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Trolling crank baits for beginners

Gary Korsgaden with one of the fish he's handed this summer over 30". (Submitted photo)

By Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise

Trolling crank baits or “plugs,” is a method that covers a lot of water and triggers inactive walleyes. Late summer forces walleyes to go deep, either into the weeds or suspended in open water.

Crank bait selections are endless; shallow or deep runners, color variations, tight wiggle or slow seductive side-to-side rolls all add to the choice of baits to try. Crank baits come in a number of profiles, small shad, medium shad and elongated shads, which include straight pencil and jointed pencil- like baits in both shallow, short-lipped and deep runners, long- billed baits.

They have four important characteristics: Depth in which they can obtain, action, color and rattle or sound, created by “BBs” in a rattle chamber in the body of the bait. In clear water conditions of spring and fall I like the chrome with either back or blue back. With waters infested with zebra mussels, I like a combination of purple, chrome and pink.

Summer water clarity changes due to increased suspended algae growth or lakes with darker stained waters, I use colors of orange, chartreuse, copper or gold. My best crank baits are ones with contrasting colors on one lure. Sometimes I resort to adding my own colors of orange, chartreuse and red with fingernail polish.

Depth varies with time of year, from shallow in the spring, contour trolling outside weed lines and deep water summer to late summer. Regarding lure placement it is far better to err high. For example, in clear water conditions walleyes will move up 5’ to 8’ to grab a lure. In cloudy or stained water 2’ to 4’.

Rarely will a walleye go down to a crank bait. Walleyes need to see your bait, so for easier visibility of “upward looking walleyes” add contrast on the bottom of the lure by painting the belly of lure in colors of red, black orange.

Speed will first determine the depth a bait will run, the action and sound it creates. For starters, try trolling 2 mph and go from there. Speed up summer and late summer and slow down in the cooler waters of spring and fall.

Lure profile and color should be changed every 15 minutes if not productive. Once a consistent bait profile is determined, change colors within that profile. Even after catching two fish, I keep changing lures, giving the walleyes other choices. This prevents other fish conditioning to a particular lure.

My delivery systems included 18# monofilament lines in shallow water, braided lines for weed line or contour trolling and lead core lines and wire for deep water lure presentations.

Rod choices are a minimum of 8½-feet long trolling rods in medium to medium light power. For reels I prefer line counters. More on this in upcoming articles.