Lake Erie Walleye Trolling

Lake Erie Walleye Trolling

Lake Erie walleye trolling has come of age. Over the past several seasons, lures and techniques have come to the forefront which produce consistent catches of large walleye throughout the traditional June through October season. The one technique which now stands above all others in its productivity is trolling with crankbait/Flutter Spoon, "Double-Bait" combinations. Whether you're walleye fishing in the shallower waters of the Western Basin or in the deep waters of the Central and Eastern basins, this technique will produce big dividends day-in and day-out. Trolling has its biggest advantage in allowing you to cover a lot of water in a short period of time. Crankbait/spoon combinations can be trolled in a wide spread horizontally as well as vertically, allowing you to locate walleye concentrations and pinpoint their preferences as to color and depth.

Lake Erie's walleye dine primarily on shad and smelt. Baitfish schools and walleyes most often are found in a temperature band from 50 to 70 degrees. Walleyes which are actively feeding usually are located at the tops of the baitfish columns and your lures should be pulled at a depth that causes them to run at this level. A depth sounder and temperature meter, therefore, become necessary tools for locating the depth of baitfish schools as well as the depth of scattered walleyes not relating to bait at a given point in time.

A crankbait/spoon "Double-Bait" combination can effectively be fished on a flat line, wire line or with the aid of a planer board, downrigger or Dipsy Diver. Favored crankbaits for "Double-Bait" walleye trolling are the Power Dive Minnow, Hot Lips Express or Speed Trap. Spoons utilized in conjunction with these plugs are all lightweight, high action models such as the #44 Flutter Spoon, #4 Diamond King or #3 1/2 Needlefish. Diagramed above is a rod spread George Bockelman, a successful troller out of Curtice, Ohio uses in the Western Basin as an example of maximum spread of lures both horizontally and vertically using several different depth devices

Bockelman uses "Double-Bait" setups behind his Dipsy Divers and single Flutter Spoons behind the Jet Divers. Productive Flutter Spoon» colors include blue, purple, green and chartreuse. Here are his specific suggestions on rigging: For the Jet Divers», run a four-foot leader behind the Jet Diver to a #44 Flutter Spoon. Set the port Jet Diver» for its deepest dive and the Jet on the starboard side for a middle dive. Bockelman suggests 17-pound solar, XT high visibility line for easiness of observation.

On the flat lines run off the port and starboard planer boards, he uses "Double-Baits" run off 3 1/2-foot leaders attached to a three-way swivel. A Flutter Spoon is tied to the end of one leader with a deep-diving Power Dive Minnow, Hot Lips Express crankbait tied to the end of the remaining leader. The diving plug will pull the spoon down without any tangling. The result of trolling this rig often is two walleyes at once!

For the Dipsy Divers, Bockelman uses different settings to obtain the widest possible spread (see diagram). "Double Baits" also are used behind the Dipsy's, except he chooses shallower running crankbaits for this operation as the Dipsy Divers provide necessary depth in Western Basin waters. Speed Traps and No. 35 Hot Shot plugs are his favored crankbaits for this purpose. To attach the three-way swivel to the Dipsy Diver, Bockelman uses a split ring between the third leg of the three-way swivel and the swivel on the tail end of the Dipsy. He then runs two 3 1/2-foot leaders off the remaining two legs of the three-way to his lures, with a #44 Flutter Spoon on one and the Speed Trap or Hot Shot on the other. Standard Dipsy colors are productive but many trollers have found Metallic Purple, Metallic Pink and Metallic Green to be even more effective.

Central Basin walleye expert and charter captain Andy Emrisko, out of Cleveland, fishes much deeper water than found in the Western Basin and adjusts his methods accordingly. He, as well as fellow charter captains Jeff Dzuro and Ron Stevens also are convinced the way to go is a "Double-Bait" rig off a three-way swivel. Crankbait choices for deep water trolling, however, are deep-diving models. Emrisko prefers Power Dive Minnow or Hot Lips Express plugs for Central Basin trolling in combination, again, with a Flutter Spoon. He notes blues or greens are top color choices for his Flutter Spoons.

Emrisko uses leaders of equal length for his "Double-Bait" setups, as does Bockelman. But they're a little longer with 4- to 6-foot lengths preferred. He cautions against using any leader length longer than your rod, as landing a fish will be difficult. Two leaders of the same length are used because there is less chance of "leader nicking". "Doubles" also are commonplace with crankbait/spoon combos and the equal lengths allow easy netting of both fish at the same time.

Emrisko uses 20-pound leaders. He notes heavier weight leaders result in fewer break-offs and can take more abuse so, if they don't spook the fish, why not gain a little edge? "Double-Bait" setups, as used by many charter captains in the Central Basin utilize a snap on the end of one leader to which the Power Dive Minnow or Hot Lips Express plug is attached. The second leader ends with a snap swivel to which the spoon is attached. The snap swivel aids in preventing line twist when faster trolling speeds are desired. Both the snap and snap swivel provide an immediate way to change lure colors without re-tying.

Emrisko, Dzuro and Stevens point out their fondness for the new Power Dive Minnow and Hot Lips Express is due to the fact both crankbaits run straight, true and very deep...a necessity to keep the diving plug down underneath and away from the spoons. Spoons such as the #44 Flutter Spoon, and #4 Diamond King are chosen because of their high action and their lightweight nature, again helping to keep them above and away from the crankbait underneath. Although some Lake Erie walleye trollers prefer to match the color of their crankbait to the Flutter Spoon color, Emrisko points out it really doesn't seem to make that much difference. What does count a lot, however, is to run several colors and change colors regularly until walleye are caught and then go to that color with the remaining lures. His best all-around color is Fire Tiger, followed closely by Silver/Blue Back/Orange Belly, Black/Purple, Chartreuse, Gold and Black.

All three charter captains agree that while planer boards or flat lines with a Power Dive Minnow attached will get you down in the 20- to 30-foot range, there are many instances in the Central and Eastern basins when that's just not deep enough. In these cases, they go to Dipsy Divers with long leaders or wire line when extra depth is needed. Emrisko and Frank Maraldo, both from Cleveland, won the First Annual Lake Erie Open Walleye Tournament this past October trolling wire line and Power Dive Minnow/Flutter Spoon, "Double-Bait" combinations. Largest of their five walleye on that day went 10 1/2 pounds with others in the 8- to 9 1/2-pound category. The 10- to 12-pound test wire Emrisko uses is thin diameter and has very little water resistance. This thinness also makes it virtually invisible in Lake Erie waters. Unlike monofilament, which reaches its depth potential when out about 100 feet, you can go deeper and deeper with wire by letting more line out.

Wire has no stretch, so even with a long line, it's easy to hook a walleye on the strike, though the fish is several hundred feet away from the boat. Because of this fact, it is advised you NOT set the hook, as thin wire will break at its rated strength. Walleye taken on wire line trolling gear will set themselves. Wire can be a very effective way to reach deep water walleye. It does, however, require some special equipment and care.

Here are some helpful tips: 1) Because of wire line's non-stretch properties, it is recommended you use a Dipsy Diver¬ Snubber and a 6-foot section of 20-pound monofilament ahead of a single Power Dive Minnow. For "Double-Baits", attach one end of the snubber to the wire and the other end to your three-way swivel with a snap. 2) Use a backing line of Dacron or cotton on your reel before spooling on wire. Spool it on semi-loosely. Suggested reels for wire line trolling include the Daiwa 47SH and Penn 310. 3) Let out line S-L-O-W-L-Y...use your clicker to slow rate of release. 4) Keep your drag have different forces at work. 5) Use a rod with hardened steel or carbide guides. Wire will cut ceramic...and, a good roller tip guide is preferable. 6) Watch for careful!

Bill Agler of Parma, Ohio is still another successful Lake Erie walleye troller. He focuses his efforts in the Central Basin which starts perking in May and produces walleyes through October. Agler also is a firm believer in the three-way swivel/"Double-Bait" setup. He uses 6-foot leaders on his outfits noting this length allows hooking of both the crankbait and Flutter Spoon» to the rod handle when not in use. His best all-around colors include Silver/Blue Top/Orange Belly, Fire Tiger, Gold/Green Top and Black on a season-around basis. For July through October walleye trolling, Agler also likes Black/Purple, Red/White/Orange and Shad. Another of his recommendations when using "Double-Baits" is to run six to eight of these combos at once to simulate a baitfish school.

The prominent Lake Erie walleye trollers interviewed for this Tech Bulletin differ a bit on leader length, line test, method of getting deep, etc. All agree without hesitation, however, that the top trolling setup for Lake Erie walleye...BIG walleye...consists of a three-way swivel, two equal lengths of leader, a crankbait and spoon. The "Double-Baits" of choice are Luhr Jensen Flutter Spoons» in combination with either the deep-diving Power Dive Minnow¬ or Hot Lips Express¬ crankbait.

All these anglers also have one other very important thing in common: they catch a lot of walleyes! Luhr Jensen & Sons, Inc., P.O. Box 297 Hood River, Ore. 97031, Ph. 541-386-3811 (7:30 - 3:30 PST)

Compiled from the Diaries and Logs of the Luhr Jensen Fishing Research Team.

"Double-Baits" are HOT!


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