As I look out of my window over the Bay of Quinte on this cool spring morning I can see the cold water glimmering in the sunlight. The ice is now gone and the rocks on my shoreline where the walleye spawn are being washed by a northwest wind. Just a great reminder of how Mother Nature has this annual ritual of the walleye spawn down perfectly. With the season opener quickly approaching, I’ll be loading the Kingfisher with a different assortment of tackle in an effort to fool Mr. and Mrs. Marble Eyes.
No disrespect to the “King” – (the Jig) or the fast and slow movers (crankbaits and slipbobbers) all of which are fantastic spring tactics, but the spinner rig has just the right combination of “flash and food” that really gets the walleyes attention. Inexpensive, they can be fished in so many ways and at a variety of speeds and it allows for quite a bit of versatility. Casted or Trolled, Live-Bait or Artificials, Colorado, Indiana or Willow Leaf blades, the options are endless. Here is a few ideas to answer the what, when and how to help you put a couple more fish on the line.
Most anglers are already familiar with the spinner rig. Basically a piece of line 18-48 inches (monofilament, or fluorocarbon,) with a number of different coloured beads and blade(s) attached to 1, 2, or 3 hooks. The size and style of blades and hooks are usually predicated on the water and the bait you are attaching to the rig. If pulling a leech or minnow (live or imitation) usually only a single hook is preferred. Pulling crawlers (again live or imitation) is almost always a 2 or 3 hook rig. Depending on the water you are fishing you can decide how many and what style of hooks to use. A size #2, #4 or #6 octopus or circle type hook are the most common and work well in almost every situation. In non-weedy areas, ie: sandy-bottom, mud-flats or rocky areas you may be able to remove the circle hook and add a small #4 or #6 size treble hook to the rear of the spinner rig.
The heart of the system is the blades themselves…There are literally thousands upon thousands of colours and styles of blades on the market today. Big Box Tackle companies provide a good selection to the angler, while smaller companies like (Big-Eye Custom Lures (www.bigeyecustomlures.com) provide a custom painted approach to the blades and spinner rigs. These custom shops have some of the hottest blade colours on the market today. They offer pre-tied spinner rigs or components to build your own. Many anglers opt to tie their own spinner rigs as components are easy to obtain and anglers can customize the rigs to meet the current fishing conditions. Blades and Beads are available for purchase online and ordering from these custom shops can save you hours of searching for just the right colour combination. What size and style of blade you ask? Blade sizes vary greatly with the moderately sized #4 and #6 being the most popular. Again this varies with your current fishing conditions and time of year Colorado and Willow Leaf are the most popular followed by the Indiana blade. The nature of the blade design as it spins through the water creates lift which can make it difficult to keep the spinner rigs down where the fish are (more on this later). Colorado blades provide the most lift with Indiana blades second and Willow leaf blades providing the least amount of lift. The Colorado and Willow Leaf are my top two choices. The extra thump from the Colorado blade can really make a difference in the spring and early summer. Whereas the extra flash and increased trolling speeds allowed by the willowleaf blades are a summer and fall favorite.
Shallow water areas require little if no weighting of the spinner rig. As the fish move off into deeper weed-edges and drop-off areas pulling the spinners behind bottom bouncers or using a piece or two of split-shot or in-line weights in the 1/4-1/2 oz range can get your spinner rigs down where the fish are. The use of in-line planer boards is paramount in getting your spinner rigs away from the boat as well. Off-Shore Tackle brand planer boards (www.offshoretackle.com) with the “Tattle Flag” system are especially deadly tactic in the spring. The planer boards allow the angler to get the spinner rigs away from the boat and out to the easily spooked walleye that lurk in the rapidly warming shallow waters of the back bays. Speeds for pulling the spinner rigs hover right at 0.8-1.5 mph.
The bite: sometimes vicious, sometimes just the faintest nibble. With spinner rigs it is almost always one of the two. If you are using bottom-bouncers to pull your rigs it’s pretty easy to tell if your rig is under attack. With the inline planer boards it can be a bit tougher. The “tattle flag” system can help tremendously in discerning the light bite but a super sharp eye is always needed to detect the faintest of hits. A tactic that has worked well for the light-biters is to feed the walleye. No, this isn’t the Zoo but the idea is the same. The very second you detect your inline planer board hesitating or starting to fall backwards release the spool on your reel. This will let the board go motionless in the water and the walleye will have a few perilous seconds to munch on your bait. It’s a waiting game but I usually try and give it approximately 7-10 seconds before reeling down on the bait to see if he is still there. These few heart-pounding seconds are usually all it takes for a light nibbler to turn into a caught fish.
Spring and spinner rigs; like Thunder and Lightning, Milk and Cookies, or Peanut Butter and Jam, The two are meant for each other. Whether you decide to buy pre-made rigs or build your own don’t overlook this tried and true tactic to cover some water and put a few extra fish in the boat.
Nicholas “Walleye” Werner