An old proverb says that treble hooks and weeds don’t go hand in hand; or, more likely, that treble hooks that penetrate either hooks or hands don’t want to come back out again. The second is definitely true; the first, well, you be the judge.
Back in the 1950s, angling pioneer E. L. Buck Perry of Hickory, North Carolina, pioneered a contour trolling system that incorporated speed trolling metal-bodied Spoonplugs to map structure by sense of feel while catching fish like crazy. Occasionally bumping bottom with different sizes of lipped diving lures that ran within specific depth ranges — 6 to 9 feet, 9 to 12 feet — telegraphed depth and bottom content to the savvy troller.
Tapping brush and timber revealed its existence with surprisingly few hang-ups; those darned Spoonplugs struck the wood nose-first, their wide bodies and wider wobbles protecting the hooks, and they magically flipped over the obstruction, most of the time. Trolling enthusiasts were impressed, until they trolled headlong into their first weedbed and buried the lure amidst the aquatic salad. Thus the philosophy of, “Don’t go near the weeds.”
Yet even that wasn’t true. Perry preached the concept of trolling roughly parallel to weededges just as he trolled parallel to the edges of channel breaks, clean drop-offs, and timberlines, occasionally fading shallower to barely begin brushing the bottom or cover before moving the boat deeper again before the lure snagged or banged bottom too aggressively. Free-running lures caught fish, but a little skip, rustle, and bump created by brief contact with the bottom or cover really caught fish.
So the bottom bumpers and brush brushers caught fish. But few anglers had the patience or developed the skills to tickle weed fringes, due to the occasional snags inherent with frequently ripping rooted weedgrowth out of the bottom, fouling the lure. Thus the system never really achieved its due credit, even to this day, although a diehard group of devotees, usually fishing for species other than walleyes, use it effectively. There’s something fitting about jerking bass, pike, or muskies off a weedline; but there’s still that age-old stigma against catching walleyes in weeds, because they’re allegedly not supposed to be there in the first place. But they are, particularly during the warm water of summer.
You wanna speed troll weededges for walleyes? Anyone can do it with a little attitude adjustment and the right tackle. First, adopt the mental stance that you’re multispecies trolling, that all those other fish species you’ll catch are just fine, and that the walleyes will come — sometimes in bunches. Second, to greatly reduce the hassle while increasing your effectiveness around greenery, switch to floating-diving crankbaits, rather than to metal-bodied lures that sink at rest. And third, hang on tight. Strikes are savage and will spin you around in your chair — even with walleyes.
THE SPEED-TROLLING SYSTEM
Pick out some favorite crankbaits; everyone has a confidence brand or two. We recommend fairly stout-bodied, wide-wobbling plastic or balsa diving lures. Wide bodies telegraph more vibration up the line to indicate that your bait is running properly and not trailing an offending strand of greenery; and their wider wobble helps protect the hooks, trailing below the body away from weeds. Your lure selection should cover diving depths from a few feet down to perhaps 16 to 18 feet — about as deep as most rooted weeds grow.
A stout long-handled trolling rod is next up, preferably spooled with a no-stretch superline like FireLine or Power Pro, likely around 20-pound test. In Perry’s day, short, stiff 5-footers with low-stretch No-Bo monofilament (superlines hadn’t been invented yet) were used. Today, however, longer, stiffer 6 1/2- to 7-foot casting rods help take the strain off your wrist while trolling and help you rip the lure free of weeds more effectively.
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