Best Fishing Rig for Catching Springtime Walleyes

Illustration by Steve Sanford

Springtime walleyes in the Great Lakes can be finicky--if not infuriating. Since it's too early for live bait and shiners, the trick to filling your limit fast is giving the fish an extra reason to hit your trolling spread. Using a three-way swivel on their trolling rigs, anglers are fishing two lures per rod. This tactic creates the illusion of a bait ball and allows anglers to cover the water column more thoroughly. It's an effective way to kick-start a lethargic walleye's appetite.

How to Rig
Attach a 20- to 50-pound three-way swivel to the end of the main line. On the bottom ring, tie a 2- to 4-foot fluoro leader and to this add a deep-diving crankbait. A round-bodied crankbait with a 2- to 3-inch-wide bill, which gives the lure an erratic action, works best. On the top swivel, tie a leader twice as long, 4 to 8 feet, so the lure will hang farther back in the spread. A flutter spoon--in silver or chartreuse--provides a unique contrast to the noisy crankbait. Plus, since a flutter spoon doesn't dive, it won't foul the other lure.

How to Fish
Drop the crankbait overboard first to gauge the best trolling speed based on the lure's swimming motion. A good starting range is 1 to 3 mph. Work an X pattern around dropoffs, ledges, and other contour changes on the bottom. Take slower turns with this rig than you would with just one lure to ensure the baits don't foul. Finding the optimum depth is crucial for more hookups. By lengthening the leader, or running a shallow-diving suspending bait (off the top swivel), you can easily hit various portions of the water column.