits that routinely produce good results for each period of the year, walleye catching can be enjoyed spring, summer, fall and even into the dead of winter on those years when anglers can gain access to open water.