There has been much discussion lately about the types of spinner blades to use while making, and/or using crawler harnesses to catch walleye. I am seeing posts on Facebook and starting to get emails asking very direct questions on the subject. Why the big hoopla, you may ask? You might even be thinking I can catch walleye with any spinner off the shelf, and to a point, you would be correct. Put me on any body of water with a 1 ounce weight rigged on my St Croix’s, with a #4 Colorado blade equipped harness, and I will be able to catch fish.
My question for you is this, why use a crowbar to drive in a nail, when you know a 16 oz hammer will do the job better? Yes, you will be able to drive in the nail, but with the right tool you can do it better and easier. That might be over simplifying the purpose of the article, but you get the point, or head of the nail. With the right tool, in this case a spinner blade, you can get the task done more effectively and you will catch more fish. So consider this when choosing the right blade for your harness, yes, you will catch walleye with any blade you put down, BUT if you use the right blade, at the right depth…you will catch more walleye than you ever did before.
The venerable Colorado blade, call it t he workhorse when trolling harnesses. Its the beast because it just goes down the water column and gets the job done. Now lets dissect this blade and figure out how to fish it more effectively, and throw out the #4 size analogy.
For trolling your bait presentation just off the bottom, or getting down and dirty while dragging, there are two sizes that I will drop down there. Both #5 and #6 blades will be effective in these two applications, and really for this, I will use a #6. Actually, in most apps, the only two times I will use a #5 is either after being rejected with the bigger size, or to be honest, there was a color pattern only available in the smaller size.
For fishing 4-5 foot off the bottom, this is where I will at times go even bigger, and bump up to a #7 blade. It looks pretty big, but I like this for bringing fish that are either just off the bottom, or to trigger a big eye to come up from the muck to nail the crawler. If I had to add one more blade for this presentation, it would be the Tomahawk, or also called, the Hatchet blade which creates a lot of “thump” while being pulled along. If you are paying attention, you will start to see a theme as I fish higher in the water column, and yes Virginia, size does matter.
To fish what can be called the middle grounds, or the middle of the water column, I still want some of the thump and vibration of the Colorado, but I also want to add some size and flash to the presentation. They key here is twofold, the first, I want the fish to be able to see the blade, and the second is for the walleye to feel it going through the water. There are three blades that will fit this technique; the Whiptail, the Chopper and large #8 Indiana blades.
Of the three, the Indiana will produce the least amount of vibration, but is still highly effective, because the length catches the fish’s attention. The whiptail is perhaps my favorite for fishing the middle grounds, elongated like a willow, but with a unique curve it produces a lot of vibration while still producing the flash I want to trigger fish from below. You could call the chopper blade the bastard child of an Indiana and Colorado blade. In the nose of the blade you have the shape of the indy blade, and the rear end has the cup of a Colorado. It gives you the length to produce the flash, and the backside produces the noise.
Fishing the top of the water column can be highly effective, but more so in the spring over deep water, or when the lakes are soupy with runoff clouding things up. Now to bring back the Indiana, love this blade when fishing up high because its produced several 10 pound plus walleye for me over the years. Ideally, I drop it over the side when there is either cloud cover, or the water is stained. If this sounds like 75% of your spring fishing, you should have some Indiana’s in the boat! The length gives me my flash for triggering fish high in the water column, while still producing some thump.
Then we have the willow blade, either run a pair of #4 or #5’s in tandem, or bump it up to a #7 or #8 to run by itself, either way is highly effective. I will say this though, I prefer the big blade to stand alone. Often a walleye will attack and swipe at a spinning blade and miss the hooks, having a teaser in the front with no bite, often leads to missed hits. Others may say something different, but that has been my experience.
When, where and why for the willow blade? Obviously I am talking about the upper section of the water column. This blade produces the most flash of all the blades written about previously, but little in the noise/thump department. That’s ok, I like willows in clear sky conditions, or when I am doing a zig-zag troll in and out of lightly stained water, and crossing back over to clean water. Often I can get fish to chase baits out of the soup and attack the bait in clear water.
These are the blades I use, and although not always used in these defined situations, they tend to be the best presentations, under the prescribed conditions. Is this the ironclad rule, far from it, but they are the guidelines I use, much like the 50 degree water temp rule is for changing from pulling cranks, to when its time to start dragging meat. Meaning there is some crossover, and don’t get so rigid in the usage of the blades, but I think you will catch more walleye if you follow these suggestions.
Now this last blade, is just to show off because I was lucky enough to get some when Fishlander went out of business. Since they were also a trolling spoon company, they produced Super Glow paint schemes. They made a run of Colorado blades with the glow paint, and if you can special order some from one of the companies out there, I highly recommend that you do. The glow blades shine in low light conditions, murky water and night fishing, plus the glow lasts for two to three hours.