Keith Eshbaugh, West Alexander, Pennsylvania: two #1 Eagle Claw bronze octopus hooks; chartreuse, silver, or gold beads; purple, black-silver, or blue-silver #4 to #7 Colorado blades. Leader material: 16-pound Ashima fluorocarbon.
Carl Grunwaldt, Green Bay, Wisconsin: two #1 Matzuo sickle hooks tied 7 to 8 inches apart; 6 mm to 8 mm beads in straight silver, alternating silvers and reds, or a series of chartreuse interspersed with a few oranges or reds; #5 deep-cup Colorado blades. Leader material: 20-pound Stren Magnathin.
Mark Brumbaugh, Arcanum, Ohio: two or three #2 octopus-style hooks (three in a tentative bite); white, pink, blue, purple beads or a combination thereof; #5 Colorado blades. Leader material: 17- to 20-pound Berkley Trilene XT.
Despite slight differences based on individual preferences, all of the above share considerable similarities and, by extension, the tenets of open-water spinner architecture: sizable single hooks (a trend away from trebles); large beads with pronounced colors associated with big-water baitfish (compared with yawn-plain chartreuse ubiquitous everywhere else in Walleye Nation); blades the size of a quarter (or even a half-dollar); and cable-like leaders to withstand the abuse of Great Lakes beasts (particularly in the net, where one shake of the head can dismember lighter rigs).
The dissimilarities, however, demonstrate the overwhelming inclination among big-water enthusiasts to troll their own creations that, despite certain precepts of blade, hook, and line dimension might otherwise be as individual as fingerprints. (And this is why some tackle manufacturers have told me it doesn’t make sense to market pretied big-water spinner rigs to a fastidious audience.)
STORE BOUGHT VERSUS HOMEMADE
Even so, a few manufacturers produce no-assembly-required big-water spinner rigs with appropriate hooks, heavy line, and substantial blades.
For the most part, commercially made spinner rigs are tied with folded metal clevises, not Quick Change plastic clevises that allow you to pop one blade off for another in a flash. The reason likely is that, when you’re buying spinner rigs, you essentially have to pony up for another setup, at $1.49 to $2.49, just to change colors. Not bad business, I suppose, but the limitations are inherent when you want to dabble with different designs.
Most astute spinner aficionados would probably agree that folded-metal clevises tend to spin the easiest at slow speeds, perhaps providing an edge when walleyes demand ultraslow presentations. With a plastic Quick Change clevis, however, it’s possible to keep purple Great Lakes-flavored beads and switch from a silver blade to a copper one in seconds. Tying your own, too, is the best way to ape your buddy’s arrangement of one green, one white, one purple, one red, one chartreuse, one pink, and one orange bead when you’re convinced, out of a certain kind of retentiveness, that that’s the magic combination.
The possibilities, however outrageous or straightforward, extend to blades when size is an ingredient everyone agrees on. “I never go below a #4 blade,” Grunwaldt says. “I hardly ever go with anything but a #5 deep-cup Colorado. But sometimes I’m inclined to go bigger to provoke strikes with a #7 or #8.”
Meanwhile, the undoubtedly individualistic Grunwaldt likes a large gap of 7 to 8 inches between the two single red Matzuo hooks because of a crawler’s ability to stretch far beyond the narrower dimensions of most commercially or personally tied harness rigs. Cup your palm in front of you, and the distance between thumb and forefinger is the length PWT pro Tommy Skarlis, Walker, Minnesota, favors between two hooks. Again, the method behind Grunwaldt and Skarlis’s madness is another example of personal preferences dictating design.
But what about the trend toward single hooks? Notwithstanding a measure of debate, single hooks hold well and sometimes result in fewer escapees than with trebles. The reason: when a walleye is pinned on the front hook, the back treble can catch the fish’s chin and dislodge the front hook. You be the judge.
LINES OF THE TIMES
Personal preference, of course, might determine the leader length for open-water spinner rigs as well. I’ve found that by pulling out leader material between outstretched arms, you get a length of about 6 feet. (The Scropposaurus is no Sasquatch.) Next step: snell the hooks and add beads (hard to go wrong with six #6s) and a Quick Change clevis. At the opposite end, I’ve taken to tying a fly-angler’s perfection loop (or try a surgeon’s loop) that I attach to a main line of 12-pound Berkley Sensation with a #1 ball-bearing swivel with a Cross-Lok snap to eliminate line twist.
What little consensus that can be found with leader material is its strength–15- to 20-pound test. While spinner guru PWT pro Andy Kuffer, Fair Haven, Michigan, is partial to #2 red Daiichi octopus hooks on 15-pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid line, a monofilament in which impurities and gaps in the line are removed and filled with fluorocarbon for strength, I’ve started experimenting with Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leader material to complement the #2 Daiichis. While using Vanish for a main line sometimes is disputed, the leader material is more than manageable enough to tie 20-pound line on #2 hooks and is stronger and more abrasion-resistant than standard Vanish. Warning: if you go with fluorocarbon, wet knots well with saliva or water before cinching down slowly to prevent heat buildup from weakening knots.
For storing leaders, wrap them around foam swimming noodles, cutting the noodles into segments that fit into zipper-type plastic bags. I like to secure the loop end of each leader with a pushpin. Or check out the approximately 10-inch foam Leader Wrap from Beckman (773-539-4775; www.beckmannet.com) featuring a 600 denier nylon sheath and Velcro closures to wrap that rascal like a spinner-noodle tortilla.
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