Speed Up For Spring Walleyes

Convention calls for a slow approach for cold-water walleyes. Grab the throttle instead, and go for broke.

On large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, or even large reservoirs such as Lake Oahe, it’s possible to go all day and never get on fi sh. Plus, in cold-water situations, it’s very common to find school after school of walleyes that refuse to bite.

Then, you come across that one small pod that just wants to eat. By trolling faster, you’ll find more of these active pods and find them faster. And once you’ve found them, you can get twice as many passes over the pod before the fish quit biting or break up.

Banana Baits
A banana-style bait’s drop-tail designs creates a “hunting” action that includes erratic darting movements that attract fish and trigger strikes, according to Robertson. Better still, it runs at a fast trolling clip. This is especially important when making the author’s preferred 45-degree turns that create huge speed variances between each individual lure in the spread.

Dialing In
In the past, 1.3 mph was “fast” for me because I typically trolled .8 to 1 mph in cold water. But today when speed trolling I typically start at 2 mph and work from there.

I incorporate turns to vary speed, but I do them differently than most anglers. Rather than the typical S-turns, I prefer to troll in a straight line, and then make an occasional 45-degree turn. The reason: When the boat’s moving 2 mph and you make an S-turn, the lures will travel anywhere from about 1.8 on the slow side, to 2.2 on the fast side. My 45-degree turns result in an even larger speed variance. By paying attention to which lures get hit—and when—you’ll get a much clearer idea of how fast you can go. The faster, the better.

Incidentally, realize that something as simple as taking a 10- or 15-degree different angle path in relation to the waves will often provide considerably better results, because of the current and the way the boat is slipping it. In other words, the boat angle might result in a significantly different lure speed, even though its speed seems constant.

Shallow Options
To keep these baits down at high speeds, the author relies on 2 ounces worth of Snap Weights pinched a rod length up from the crankbait. This allows him to fish a crank like a spinner, and regulate running depth by increasing or decreasing speed. This can be particularly effective as the water starts to warm and/or clear, as less vibration is often needed.

Adding Weight
Snap Weights and similar tackle are staples of serious trollers, and they play a role in high-speed, cold-water trolling as well. They offer a two-fold advantage, getting the lure deeper at faster speeds but also by changing the lure’s action.

For years trollers have put a 1-ounce Snap Weight 30 to 50 feet up the line to make cranks run about one-third deeper. The problem with this equation is speed. When you’re pulling in excess of 2 mph, the standard dive formula is no longer accurate because the rig lifts up.

The solution is running two 2-ounce weights in tandem a rod length from the lure. The weights sit so close, in fact, that you leave them attached when fighting—and even netting—a fish. This lets you reach the necessary depths with much shorter letbacks, which shines in situations where you’re making a lot of turns or running a lot of lines, as you have much less chance of tangling.

Since it gives shallow- and moderate- diving lures an almost unlimited depth range, the approach lets you fish a crankbait more like a spinner, and that brings a few key advantages. First, you can fish anywhere from close to the surface to near bottom with the same bait—changing the speed will raise and lower the lure. This is similar to lead core trolling, but without the accompanying long letbacks.

You can also swap the Snap Weights for in-line sinkers. The different weight profile will actually make the crankbait run differently, as these sinkers generally spin less at higher trolling speeds, and will give the lure a different path of descent when speed decreases on inside turns.

And that just might be what it takes to trigger more strikes on a given day.

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