Anatomy of an open-water spinner

Ask three different In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail pros for their favorite big-water spinner rigs and you get three different answers, sort of.

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.)


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.


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; featuring a 600 denier nylon sheath and Velcro closures to wrap that rascal like a spinner-noodle tortilla.

Continued - click on page link below.

Pretied Open-Water Spinner Rigs

We've only encountered a few manufacturers who sell pretied big-bladed spinner harnesses matched with suitable components for open-water trolling, including:

Bait Rigs--Big-Water Rigs come in six Astro Brite colors from yellow perch to watermelon copper, tied on 20-pound Berkley FireLine with a Quick Change clevis, a #1 VMC snell hook at the front and a #4 Mustad Triple Grip treble at the rear. Pro-Erie Rigs come with #5 Deep-Cup Colorado High Lift Blades (Astro Brite and traditional colors), tied on 40 inches of 14-pound Trilene XT with two #1 Mustad Forged Hooks (800-236-7441;

Cabela's--A mix of rigs with #3 through #5 Colorado and Indiana blades are tied on 72 inches of 10-pound Cabela's fluoro, 14-pound FireLine, and 15-pound Cabela's mono with Eagle Claw hooks. Note: Triple Take Rigs come with handy Quick Change clevises that allow substitution of larger blades (800-237-4444).

K & E Tackle--Six colors of Colorado and willow blades are tied on 60 inches of 20-pound Mason mono with #1 Mustad hooks (269-945-4496;

Matzuo--Six colors patterns of #4 deep-cup Colorado blades (2 blades per package) come matched to different color patterns of 7 to 8 glass-faceted Rattle Beads, one of which is a clear bead to mimic the eye of a baitfish, plus a Quick Change clevis and swivel, on 72 inches of 12-pound fluorocarbon leader. Walleye Rattle Eye Crawler versions feature two #4 Octopus Sickle Hooks, while Walleye Circle Rattle Eye rigs have two #4 Circle Hooks. Pop in a larger blade if necessary (720-941-9400;

Red Hooker Lures--Basically, these are the aforementioned spinner rigs of Andy Kuffer's design in custom forage patterns, formerly available for sale in limited quantities at Detroit area sporting goods stores under the name Good Tackle. (313-295-2002;

Walleye's Choice--Eighty-one colors of blades come in a variety of Colorados, Indianas, willows, magnum willows, hatchets, and choppers on 42-inch leaders of 20-pound Triple Fish mono with #2 and #4 Eagle Claw hooks (906-428-1488).


Angler's Edge--Former street-rod artist Tommy Harris busts out the airbrush to create a selection of distinctive holographic #3, #5, and #7 Colorado blades (262-697-0018).

Bass Pro Shops--Check out #3 through #5 Colorados and #3 through #7 Indianas in the line of XPS Spinner Blades, and expect two new colors--Great Lakes-influenced blues and purples--by midsummer. Handy blade spacers in a half-dozen colors replace beads (large spacers are needed for #4 blades and above) (800-227-7776;

Hildebrandt--The venerable blade company offers numerous blade sizes (including large), shapes, colors, and finishes (574-722-3712;

Northland Fishing Tackle--With a maximum size of #4 blades in pretied rigs, Northland's designer holographic blades, in addition to painted deep-cup Colorados for tying your own rigs, are going bigger than ever with #5 Colorado Baitfish-Image Blades in two new-for-2004 colors: Sunrise and Sunfish, both with chartreuse on the back side (218-751-6723;

Red Hooker Lures--Andy Kuffer's beautifully painted or prism-taped oversized Colorado and Indiana blades are just becoming available in limited quantity (313-295-2002;

Stamina--A clearinghouse for all manner of terminal tackle, Stamina has an array of blades in Colorado, Indiana, willow, wide willow, chopper, and additional designs (800-546-8922;

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad Recipe

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free...


The Lowdown on Walleye Hardbaits

Steve Ryan - May 28, 2019

The range of walleye hardbaits encompasses multiple categories and a dizzying number of lures.


10 Best Bass Fishing States In America

Matt Straw - November 01, 2017

Which of the ten is the best? You decide.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lure Lock Tackle Cases: No-Spill, No-Scent

Glenn Walker talks us through the soy-based technology that makes Lure Logic cases spill-proof and scent-proof. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...


Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

See More Stories

More Baits


Spinnerbaits: Top Picks for Fishing Variety

Dan Johnson - March 22, 2015

While tackle fads come and go, spinnerbaits have remained a staple of the bassin' trade for


New Bandit Rack-It Deflects and Makes Noise

In-Fisherman Online Staff - July 13, 2018

The new Bandit Rack-It combines deflection, action and sound for a fully well-rounded square...


The Ned Rig : Ned Kehde

Cory Schmidt - January 16, 2018

"He's one of the classiest men you'd ever hope to meet, always willing to help teach folks to...

See More Baits

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.