Live bait has long been thought of as the best cold water walleye
it just isnít so, at least not all the time. More often than not the
right crank bait can produce as many fish or more, including some of the
largest in a system. You simply have to be willing to give up on what
youíve read or what think you know and be open to a little
experimentation. And that doesnít mean going where no man has gone
before and trying to do what hasnít been done because it has, itís just
that there probably hasnít been that many.
One of the keys to late season success with crank baits is reaching
into the box and grabbing the right bait. Productive late summer baits
include the fat and stocky variety, the kind that produce a hard
thumping wobble. Somewhere between late summer and early fall things
start to change and the chubby head bangers that had been so hot earlier
in the season start to lose some of their appeal and the longer more
slender baits being to pick up the slack.
Besides the differing profile many of the longer slimmer baits
produce an enticing action at slower speeds, and slow is one of the keys
to successful fall crankiní. The fatter baits are designed to be run at
higher speeds and why they are so effective during much of the summer,
but summer is gone and itís time to slow things down.
Baits like the Original Rapala are a top choice for fall crankiní and
can keep producing an enticing side to side wobble even at a crawl. The
Rapala is a balsa wood bait that is extremely light and can put out an
action with Ďeye appeal that has yet to be duplicated. Other heavier
baits seem to run out of gas at slower speeds and if they donít have the
right wiggle their not going to be picked up.
Somewhere in between the summer and fall baits is the Shad Rap, which
has proven to be effective in warm and cold water. Itís not exactly
short and fat and itís not long and slim and is somewhere in the middle.
Like the Rapala, itís a balsa bait which helps to give it the right
action even at slower speeds and separates it from other baits with the
same shape. A plastic bait that has proven to be extremely effective at
all speeds is the Jointed Shad Rap, and stays active throughout the
speed range and does it all with built in rattles.
Hot fall trolling patterns include running cranks through and over
rocky shoals in natural lakes, and along steep breaks in the outside
bends of the old river channel in reservoirs. Rocky shoals will load up
with perch in the fall and is a big reason for all of those walleyes
showing up. The outside channel bends create shear drop offs and are a
perfect place for walleyes to pin schools of bait against and get their
fill. In either case youíll probably want to keep your bait running
close to the structure youíre working and is where lead core can really
come in handy, especially when you move into deeper water.
If youíve nailed down a productive depth you can probably get by
without the lead, but what if things change and what if you do want to
experiment a little and head for deeper water? Thatís going to mean a
change in baits, or a change in lines, or adding a weight, or letting
out so much line that you lose control of the situation. Lead is the
perfect choice for working shallow while retaining the ability to move
into deeper water at a moments notice.
Another big plus about using lead is the fact that it has little
stretch and is a terrific crank bait indicator. That lack of stretch
means that the vibrations of a properly running bait will be transferred
to your rod tip and youíll be able to see if your bait is running clean.
When you work close to structure sooner or later youíre going to drag
the bottom and youíre going to pick up debris. A tiny bit of debris can
cause your lure to lose itís action and be rejected by super finicky
walleyes. With the lead you can actually see that change in action in
your rod tip which will give you notice to reel it up and clean it off.
Speed can be a critical factor to using cranks late in the open water
season and you really need a good handle on productive speeds to be
successful. Most speed indicators are relatively ineffective, however
the new GPS units with W.A.S.S. like the Raymarine C80 provide excellent
speed information that will allow you to fine tune your presentation.
The C80 has an eight inch brilliant color screen that can be combined
with G.P.S. and High Definition Imaging allowing you to keep track of
your speed, position, as well an unmatched view of whatís below.
Sure there will be days when you have to put away the hard baits and
grab the rigging or jigging rod. But it might not be as often as you
think, and you might surprise yourself by how effective the right crank
bait run through the right place can be.