Speedy SpinnersBy Dennis Foster - June 5, 2017
Speed and spinners for walleye's sounds like a direct contraction in terms. Running spinners-typically baited with night crawlers-has always been a somewhat tedious affair. Standard fair is dragging them up and down structural elements with the standard weighting system of a bottom bouncer ranging from 1 ounce on up to 3 and even 4 ounces, depending upon depth and wind conditions.
This has become a staple on the large windswept reservoirs of the Dakota's, where the technique was born and ultimately perfected. Another technique that was developed and fined tuned on these very same reservoirs is the slow death method. Basically, a kinked fine wire Aberdeen style hook that slow rolls a half a crawler. Seductively simple and downright deadly when properly presented.
Now, through extensive testing, I have taken the next logical step to come up with the Super Death Plus Spinner series. It combines the well proven rolling action of slow death rigs and further enhances it by incorporating the time-honored thump and flash of a spinner rig. This is accomplished by using a slightly bigger and stouter hook in the form of the Mustad Super Slow Death hook. This holds up much better to the hard strikes it will elicit at higher speeds as well as being suited to hold the trophies the Great Lakes consistently kick out. I have followed this up with 2 Matzuo Sickle hooks. I also do something a bit interesting in that I am using either a whole crawler or an artificial such as Gulp. If you are not at the very least experimenting with artificial baits, I would strongly urge you to do so.
I run the head end of the crawler onto the slow death hook in a traditional fashion. Then, I do not impede its natural action by impaling it with the sickle hooks. The result is an incredibly natural and nearly irresistible motion. Not hooking our bait seems to be counterintuitive. Trust me on this, once you run it beside the boat, you will instantly see why it is best employed in this fashion. The whole crawler rolls uninhibited and has an eerily realistic snaking action. And, the hooks are running right there with it. When a fish overtakes the rig these hooks easily swing into their mouth and immediately find a meaty home. The hook up ratio with this rig is over 90 percent. It not only produces more hits, it all but eliminates getting bit short. It will soon become readily apparent that the bites it elicits are bigger too. Meaning, consistently heftier fish. I feel this is due to the entire crawler stretching out completely and making for a larger overall profile. Mature fish are selective feeders and will find this more appealing. I am also a proponent of running large number 5 blades for that very same purpose. Should you feel a need to scale this down a bit, there is a single hook Super Death Plus version as well. And or, use the quick-change clevis and snap in a smaller number 3 Ventilator blade.
Now that we have our speedy spinner rigs explained, what is the best way to put them to use? This presentation is well suited for quickly covering ground on large flats or tapering shorelines. What I like to do before ever wetting a line is to make a couple of 30 mph runs up and down the structure using trim tabs to keep the nose down on my Lund to get a safe, quick, yet thorough dissemination of the presence of fish, bait and any depth or structural elements they are relating to. I can confidently do this due to the clarity of Raymarine multi-function displays coupled with the accuracy of Navionics background mapping that I have relied since the turn of the century. For this season it gets even better with the advent of the Axiom displays featuring built-in RealVision 3D sonar, and the all new Light House 3 operating system. This is all driven with blazing fast quad core performance.
Once satisfied I have found an area with decent prospects, it is time to get busy. A good starting point is say 1.8 mph and you can play with speeds up to 3mph to determine if there is a decided preference. A typical set up can include more than just the spinner option too. Assuming 3 anglers in the boat: I may send planer boards out via 8'6" St. Croix Eyecon Trolling Rods. One deep on the outside and suspending a big aggressive bait such as an 800 Reefrunner and on the inside, either a Super Death spinner behind an inline weight or a smaller shad bodied crank bait along the lines of 200 Reefrunner ran tight to shore. 10 foot Eyecons can be ran with spinners with medium weight snap weights or a confidence crank like the Deep Little Ripper straight out the sides. Off the stern a 7'6" rod would run a heavy snap weight basically in the prop wash with a spinner and the other side sporting a 5" "shorty" leadcore rod with a diminutive crank such as a number 4 Salmo Hornet or a Mini Ripper balances it all out nicely. In effect, we have set out a buffet line of baits and spread them over a large swath of varying depths. We are quite literally seining the water for bites. On some days you will see all rods get their share of bites. Other days, a pattern will soon develop and you can adapt as needed.
A quick discussion on line is in order. You can choose to use mono or braid depending upon the depth. I personally keep my line selection limited for simplicity. 10 lb Fireline or 12lb Nano (same exact diameters) or for mono the standard and ever reliable Trilene XT in 10lb. A loose general rule is that I prefer mono in 10 feet or less and the superlines beyond that. Mono in shallow water allows us to get our weighting systems and baits a bit further back from the boat and the stretch it provides allows us a little cushion for what are often viscous head shaking, turn and run bites in the shallows. In deeper water, the thin diameter and low stretch qualities of braid allow us to keep our baits within a controllable distance without going to unreasonable amounts of weight. Play around with the options until you come up with a program that works best for you.
Another factor to consider is that spinner blade size can play a significant role. The old nemesis to innovation and learning-conventional wisdom-holds that big blades are only for big water, like the Great Lakes. While there is some truth to that, it is far from definitive. Big blades-in the realm of number 5's can perform just fine in smaller waters, particularly in the heat of summer. They can also be of benefit if you are dealing with a lot of pan fish and cigar sized walleyes. Bigger blades coupled with artificial crawlers will help deter them to some extent. Also, keep in mind that we are not approaching this from a finesse standpoint, we are employing a bold and brash presentation specifically designed to target the largest and most active fish the area holds. When done properly and dealing with aggressive fish, it can be the difference between an average day and a day that averages big fish. If you are encountering tentative fish with a neutral to negative attitude, it takes but a second to snap in a more diminutive size 3 blade and see if that improves the situation.
I have a well-deserved reputation for being a non-conformist. I whole heartedly embrace this and fully realize that I have covered a lot of questionable ground here. Most likely more than a few of you saying an emphatic "really?" to yourself. Pick and choose to use as much or as little as I have shared here. I do believe you will start to open some eyes-yours and mouths of the actual wall"eyes" in the process. Besides, where's the fun in doing what is accepted practice? Always keep in mind that normal is on the very same plane as being flat out boring.