Swapping Spoons for Spinners

Swapping Spoons for Spinners

When it comes to trolling, good ideas quickly become new tactics. That was the case for 2002 In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) rookie pro Brett Wilkins, who competed in two PWT events last year, cashing a check on his home water, Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin.

Wilkins is an "east-side" troller; he lives to the east side of Lake Winnebago--the state's largest lake and a hotbed of trolling activity.

Years ago, Wilkins was having modest success trolling spinner-nightcrawler harnesses for suspended walleyes. But amidst huge populations of sheepshead and white bass, and loads of smaller walleyes, he wanted something that would consistently trigger bigger fish.

Although a devout troller, Wilkins was aware of many Winnebago walleye chasers who cast spoons in the shallows, and he married the two concepts. The result was a trolling rig that substitutes a spoon for the traditional spinner blade.


Instead of using a typical #2 to #5 spinner blade, Wilkins snapped a Little Cleo spoon into the Quick Change clevis of his spinner-crawler harness and started trolling. After fine-tuning colors, sizes, and bead combinations, he perfected his new creation. The components:


  • 1/4-ounce Little Cleo spoon (remove split rings and hooks). Best colors: greens, chartreuse, lime.
  • 5/8-ounce in-line keel weight Bead Chain sinker run 4 feet ahead of the spoon.
  • Quick Change clevis.

  • Silver, purple and white beads to imitate suspended baitfish.
  • #6 hooks, tied 4 to 5 inches apart.
  • 10-pound Trilene XL line.

When trolling with planer boards, Wilkins runs 1.2 mph to 1.3 mph. He likes to set his lines 30 feet back in calm conditions and clear water, to target the 10- to 12-foot depths. When the lake is rough and dirty, he runs his rigs only 12 feet behind his boards and estimates that they run about four feet deep.

Tipping nightcrawlers on the double-hook rig are usually best, but Wilkins has experimented with single hooks and extra-large leeches at .8 mph for bigger fish in the afternoons.

"With the spoon wobbling and swinging in a large arc," Wilkins said, "the rig works in early season as soon as the walleyes move out and suspend over the mud basin, and it continues producing right up to about 70 degrees F water temperatures." Above 70 degrees F, Wilkins usually switches to crankbaits.

In comparison testing, running various sizes of spinner blades side by side against Cleo spoons, Wilkins found that bigger walleyes always grabbed the crawler harnesses rigged with spoons. "The heavier thumping wobble triggers bigger walleyes. My tournament results prove it works," he said.

With his method of replacing a spinner blade with a spoon, Wilkins has been able to finish near the top and win several mega-team tournaments on Lake Winnebago. Competing against 300 teams required an advantage, and one of those ideas has kept Wilkins at the top of the Winnebago tournament game for many years.

This is the first public news of this system to the walleye world. Congratulations to Wilkins and all walleye pros who share their knowledge, helping all anglers to become more effective.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spider Rig Crappies

Spider Rig Crappies

Doug Stange employs one of the most effective crappie systems ever.

Sight Fishing Carp

Sight Fishing Carp

The In-Fisherman staff slips into stealth mode sight tactics for barrel-shaped carp.

Giant Walleyes According To Calendar Periods

Giant Walleyes According To Calendar Periods

The search for big walleyes begins with an understanding of their nature, keying on prime locations during specific times of the year.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you can Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and other Catfish

Catfish Pole Rigs

Richard Peterson with In-Fisherman - April 28, 2016

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and...

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven riggings. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

8 Best Catfish Rigs - When, Where and How to Use Them

In-Fisherman

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Trending Articles

More Baits

The Bugz brings a different look to the crankbait world. Baits

New & Notable: Bubonic Bugz Squarebill Crankbait

In-Fisherman Staff - May 20, 2020

The Bugz brings a different look to the crankbait world.

When we were working on a gear guide about Northland Fishing Tackle's new IMPULSE Core Swimbait Baits

Northland's IMPULSE Smelt Minnow

Ned Kehde - March 12, 2017

When we were working on a gear guide about Northland Fishing Tackle's new IMPULSE Core Swimbait

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

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...


Within the cult of talented muskie trollers—veteran guides working Lake St. Clair, Green Bay, Baits

Giant Muskie Lures

Cory Schmidt - October 19, 2017

Within the cult of talented muskie trollers — veteran guides working Lake St. Clair,...

See More Baits

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now