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.

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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.

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