You need five things, or in my case, six things in order to tie your own crawler harnesses. (1) hooks (2) 6 mm beads (3) size 5 or 6 Colorado blades and (4) #2 clevis, (5) 20 lb mono or fluorocarbon), these are the basics you need to have. I add a sixth item due to the speed tying method I use while snelling my hook, and that item is Flex Loc head cement from Larva Lace. You can find this particular item at most fly shops or order it directly from Hagen’s. I will touch base on this item again when I get to knot tying.
1. The hooks: this is really up for debate, some like myself want three hooks, others want only 2 for their harnesses. Even when you break it down for the two hook rig, there is debate between the two, #2 octopus style hooks or a combination of #1 or #2 for your front hook, and then tie either a #8 or #10 treble hook. This my rig, a #1 octopus hook in the front, and then two, #2 octopuses trailing. The reasoning is this, why have two hooks 3.5 or four inches apart, when I can work in three hooks in five inches of line. Nothing irks me more when the flag goes back on my Church Tackle boards, and I bring in the harness to find that my crawler has been bit in half, completely missing the hooks.
Tying is where the Flex Loc comes into play. I take one of the #2 hooks, run one end of line through the eye of the hook. Then taking the line in front, I pull it back behind the eye, and begin speed wrapping it back to the hook’s bend. After 10 or so wraps, I take the end of the wrapped line, run it through the eye, and then pull it out and tight. I have several foam blocks that I place the rig in once completed, and when I am done for the night, I take an inexpensive brush and dab on the Flex Loc and let it dry. It holds my wraps in place, and even though I am taking this extra step in the process, it is still faster than many other style of snelling the hooks.
(2) 6 mm beads: Whether you use a #5 or 6 sized blade, the 6 mm beads will work best for your rig. If you want to tie a smaller blade, like a #4, then downsize to 5 mm beads. For trolling though, specifically the Great Lakes, a #5 or #6 is the most common size used. When you use a five, then you will need six beads, plus the one in front. For a #6 blade, then 7 beads, plus the one in front of the clevis.
(3) The blades: as mentioned above, #5 and #6 blades are the most commonly used blades. You can get into the whiptails, bigger Indiana’s and Colorado blades, plus a few other shapes, but these are the two most commonly used sizes.
(4) The clevis: Most commonly used is the folded metal clevis is size 2. Now, if you go the quick change plastic route, get the large size. Any blades bigger than the above mentioned Colorado’s, then pick up some #3 clevises, they will save your line from getting nicked and the rig getting cut.
(5) The line: most commonly used is 20 lb test, either in a clear mono, or fluorocarbon. I know some locals who fish 25lb test, and I know a few pro’s that drop down to 17lb test. My St. Croix trolling rods are 8 foot long, so I start out with 7 ft of line, tie my rig and then put a double loop knot on the opposite end. By the time the process is completed my rigs are roughly 78 inches in length. Although I shoot for a stealth approach with weights and divers, I still want distance between the meat and the item used to achieve my desired trolling depth.
If your rod is a 7 footer for an example then I would take a piece of 66 inch line, and you should have roughly a five foot rig by the time you are done. Same goes for longer rods, like a 9 foot one, I personally could go with an 8 ft piece of line. Like the line’s length, much can be up for some tinkering, but all the basics mentioned hold true.