Catching Walleye with Crawlers

The Great Lakes have long been a popular fishing destination for not only native Midwestern anglers, but nationwide ones as well. One commonly sought species, walleye, can be a little tricky to catch during the summer months when the waters are clear enough to allow them clear visibility from as deep at 50 or 60 feet. Nightcrawlers are a sure fire way to bring walleye to the boat and today I have a few tips to help you fish crawlers more efficiently to yield better numbers.

Crawlers have been a favorite bait for walleye for years, due to their natural appearance, scent, and taste. Fishing them near the bottom is an effective tactic, but when the water is so clear you can see bottom—meaning the fish can see you, too—you have to put a different spin on the bait, literally. Adding a spinner blade ahead of a crawler when fishing at the bottom will create a flash and vibration that attracts fish. Not only that, but fishing it fast, even when the water clarity is high, will prevent walleye from getting a clear look at the bait.

Fast retrievals trigger a fish’s predatory instincts, which is why crawlers outfitted with a blade, more commonly known as a harness, are so effective. You’ll need to make sure the blade isn’t too gaudy, however. Clear water is still clear water, and walleye accustomed to it will rely on their eyesight more. This means using spinner blades that add just enough flash to be appealing, but not too much that it scares fish away. The Baitfish Image willow leaf blades from Northland are a popular option, due to their blend of flash and natural patterns. Also, willow leaf blades are narrower, which means they have less resistance and run deeper at higher speeds.

It’s smart to match your blades with the size of the baitfish where you’ll be fishing. For larger lakes, a number 4 blade is a good choice, while a number 3 is better for smaller, inland lakes. Also, make sure you use a heavy enough bottom bouncer, as a lighter one will drag instead of bouncing. Lastly, to keep your blades spinning perfectly and your bottom bouncers working properly, try to keep your speed around 1.5 mph in clear water.

Crawler harnesses are great when walleye are hesitant and fishing them fast in the clear waters of the Great Lakes will produce strikes time and time again. Often times, it’s the smallest details that make the biggest difference when fishing—such as blade size and trolling speed—so be sure to keep an eye on such details when fishing with a crawler harness. Walleye are predators and will naturally strike something that entices that instinct, so fish those crawlers fast and with some flash and you’ll have a full live well in no time.