Walleye anglers tend to use crankbaits in the 4- to 6-inch range, although smaller crankbaits from 1 to 3 inches in length are perhaps more proportionate to what many walleyes eat throughout their lives. It’s why little cranks are a justifiable option and sometimes the best baits to use.
Walleyes at times key on smaller minnows or young-of-the-year panfish, becoming adept at finding and striking a particular size and type of baitfish. When walleyes are gorging themselves with a specific kind of forage, it’s wise to use a crankbait that resembles the same size, shape, and color.
Fish also can be difficult to catch when there’s an ample food supply — when they can fill their bellies quickly without expending much energy. Not only is it a guessing game for anglers to be at the right place and time, but once walleyes are full, it’s extremely challenging to entice them to eat any more food. Using a small crankbait, however, may be the ticket to tempting a full-bellied walleye to take one more fateful bite.
Coaxing pressured or negative fish to become active can be as easy as offering them a different look, such as a smaller crankbait. For instance, the top-producing bait for several weeks may have been a #7 Shad Rap, but because the walleyes have seen the lure pass in front of them so many times in recent days, they may grow leery of the bait. Switching to a smaller #5 Tail Dancer, which has a different body shape and action, can be key to trigging strikes.
Whether you cast, troll, or pull them behind a three-way rig or bottom-bouncer, small crankbaits work, sometimes better than all other sizes. Get a supply and give them a try. You may be surprised how many walleyes, including big walleyes, are willing to take a tiny crankbait. Examples include:
Excalibur — The Ultralight Ghost Minnow (2 1/4-inch) is available in floating, suspending, and Tracdown (sinking) models. The thin minnow-proportioned bait has 3-D eyes and is available in several reflective holographic color patterns.
Matzuo — The Nano Crank (available in 3/4- and 1 1/2-inch models) is a fat-bodied bait that works well in the shallows and around rocks. The Nano Minnow (2 1/2- and 3-inch) has a tight minnow-swimming action. Both baits have large eyes, realistic scales and gill plates, and are available in many popular colors. The 2 1/2-inch Depth Charge is a deep-diving shad-minnow hybrid bait that features rattles and a reflective holographic body, making it easier for walleyes to find.
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