…..swivel that is. That is what they would consider a literary hook, now to reel you in!
Like many tools in an angler’s fishing arsenal, some things get used more than others. During the late 1990′s and the early years of the new millennium, few approaches were hotter than employing the three-way swivel to put walleye in the box. Unfortunately like many hot streaks the approach fizzled with advent of new trends in techniques. But, unlike skinny jeans the 3-way will always be an effective tool to lure your “fish” in. Seriously folks, highlighting a big butt and chicken legs is not the fashion statement you want to make! Ok, rant over
Seriously though, last night I came across a package of these from Cabela’s that I had purchased at least ten years ago, and it started the old hamster wheel turning. (Quick side note, mine are size #2 and have found them perfect for walleye fishing.) I took out eight of the swivels and started looking at how I might be able to re-invent some apps for fishing today. Honestly there really aren’t too many, but much like BASS, you didn’t have to invent the mousetrap to make it better.
Lets take a look at some of the more obvious ways to use them, and I will slide in some improvements along the way and see what you come up with, as well. If your first exposure to the three-way swivel was either through the In-Fisherman magazine or their television show way back when, the most obvious way to use the swivel is employ it with a dropper weight, six to 12 inches down from the bottom eye. Since there will not be a fish on the dropper, just about any size line can be used to attach your weight with. I suggest 8 to 14 lb test, but if working in a rocky or zebra mussel environment, it will not kill the fishing if you bump it up to 20 lb test if it gives you more confidence in the approach.
Now comes the middle eye where you run your lure from. You can use a crawler harness/spinner rig, but if you do you will run into some severe line twist. That is because even though the word swivel is used to describe the rig, when you have resistance pulling against the hammered insert, there isn’t much “swiveling” going on. Best way to remedy the problem is with three small pieces from the terminal tackle inventory. First you will need a #2 split ring to attach to the middle eye/insert of the 3-way. Next use a good quality swivel, it can be a “crane” or ball bearing if you want to spend the big bucks, and finish it off with a snap. If you have some trusted snap and swivels already in your tackle box, you can just attach that to the split ring.
Another approach with the dropper weight rig is run a small diving lure like Glass Shad Rap, or a bigger shallow diving lure like an Original Floating Rapala or Husky Jerk. This approach is a great way to get a shallow diving lure down to where the fish are, while giving them a unique action not seen when using a various deep diving lures. Your crank leader can be as short as three feet or the length of your rod. In my case, since I am using 8 ft St. Croix’s, my leader can be that long. It all boils down to ease of netting the fish. Your leader can be made up with 10 to 15 lb test. I prefer to make up my leads ahead of time, less commotion on the boat and saves you some fishing time. I make them up with a double loop knot at one end, and a #2 or #3 duolock snap at the other. The duolock allows the lures to swivel back and forth on the snap and doesn’t impede the action of the lure. For ease of hooking up the leader to the 3-way itself, the duolock snap also lets you easily attach the double loop knot to the middle ring of the swivel.
Recapping: Some of the three-way swivels can be rigged with just a snap attached for use with crankbaits, while others that will be used with spinner rigs are fixed up with a split ring and some combination of snap and swivel to reduce the line twist created by the lure. Now we get into the creative ways to put more lures in the “strike zone”. The beauty of the three-way swivel is that you can get more than one lure on the rod at the same time. It almost works like the handline shanks made famous on the Detroit River, but made with mono. It’s not the same approach, but it has several benefits.
First benefit is that you can run both a crawler harness and deep diving crankbait at the same time. Nothing new here, it’s the same approach that was also introduced to the masses through In-Fisherman. The diving cranks act like your weight, but what was not cited as a reason for using the unique combination is that during the transition in water temperatures, you can actually give the fish the choice of what they want on the same rod. This approach becomes more difficult when the walleye want the crankbaits at a faster speed, it becomes a conflict with the spinner rig up above where they tend to be run slower than the diving lure. It is a transition time “one trick pony” so to speak, but highly effective. Leads on this rig should be 3 foot on your harness, and six-foot on the crank.
Another way to effectively work the three-way into your approach is to attach a short lead in the middle, say a three-foot crawler harness, single hooked crawler with a Northland Sting’r, leech or even a minnow is your speed is slow enough. Drop your leader from the bottom, two to four-foot and then it gets interesting. You have several options with what to do next. You will be running a second crawler harness off the bottom eye with a weight of some type to run off the dropper. You can employ a bead chain weight for running high in the water column. Using the bead chain gives you several options when choosing what weight you determine is most effective for targeting suspended walleye. It could be as light as 1/4 oz, maybe a 3/8ths or has high as a 1/2 ounce to work effectively while hitting the top half of water.
Keel weights of one form or another work great in this application, you can also adjust the depths by weight and line let out, but now you still start talking about one to three ounces of lead getting you down fast to where the fish are located. The heavier the keel, the easier it is for you to dial in the amount of line needed to achieve the desired depth.
Early in the season, say inside Lake Erie’s Brest Bay where I am fishing 20 foot or less, a 1 oz keel works well while letting me put enough line behind my Walleye Boards from Church Tackle as to potentially not spook cautious “eyes”. Once most of the walleye have moved outside the bay, I will bump it up to a 2 ounce keel, and that seems to work well up to 28 foot of water. After that it is time to break out the 3 oz monsters. You can of course run a 1 oz all season long if you want to start there, but why have 70 to 90 feet of line out behind your boards if thirty to 40 foot will get the job done, and have less opportunity for the fish to get off the hooks.
And of course, the trusty dusty bottom bouncer can be used as well while targeting walleye hugging bottom under the mid-day sun. Any size from 1 to 4 ounces can be used under a board effectively while adjusting the double action flags. Again, a three-foot harnesses on top, three-foot down the bottom bouncer, and a six ft harnesses off the BB (bottom bouncer). That will make the whole rig manageable using an 8 to 9 foot trolling rod.
With another recap, the three-way swivel still deserves a place in any angler’s program when fishing for walleye. It is highly effective, and it just might help you get off the water sooner with limits in the box. And what else was there, oh yes…… for the love of God, NO MORE SKINNY JEANS!