Lake Erie Walleye Online Magazine
The Complete Fishing Scene on Lake Erie

Subscriptions  | Fishing Reports & Message Boards | Charters  | Lodging | Dockage | Boats for Sale
Guest Book       What's New      Contact Us      Current  Lake Conditions     Advertising    Shop Online                   

New Pro Series
Michigan Scorpion Stinger Spoons


Summer 2004 Issue

Scorpion Stinger Spoons

Lake Erie Fishing Maps

The Official
Lake Erie Walleye
Fishing Hat


Precision Trolling for Erie's Walleyes
Precise trolling presentations are a critical key to
consistent success on Lake Erie's walleyes

by Captain Michael Veine

Sometimes Lake Erie's walleyes will bite just about any bait trolled, drifted or cast.  Onthose rare days, just about everybody catches plenty of fish.  However, more times than not, Erie's walleyes are only going to be caught by savvy anglers using select baits presented in a particular fashion.  Precision trolling often shines during those tough bites. Electronics can be used to locate fish and determine what depth they are holding at.  It's then just a simple mater of putting the right baits at the right depth to reap the benefits of a successful program.
Earlier this year my charter customers had been treated to boatloads of hog walleyes for a week straight fishing between the Cedar Point and Crane Creek State Park in 13-20 feet of water.  Unfortunately, a big blow scattered the fish and dirtied the water forcing me to relocate the fish and figure out another successful program.  First, I searched for fish by running at about 25 mph while closely monitoring my Lowrance fish finder for those tell tale marks.  It took a couple hours of reconnaissance, but I finally located a school of fish about half way between the State Park and West Sister Island.  My graph indicated that the walleyes were holding 10' down in water 25' deep.  Lots of baitfish were marked at a thermocline clearly showing on my graph about 8' down.  The water was a little muddy, so a precise presentation would be critical.  For best success, I knew that I'd have to run my baits about 8' down right were the baitfish were holding.
Because the water temp was still a little nippy at just 44-degrees and the water was dirty, I chose an assortment of minnow imitating body baits, which would run best at the slow trolling speeds that the conditions dictated.  With a trolling speed of just .8 mph, I choose to keep my setbacks short to reduce line stretch and maximize hook penetration.  To facilitate this, I attached a 5/8-oz. rubber core sinker one rod length ahead of the lures.  By letting out 40' of line and then attaching a Walleye Board, I spread out six lures running at the magic 8' depth.  I set lines a couple tenths of a mile upwind of the fish, so a few minutes after all the lines were in the water, we entered the school and started marking some big hooks on the graph.
The action was a little slow at first with our first pass yielding just one nine-pounder.  After passing clear of the school, we pulled lines and circled around for another go at them.  I made some adjustments to the spreadby changing some baits.  On that pass, the fish showed their preference for a tiny, HJ8 Rapala Husky Jerk in black/gold pattern.  We loaded up the trolling spread with the hot setup and took seven huge walleyes on the second pass.  We caught (and mostly released) over 50 walleyes that day with over half of them qualifying for Fish Ohio awards.  Our success was due in large part to precision trolling.

 The Mechanics of Trolling
There are five factors that affect a bait's running depth: Lure design, line diameter, trolling speed and the amount of line let out commonly referred to as the setback all affect the depth a lure will achieve.  Sinkers and devices like Pa's or Dipsy Divers will also affect running depth by taking lures down.
Its common knowledge that Lures that incorporate lips or bills, commonly referred to as crankbaits, will dive down into the water more than a spoon will.  Lures with bills dive down because downward force is applied to the lip as the lure is pulled through the water.  Crankbaits will reach top depths as long as the maximum speed of the crankbait is not exceeded.   When a crankbait is trolled too fast, it looses its bite on the water and runs erratically.
Crankbaits must run true to dive to their maximum potential.  By this I mean straight through the water without squiggling out to the sides.  To test the tune of a crankbait, at trolling speed, with about 6' of line out, put the lure in the water and slowly sweep it ahead with the rod.  If the bait veers to one side, bend the eye of the lure away from the direction that the lure is tracking.  Through trial and error, the lure can be made to run straight and true.
Lures that do not have a diving lip, like crawler harnesses for instance are very sensitive to speed in regards to their running depth.  The faster a crawler harness is trolled, the higher it will ride up in the water column.
Line creates drag in the water, which causes a lifting affect as a lure is pulled through the water.  The thicker the line, the shallower a lure will run.  This is why thicker monofilament line will run baits higher in the water column than thinner super lines of the same pound test.  Choosing fishing line is typically a compromise.  I like to use the lightest line possible to achieve depths with a minimal amount of line out.  I

also want line that will be tough enough to handle large, toothy walleyes.  Unless I'm running Dipsy Divers, I use Cabela's Proline exclusively and prefer 15-lbs. test clear mono on Erie.  I like monofilament line for trolling because the stretch acts like a shock absorber and keeps the hooks from ripping out of fish.  For Dipsys, I use green, Cabela's Ripcord.
The setback is the easiest way to adjust the running depth of a given lure.  By letting more line out, the lure will typically run deeper. Conversely, shortening up the setback will run the lure higher.  When running crankbaits, I always install a rubber-core sinker one rod length ahead of the lure.  I use sinkers that vary in size from 1/8 to 2 oz.  They allow me to achieve the desired depth with a minimal amount of setback.

Shorter setbacks are desired to reduce line stretch, which improves hooksets.  Rubber-core sinkers also allow lines to be set faster and they tend to catch lure fowling debris keeping offerings productive.

Determining Running Depth

There are two ways to determine running depth: Many moons ago, when I first started fishing Erie, I was forced to learn through experimentation how deep a given presentation ran.  That painstaking process was very time consuming and wrought with uncertainty.  Fortunately there's a much better way today.  Mark Romanack and Steve Holt came up with the troller's bible; a book titled Precision Trolling.  Now in its seventh edition with over 200,000 copies sold, this absolute must-have publication is a vital part of most avid walleye trollers' arsenals.  The book contains a ton of information on the art of trolling including dive curves that detail how deep most of today's lures will run.  The book also addresses differing line diameters, adding weights and much more.  Copies of the book can be found in well-stocked tackle shops including Cabela's.  You can also order the book online at or by phone at 800-353-6958.  I keep a copy in my boat and when I need to run particular bait at a specific depth, it's as simple as looking it up in the book and putting the bait in their faces.  If you have any questions [email protected] is my email address.