Deep-Down Crankbaits for Late Summer Walleye
By Lance Valentine
Every walleye angler knows how effective crankbaits can be for catching walleye all season long. The combination of size, shape and action allow crankbaits to imitate almost any natural bait swimming and when walleye turn to eating lots of baitfish in the heat of summer crankbaits can be the best way to produce limits of open water walleye. Because walleyes are using deeper water, they are usually very easy to find on sonar, especially SideScan.
As summer marches on, baitfish numbers increase with multiple bait species hatching from early spring through mid-summer. In many walleye locations, summer baitfish are still on the smaller size (2-4”), meaning a smaller crankbait is needed to imitate the local forage. Getting these smaller crankbaits down to summertime walleye depths can be a challenge. Here are a few of my favorite methods for getting smaller crankbaits to the right depth without having a lot of line in the water using regular walleye trolling gear.
When I need to get crankbaits deeper, my first thought is to simply add weight, and an inline weight is quick and easy. Simply add an inline weight, like the Off-Shore Tackle Guppy weight, 6’ or so ahead of your crankbait and down we go. When adding inline weights, I use a simple method of determining approximate depth of my crankbait. For each ¼ ounce of weight used add 1’ of depth to the running depth of the lure you are using. My favorite weight to use is 2 ounces, so I am adding 8 feet to the normal running depth of my crankbait.
Let’s say I want to get a Flicker Mino #7 down 18’. According to the Precision Trolling Data app a Flicker Mino #7 has a maximum depth of 15’ down with 163’ of line out-way too much line out and not deep enough. So, if I add a 2-ounce inline weight, I am increasing the running depth by 8 feet. Now I check the Precision Trolling Data app and find out how much line will get this crankbait down to 10’ (18’ target depth MINUS the 8 feet added by the weight equal 10’). That number happens to be 50’ of line. Here is what we have; with 50’ of line out my Flicker Mino will go 10’ deep. Now add the 8 feet gained by the 2-ounce weight and my crankbait is now 18’ down. Boom! Catching deep walleye with a crankbait not designed to go that deep.
Another of my favorite ways to get cranks deeper is using a “snap weight” that can be placed further from the lure than an inline weight can be and can also be removed from the line as a fish is coming in. Some days having the weight further from the lure will be more effective, and some days the inline weight closer to the lure will be better; use both and let the fish tell you what they prefer each day.
To determine the depth of a crankbait/snap weight combination, we can rely on the Precision Trolling Data app again. Find the lure on the app, change the line type to “50+2” and dial in the target depth and your trolling speed (we will use 2.0 mph). Let’s stick with our original example and get a Flicker Mino #7 down to 18’. The app shows us we need 70 feet of line out. Let’s walk through setting the line. There are 3 pieces to the leader/weight/line out combination. The “leader” is a constant 50 feet and the weight is a constant 2 ounces. The only piece that changes in the amount of line between the weight and your inline planer board. Again, we need 70 feet out to get to 18’ down. So, we let out 50 feet, snap on a 2-ounce snap weight, then let out an additional 20’ of line for a total line out amount of 70 feet. We are now fishing our Flicker Mino at 18’ deep.
Some things to remember. Any time weight is added, speed becomes critical to determining lure depth. More speed will cause the weight to “rise” in the water column, while going slower will cause the weight to “drop”. Because of this we are fishing a depth window, not an exact depth. Pay very close attention to trolling speed and any sub-surface currents that may be affecting lure speed.
In warmer water of summer, matching the size, shape and action of a crankbait to what the fish are feeding on is much more important than during cold water periods. Summer is also one of the times of year I pay more attention to crankbait color, trying to match the forage the walleyes are targeting.
Crankbaits are a great way to catch summer walleye. Try these two simple methods to get baits to the right depth and you will put more fish in your livewell this summer!