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This week's Feature Blog

Spinner, Spinner, Fish Dinner

By: Mark Romanack

Fishing 411 TV

A lot of lures get walleye to strike out of frustration, anger or even simply as a sudden reaction. A walleye spinner or what many still refer to as nightcrawler harnesses are not among these lures. Walleye eat spinner rigs because they look and smell good enough to eat.

When a walleye spots a spinner rig moving through the water, that fish is going to react because it thinks food is getting away. This is one of the primary reasons that spinner rigs are so deadly effective on walleye throughout the summer season.

Spinner rigs like pictured here are one of the classic ways to catch walleye in the post-spawn and summer time periods. A spinner rig works because it looks and smells good enough to eat!

The spinner rig comes into it’s own soon after walleye have wrapped up their annual spring spawning runs. Often this coincides with water temperatures that are roughly 50 to 55 degrees. As the weather warms and those water temps spike up to 60 degrees, 70 degrees or even more, the spinner bite just keeps getting better and better.

It’s this time of year that food is the most important thing on a walleye’s mind. Live bait rigs like the crawler harness look, smell and move in the water in a way that walleye just can’t resist.


When walleye are found on or near the bottom, a bottom bouncer sinker is the most productive way to fish a spinner rig. While these trolling sinkers come in a host of sizes, I normally only carry three sizes including a 1, 2, and 3 ounce models.

A one ounce model fishes nicely down to about 10-15 feet of water while a two ounce model is needed to fish 20-25 feet. You guessed it, that three ounce model will be needed when faced with 30-35 feet of water.

I like to keep my harnesses about 40 to 45 inches in length for fishing bottom bouncers at speeds ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 MPH. This spinner length helps to keep the harness from contacting bottom and picking up debris or zebra mussels.

For those who tie their own spinner rigs, I recommend 15 pound test fluorocarbon line, No. 2 beak style hooks and No. 4 Colorado blades for walleye fishing. No hook is sharper than the Eagle Claw Trokar and sharp is exactly what is needed to hook fish on spinner rigs. Because of the slow speed required for trolling spinners, the only way to hook and penetrate a walleye’s bony mouth is with a hook that is “sticky” sharp.

For those who prefer to purchase pre-tied spinners, the Yakima Bait HammerTime Walleye Harness was designed by the staff of Fishing 411 especially to catch both bottom loving and suspended walleye. These harnesses are tied to 60 inches in length making them versatile enough to be used on bottom bouncers by shortening the harness or full length for targeting suspended fish.

Spinner rigs are commonly fished two ways including bottom set ups for structure loving fish and with in-line sinkers for targeting suspended walleye.


A lot of summer walleye suspend off the bottom to feed on pelagic forage species like smelt, emerald shiners, alewife and shad. In these cases, a different type of trolling weight is required to target walleye with spinners.

I depend heavily on two different types of trolling weights for fishing spinners including the Tadpole Divers and the Snap Weight both produced by Off Shore Tackle. The Tadpole Diver is a sinking non-directional diver that is used to get the harness to depth. Typically these divers are used in combination with in-line planer boards to spread out lines.

Tadpole Divers come in four sizes, but the most commonly used ones for walleye fishing include the No. 1 and No. 2 models.

The other option for trolling spinner rigs are known as Snap Weights, a weight system produced by Off Shore Tackle that allow the angler to place the weight on the line anywhere they choose. A pinch pad line release called an OR16 Snap Weight Clip is used to attach weight to the line. This unique line clip features a pin that indexes between two rubber pads. When the line is placed behind the pin, the Snap Weight is held securely on the fishing line.

In this situation, the angler lets out the spinner rig the desired distance, adds the Snap Weight with the appropriate amount of weight attached and then uses an in-line planer board to take the whole set up out to the side of the boat. When a fish is hooked, the angler reels in the board and removes it from the line, then reels in the Snap Weight and removes it from the line before reeling the fish to net.


Most walleye anglers favor the popular Colorado shape of spinner blade. This design has proven itself over and over again as a walleye slayer.

Of course the color of these blades can and does make a difference. Metallic silver, metallic gold and metallic copper are all great colors for the walleye enthusiast to consider on the cupped side of the blade. Of these metallic plating finishes, gold and copper are by far the most productive on walleye. On the convex side of the blade, some of my favorite paint finishes include Boy/Girl, Clown and Copper Sunfish.


Throughout the summer season walleye can be caught routinely on spinner rigs. Because the weather is often hot at this time of year, it’s best to put the fish to be kept right onto a bed of ice. Crowding fish into a livewell when the water is warm just about guarantees the fish will die. It’s best to simply toss the fish right on ice to insure they will make great table fare.


The spinner bite is a warm water presentation, but it’s also a slow presentation. The trolling speed can be maintained with either a gasoline kicker motor or an auto-pilot style electric motor. Many anglers use both motors at the same time by setting their primary speed with the kicker and using the electric motor to tweak speed and also to navigate the boat.

There is just something special about catching walleye on spinner rigs that has appealed to countless anglers for generations. Spinner, spinner fish dinner is just one of the ways walleye fishing enthusiasts ply their trade.


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