Live bait fishing with minnows, leeches, or night crawlers on spinner rigs is nothing new in the walleye world. However, the tackle that is currently on the market has vastly improved over the years.
All sorts of blade styles, sizes, and colors are available now a days. One particular manufacture leads the way in tackle development and that is Minnesota’s own Northland Tackle Company. Northland Tackle has developed a fantastic lineup for all your fishing needs.
One of the areas they are very strong in is the traditional spinner rig. While they do offer pre-tied rigs with every combination of blade design available, they also offer components so you the angler can tie your own.
I personally prefer this method and I will explain why. I try to match the specific forage in a given lake to a bead and blade that is similar. While Northland Tackle Company does a great job of this with their pre-tied rigs, I take it a step further.
I will use lighter line, different leader length, different hooks, and different blade/bead combinations with my homemade rigs. The line I prefer to use is either #8 or #10 clear Berkley Vanish. The Vanish line is a thin diameter fluorocarbon that offers near zero visibility in the water and superior abrasion resistance.
I will typically tie my 2-hook spinner rigs between 6’-7’ in length. If I’m fishing shallower than say 15’ or over weeds and rocks, I will shorten the leader length up to between 3 1/2’-5’ in length. I prefer to use a #6 & #8 Daiichi red anodized octopus style hook. If I want to add even a little more color to my spinner rig, I will switch to a Gamakatsu colored hook in those sizes.
Another hook option I have used is a single #4 Slow Death hook with a half crawler. The Slow Death hook will spin like a knuckleball of sorts, and matched with a smaller #3 blade or “smile blade” this can be absolutely deadly on summer walleyes.
For my beads, I will use the 4mm and 5mm sizes in various colors. This is where I really like to experiment with color combinations, as I feel it makes a difference. I love the various pearls and glow beads that are on the market.
There are endless styles of blades on the market now days too. From floating blades, light weight plastic “smile” blades, hatchet blades, and the traditional Indiana and Colorado blades. More often than not, I will use a Northland Tackle Baitfish Image Colorado blade in sizes #3, #4, and #5. Smaller #3 blades you can get to spin at slower speeds. The larger #5 blades will put out more flash and vibration.
The final component that anglers often overlook is the clevis that holds the spinner. Northland Tackle offers a Quick-Change Blade Clevis which is great for dialing in a specific blade color. You can easily swap out blades in seconds with this setup. The one minor downside is that it will take a tad more speed to get the blade to spin properly.
When I know what color combinations are working on a specific body of water, I will always use Northland Tackle’s Folded Clevis. This is a metal clevis that will allow the blade to spin at a slower speed.
Traditional spinner rigs are often fished on bottom bouncers. I started to use Northland Tackle’s Slick-Stick this year, and absolutely love it. The Slick-Stick comes with Northland Tackle’s Quick-Change Weight Clevis. Like the Quick-Change Blade Clevis, this system allows you to change weights without having to re-tie your line.
A general rule to follow in selecting your weight is 1oz for every 10’ of depth your fishing. I try to fish as vertical as possible when trolling spinner-rigs, so I tend to use the 2oz and 3oz Slick-Sticks the majority of the time I’m fishing open water structure like deep gravel bars and mud flats. The key is to not have the sinker drag on the bottom. You use the weight to contact the bottom and try hold above it.
Adjusting as you work your way down the structure your fishing, contacting bottom every now and then. When you feel a hit, all you need to do is slowly drop your rod tip back and give it a sweep forward. Another method I use to contact bottom, give your reel a turn or two and place it in a rod holder with your drag loose. When the rod loads up, just remove it slowly and reel in.
When a walleye hits a spinner rig, there typically is no fooling around. They hit it solid so there is no need to give them line. A great alternative to traditional live bait on a spinner rig is Northland Tackle’s Impulse series of soft, scented plastics.
I have used their 6” night crawler, 3” & 5” minnow, and leech with great success. Somedays, it will even out perform live bait. This is a great option when fishing structure with a lot of panfish that just want to steal your bait.
Spinner rigs can be fished anywhere from around .7mph upwards to 2.5mph. Day in-day out, if your around 1.3mph to 1.7mph you will have success. Remember when doing any form of trolling …it’s better to be too high, than too low. It’s better too fast, than too slow.
Pay attention to the details, and let the fish tell you how fast they want it. Everything I have talked about here can be purchased on-line through www.northlandtackle.com or at your favorite fishing retail store. Give spinner fishing a try the next time your after mid-summer walleyes. You won’t be disappointed you did I can promise you that.