Trolling Baits to the Right Depth
Choosing the right crankbait to trigger the most bites when targeting walleyes is only part of the game. How you present that lure to get it in front of the most fish is the next component to dial in. Basically you can cast the lure to the fish, or troll it; which one you choose depends on the water and how the fish are relating to structure and forage.[DH1] When walleyes are roaming large areas and you need to cover water to contact the most fish, trolling is the way to go. The key to successfully trolling cranks is being able to get your lure to the proper depth. That’s not as easy as it sounds; it may be a matter of letting out the right amount of line and allow the bait’s bill to take it to the correct depth, or, it might take some sort of weighting system to place the lure in the walleyes’ strike zone.
Knowing how much line to let out to get a crankbait to a particular depth used to be a major process of trial and error (mostly error). That is until the book, Precision Trolling, by Mark Romanack, came out and gave anglers detailed dive curves for many of the most popular lures used to catch walleyes. Along with his wife Mary, Romanack put in the work to actually gather the dive curve information of each lure, charting just how deep each would go with various lengths of line out. The "control" line used for the dive curves was Berkley Trilene XT in 10 pound test. But they didn't stop there. Each year the Romanacks would test new lures and add their data to the book. Before long the Precision Trolling book became known as "The Trolling Bible", not only offering dive curves for lures, but various weighting systems as well, greatly shortening the learning curve for anglers getting into trolling for walleyes. These days Precision Trolling is no longer in print, but the data is available to anglers via the Precision Trolling App, so fishermen can get the data right on their phones.
One of the concepts that came out of the use of the Precision Trolling book was that changing line type and/or diameter of the line being used could affect the running depth of a lure. In my own experience, going from the standard 10 pound test mono line used for the dive curves to using 10 pound test Berkley FireLine (which has the diameter of 4 pound test mono), I could gain anywhere from 10 to 30 percent more diving depth from a particular lure. This is a tricky practice however, as using a no-stretch line like FireLine for trolling can have its draw-backs, the biggest one being it is not nearly as forgiving as monofilament when it comes to fighting a fish in to the boat. My advice, only use no-stretch line when it is necessary to get your baits to a desired depth, and when you do so, keep the drag a little loser, use the sharpest hooks you can find on your cranks and play the fish slow and steady to the boat.
It is always best if you can reach a desired depth with a lure on its own, but there are scenarios when that is simply not possible. As an example; You are on a bite where walleyes are hitting smaller baits like size 5 Berkley Flicker Shads (that dive to around 10 feet on their own), but you need to get them down to the 20 foot range to put them just above where you are marking fish. Situations like this call for the use of some sort of weight to help the bait reach the right depth. The most common weighting systems used in walleye fishing include lead core line, Snap-Weights and in-line weights. There are other methods like using down riggers or wire line but those are more specialized for use in extreme depth situations not really common on most walleye waters.
Choosing which weighting system to use is another big piece of the puzzle when it comes to catching more walleyes, and that’s a subject I’ll cover in my next blog so stay tuned.