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When it comes to putting lures in the strike zone–and walleyes, northern pike, and lake trout into the fish box–few late-summer methods are as effective as trolling. But if you don’t pay close attention to details like speed, depth, and lure choice, you’ll just be going for a slow boat ride. Here’s how to target each species with the right combination of flash, dash, and dive
TARGET 1: PIKE
1. At speed, the size, brightness, and scent of a sucker or shiner minnow hooked to a weight-forward spinner of at least ½ ounce will absolutely crush northern pike. Motor close to the deep edge of weeds–leafy cabbage is their preferred territory–then cast or simply let your spinner and minnow out about 80 feet and troll at idle speed, about 2 mph, with your main outboard. Hold the rod in your hand and pull the spinner free when you feel it bog down in the vegetation. Pike will often strike as the spinner surges forward. Use 20-pound FireLine on a 6-foot 6-inch medium-heavy baitcasting outfit to wrestle these gators out of the greenery.
TARGET 2: LAKE TROUT
2. Arm yourself with a heavy flipping stick, or even a muskie rod, and a level-wind reel spooled with strong, thin line such as 50-pound SpiderWire, which slices down easily into deeper water. Tie the braid to a three-way swivel, then tie on an 18-inch-long dropper of 12-pound-test mono connected to a 4-, 6-, or 8-ounce weight (the light line will break off if you snag). Finally, fasten a 4-foot leader of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon to the last open eye of the swivel, and attach a big spoon or a stickbait. You should run your boat at about 0.8 to 1.2 mph, but it’s more important to keep your lure deep, so slow down and increase the size of the weight until your line trails behind the boat at a 45-degree angle and your sinker regularly ticks the bottom.
TARGET 3: WALLEYE
3. Rig a crawler harness on a medium-heavy rod and 10-pound-test mono. Attach a 2-ounce sinker 40 feet up from the harness (I use Off Shore Tackle’s Snap Weight), then clip the line to an in-line planer board (like Church Tackle’s Walleye Board) buoyant enough to support the weight. Now here’s the trick. At speeds between 1.1 and 1.4 mph, your crawler will run at a depth roughly equal to two-thirds of the distance between sinker and planer. If you leave 15 feet between them, your worm will run about 10 to 12 feet deep. Leave 20 and you’ll be dragging it 15 feet below the surface. Watch your electronics, then put the rig just above the fish–walleyes feed up, not down.
MAKING THE RIGS
THREE SIMPLE SETUPS FOR LATE-SUMMER SUCCESS
Use 5/8-or ¾-ounce Erie Dearies or similar weight-forward spinners in Halloween colors of orange, yellow, green, or a mix thereof. Insert the spinner’s single hook through the mouth and out the top of the head of a 6-inch sucker minnow or shiner. To keep the bait-fish from flopping free, tether it to the hook by sticking a piece of plastic worm between its head and the barb.
2 LAKE TROUT
Use a size 15A Bomber Long A in pearl, chartreuse-and-pearl, or Wonderbread colors, or a Fishlander 4¾-inch (or larger) Magnum Spoon in silver with green prism tape. To give the lure extra color, accent it with 3/8-inch red adhesive eyes and strips of green or glow prism tape from WTP Inc. You can also spray-paint red or black eyespots on the spoon.
Buy a crawler harness or create one by snelling two or three No. 2 Octopus hooks 3 inches apart to the end of a 6-foot, 15-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. Thread six No. 5 plastic beads (I like chartreuse) or a Bass Pro Shops XPS blade spacer, then a medium Quick Change clevis and spinner blade in a holographic rainbow trout color, onto the leader.
Bass Pro Shops: 800-227-7776; basspro.com
Bomber: 479-782-8971; www.bomberlures.com
Church Tackle: 269-934-8528; churchtackle.com
Erie Dearie: 888-433-2743; eriedearie.com
Fishlander: 231-943-7742; fishlander.com
Off Shore Tackle: 989-738-5600; offshoretackle.com
Quick Change: 800-869-8115; quickchg.com
WTP Inc.: 800-521-0731; wtp-inc.com