Reservoir walleye anglers know that spinners or crankbaits clipping along at 1 to 3 mph, sometimes faster, trigger strikes from walleyes amidst a smorgasbord of shad, smelt, alewives, myriad minnows, and more. When fish are virtually surrounded by a bounty of forage opportunities during warm-water conditions of summer, trying to force feed ‘em one more slow-moving minnow or worm may not elicit much of a response. But zip something past their noses quickly enough to imitate a scared and vulnerable critter fleeing for its life, and walleyes just might snap.
Contour trolling; Speed for triggering. Speed for coverage. Speed to make your bait stand out from the crowd, be it a crowd of baitfish or a procession of familiar baits, lures, or rigs creeping along at a slow and steady pace.
Why then are walleye anglers from natural-lake country so brainwashed by slow-moving livebait rigging and jigging tactics that most refuse to pick up the pace, even in the heat of summer? Because one doesn’t argue with tradition. Slow has always been the way to go. Walleyes like slow stuff. Speed is for elsewhere. Tempt, don’t trigger. Besides, walleyes aren’t supposed to bite well in summer during the day, when the bite goes sour. But just wait until fall when they start biting livebait rigs and jigs again — stereotypes and platitudes reinforced by several generations of hand-me-down legend and lore.
Fast-moving presentations like spinners and crankbaits aren’t just for reservoirs. They work well on natural lakes under the right conditions. When the water is warm and walleyes settle into traditional summer activity patterns highlighted by the lowlight periods around dawn and dusk, the slow stuff still produces. But during the rest of the day when the fish lay low under the summer sun, switch gears; break out those spinners and crankbaits to trigger strikes. And not just for fish suspended in open water, either.
Traditional structural hot spots — deep weedlines, extended points, and humps topping out above the summer thermocline — all have edges. If the edges are fairly regular and conducive to long trolling passes, they provide a path along which you can zip a lure or lure-livebait combo. Granted, it’s a bit easier to to zoom a crankbait along the perimeter of a clean sand-rock drop-off, than to tickle the outer fringe of a weedbed without snagging, but the principle is the same; troll something at a quick pace along the edge.
Perhaps the easiest presentation is a bottom bouncer-spinner-crawler harness skipped along the roll at the top edge of the primary drop-off. Use your bowmount electric trolling motor to dance a 2-ounce bouncer along, nicking bottom, barely kissing any bottom-hugging sandgrass. A whirling, flashing #2 or #3 blade adds vibration and undulates the worm as it zips on through at 1 to 2 mph. Decision time: either eat it right now or kiss it goodbye.
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