Crankbaits are a great tool in any boat, but once the temperatures heat up I absolutely love to run crawler harnesses behind my planer boards from Church Tackle. Over the years they have been so productive for not only catching big fish, but also putting the fish into the box in quick order. You can ask why they are my favorite presentation and my answer would be basically fourfold.
One, I hate dealing with multiple treble hooks, and those darn VMC hooks on my Rapala’s seem to get stuck everywhere. Which of course is a good thing for not losing a fish, but can be problematic when all three tines are stuck in the fish. My second reason is that I am not dealing with 40, 75 or even 120 foot of line out behind the boards. The longer it takes you to get the fish back to the boat, the more likely you are to lose that fish. Last of all, while cranks during the summer are great search bait, you tend to cruise through a school without getting a second bite. Much like burning a spinnerbait through the water in search of bass, trolling speeds this time of the year are at faster speeds. Typically I will pull meat through the water column at 1.3 mph, which means while I am taking the hooks out of one fish, the other five rod presentations are still in that strike zone. Last of all, most big fish are lazy fish, specially when the water heats up, and they would prefer an easy meal versus having to work too hard for it. This is the reason I usually say that running meat cashes checks versus running cranks or even that dirty word…spoons.
Alright, those are reasons as to why I love pulling harnesses on Lake Erie for walleye, next up are the reasons why not all spinner blades perform the same. Anyone scratching your head yet? Yes all blades spin around the axis around your leader line, but all blades were not created equally. They come in different shapes and colors, and each unique blade performs a function somewhere in the water column.
All types of spinner blades will catch fish at any depth the fish happen to be, but you can fish smarter in order to maximize their effectiveness. Is this scientifically a proven theory, heck no, remember now, I taught history once upon a time. So in a way, this has been proven through historical data collected over decades on Lake Erie.
Following that brilliant defense of theory, the next step is to break down the water column into thirds. Since most anglers are fishing outside of Brest Bay this time of year, let us just say for we will be fishing in 21 to 24 foot of water. For each third, there is a spinner that will perform better than other types of blades.
Our top third of the lake will be either the first seven or eight foot of depth, which means you might be fishing as high as one to four feet below the surface. They are up high for a reason, walleye this close to the surface are doing one thing and that is actively feeding. You want a blade that will throw out the most amount of flash to get fish to come up and strike your presentation. Thump or vibration doesn’t matter as much at these depths since they are putting on the food bags, so you want the fish to see it most of all. I call this the mass flash effect, and the best blade for this I have found is the willow blade. Big blades, give the most flash, so number 6’s are great, #8’s are better, and if you cannot find them locally, running a pair of #4’s in tandem will do the job quite effectively.
The middle third is where you will find walleye in variety of feeding moods. Most noticeably they will be searching for a meal, but you might run by a few that are just eating but not in full-blown chase mode. At this depth, you still want some flash, but you want to add a little thump to the presentation. To deal effectively with these fish there are two types of blades I prefer to run, the larger Indiana’s and whiptail blades. While they are as long as a willow, these two spinners will produce some thump as well. The big Indy’s, and I mean #8’s like a muskie spinner size, have the length, but at the end they have the rounded cup like a Colorado to create vibration. The whips are long and lean like a willow, but because of their shape, they create a disturbance that fish love due to the bulging type of spin they produce. Chomper blades are hard to find, but worth it since they act much like an Indiana blade due to their unique shape with that Colorado cup at the bottom.
The last seven to eight feet from the bottom of the lake is where you want to create the most noise and vibration. One reason is the amount of light available for the fish to see, and those who hug the bottom are not usually the most active feeders. To make a racket that either fish will strike at it out of pure meanness, or come running to investigate, I personally employ Colorado’s and hatchet or what some call tomahawk blades. Both blades will stand up in comparison to the other blades that lay back over the beads. This type of spin action is what creates the vibration that gets the walleye to swipe at when it goes by, or to come running for an easy crawler meal.
With a six rod spread, you can get two meals in each third of the water column, three anglers in the boat means you can do three. Keep in mind I live in Michigan where we are allowed to fish three rods per person, so the amount of baits in the water could go up accordingly. Point being, create a game plan that will make searching for walleye that much more effective. Once you dial in which third of the column that fish that want to eat are in, the quicker you put limits in the box!