Mighty Mini Crankbaits

Mighty Mini Crankbaits

Walleye anglers tend to use crankbaits in the 4- to 6-inch range, although mini 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.


Continued - click on page link below.

Mighty Mini-Cranks (cont.)


Berkley -- The 2 1/2-inch Firestick Minnow has a tight wobbling and rolling action that creates lots of flash and vibration. It's a good choice for casting or trolling over weedflats or for jerking in the shallows.

Nils Master -- The Invincible crankbait has a slightly arched body and a wide-wobbling action. It's available in 2- and 3-inch models that dive shallow and deep.

Yo-Zuri -- The 1 5/8-inch Snap Shad has a tight wiggle action and dives 1 to 3 feet deep -- a good option for casting, trolling, or three-way rigging along structure or in rivers. Their 2 3/4-inch Pin's Minnow features an Internal Weight Transfer System, basically an internal steel ball that allows longer casting.

Rapala -- Rapala tight-action Shad Raps are top producers in most walleye waters. Glass Shad Raps, Shad Rap RS's, Jointed Shad Raps, Shallow Shad Raps, and the Original Shad Rap are available in 1 1/2- and 2-inch models. The #5 Jointed Shad Rap, for instance, has been a top producer the past three seasons on the PWT. The #5 Tail Dancer (2-inch) has a wide and lively tail action. The #6 Husky Jerk (2 1/2-inch) works for casting and three-way rigging.

Rebel -- The Rebel Holographic Minnow (#49 and #50) features realistic eyes, livebait colors, holographic broken scale patterns, and a hint of iridescence to give the bait its lifelike appeal.

Storm -- The MinnowStick measures 1 1/2 inches and is available in six color patterns. Their #6 ThunderCrank (2 1/2 inches) has a frantic tail action, rattles, and a thin polycarbonate lip that cuts through the water to position the bait around 10 feet deep.

Reef Runner -- The Little Ripper and Deep Little Ripper are thin banana-shaped baits that resemble minnows or smelt. Both curved-bodied baits have wide-wobbling, darting actions.

Salmo -- The Hornet is available in 1- to 2 1/2-inch sizes and floating, sinking, shallow- and deep-diving models. Originally designed for rivers, it has proven to be a walleye producer in lakes and reservoirs, as well, and a real killer in recent years when trolling open water for natural-lake walleyes in the Dakotas. The Bullhead is a wide-bodied, slow-wobbling bait that features a bulky head and body. It's a good choice when walleyes are eating young-of-the-year bullheads or catfish, and we're pretty sure it could be mistaken for a Great Lakes goby, too. The 2 1/2-inch Sting is a tight-wobbling yet aggressive-action minnow bait.

Company Contacts: Berkley, berkley-fishing.com; Excalibur, 479-782-8971; Matzuo, 720-941-9400; Nils Master, 802-658-1070; Rapala, rapala.com; Rebel, 479-782-8971; Reef Runner, 419-798-9125; Salmo, 952-224-3649; Storm, stormlures.com; Yo-Zuri, 888-336-9775.

LiveTarget BaitBall

The baitfish gurus at Koppers unveiled a radical design in hardbait technology with the new LiveTarget BaitBall lineup. Comprised of a 2 3/8-inch floating squarebill and 3½- and 4½-inch suspending jerkbaits, all of which dive to four feet — along with a 2½-inch diving crankbait that reaches depths of 10 feet — the series mimics a tight school of frightened baitfish. So, rather than seeing one large preyfish, predators see a cluster of smaller, bite-sized minnows instead. If it proves half as deadly as the umbrella rig concept, it's going to be a game-changer on the cranking scene. livetargetlures.com

Jackall Jockie 120 Topwater Minnow

Designed by Kazuto Yamaki, the Jockie 120 blends topwater theatrics with top-shelf jerkbait performance. It dives straight with a spin of your reel handle — thanks to its unique, diamond-shaped lip. Plus, the bottom cup produces a popping sound on splashdown. Other features include a flashy inner scale molding, and aft-oriented, moving weighting system for long casts and a funky pop, dive, head-stand, and rolling action. Available in six colors. jackall-lures.com

Lucky Craft S.K.T. Magnum

Designed by Bassmaster Classic champ Skeet Reese, this beefy, tight-wobbling crank matches the supersize meals of behemoth bass. It should also shine for other large fish-eaters. Available in 11 colors, in four sizes from 1 to 3¾ ounces, in MR and DR versions. The 105MR is the shallowest runner, targeting depths of 6½ feet, while the 120DR is the depth-dredger of the family, capable of reaching 25 feet. luckycraft.com

Matzuo Kinchou Shad

Brandishing flared, blood-red gills, these shad-bodied additions to Matzuo's Kinchou series are wide-wobbling floaters featuring chambered bodies with stainless-steel rattle bearings. Available in eight colors, in 3- and 3 ½-inch sizes that dive from eight to 12 feet, respectively. matzuo.com

Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogue

Building on the stellar attributes of the original Rogue — an all-around jerkbaiting icon for more than 35 years — Smithwick created the Perfect 10 Rogue. Upgrades include a flash-enhancing new material and lip design that takes the suspending bait deeper, faster, plus a tungsten rattle that produces a unique, strike-triggering thump. Best of all, the weighting system allows the 5½-inch bait to be more responsive and regain its horizontal posture quicker after a twitch than its predecessor, all while retaining the iconic Rogue roll that has fooled countless bass. As a bonus, the translucent body intensifies the bait's reflective scales, and accentuates the eight available color patterns. smithwicklures.com

Rapala Scatter Rap

A groundbreaking 'œscatter' lip gives Rapala's newest lure series — which includes the Scatter Rap Crank, Minnow, Shad, and Countdown — an aggressive sweeping action that mimics the maneuvers of fleeing forage. The baits are easy to fish — just crank or troll, and they do the rest — but the more you get a feel for their intricacies, the more tricks they'll perform. Running depths range from five to nine feet. Available in a variety of hot color patterns. rapala.com

SPRO Baby Fat John 50

If you're looking for a shallow-running hardbait with a wild side-to-side hunting action, the new Baby Fat John 50 is a serious contender. Weighing in at 3/8 ounce, the bait dives to two feet, max. And, thanks to its fiberglass 'œcomputer chip' lip, it darts from to the side, then returns to center for an erratic fish-attracting action. Available in eight catchy color patterns. spro.com

Storm Arashi Silent Squares

Part of the hot new Arashi (ah-rash-ee) family from Storm, the Silent Square 3 and 5 sport 'œcircuit-board' bills that enable true tracking at slow speeds, while still reaching maximum running depth. Another slick feature is a self-tuning line tie that keeps the bait tracking true, while producing a tantalizing roll, accentuated by a pronounced tail kick. The size 3 is 2 1/8 inches long, weighs ½ ounce, and runs to three feet, while the size 5 stretches 2 3/8 inches, weighs in at just over 5/8 ounce, and dives to five feet. Available in 12 alluring colorations, ranging from Mossy Chartreuse Craw to Black Silver Shad. stormlures.com

Yamamoto Tenkuu

Named with the Japanese word for sky, this ultra-responsive jerkbait from iconic bassman Gary Yamamoto glides or walks underwater, depending on your wishes and retrieves. Available in 76-, 100-, and 110-mm sizes that dive to four, eight, and 10 feet, respectively, in a broad palette of colors. yamamoto.baits.com

Yo-Zuri 3DB Jerkbait

Built with big bass in mind, but perfect for other predators such as pike and walleyes, this 3½-inch suspending jerkbait is part of the brand-new 3DB family. Features include lifelike detail on gills, fins, and scales, flat sides, flashy 3D Internal Prism, and Wave-Motion Vibration Ribs that create wave-like fish-attracting vibes. Comes in five core colors, all accentuated with oversized red eyes and Mylar tail treble dressing. yo-zuri.com

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