May 10, 2014

Artificial Advantages for Winnebago Walleyed Pike

By: Tommy Kemos

In the past decade we have witnessed our walleye factory known as the Winnebago system morph into a monster. When you combine the fertility of a drainage system and the water straining ability of the Zebra Mussel, you get lush flats of vegetation. Vegetation means cover for young of the year panfish and bait fish as well. It also means ambush points for walleyes. These new conditions create new opportunities and improvements on techniques. 

The Winnebago system typically has quite a bit of color and turbidity in the water. Today, with the invasive mussels and the filtering effect that vegetation has, the water can get gin clear. When this happens walleye can not only be spooky, they also can be quite finicky. These types of conditions call for horizontal presentations; trolling or casting. In most situations, trolling is far more efficient because of the ability to run multiple lines. 

Let’s talk trolling first. When the water is clear, whether I am in the weeds or in open water, I prefer to rig up with spinners. Otherwise known as crawler harnesses, these baits combine the flash and vibration of a spinner blade along with the tempting action of a night crawler. 

There are a variety of different riggings for spinners. Retailers offer a selection of pre-rigged harnesses for those that don’t want to mess around with a bunch of components. I prefer to tie my own so I can use my own patterns and hook combinations. I start with 14 pound Sufix Castable Invisiline Fluorocarbon because it offers good abrasion resistance against line chaffing from the beads and the clevis. I have experimented with a lot of different hook setups and have decided that a pair of, #2 Octopus hooks work the best. I like to keep three-inches between the front and back hook. I use a wide variety of different color patterns that vary with different light conditions and forage base. If you are going to get serious about tying your own rigs you should check out one of JT Custom Tackle bead kits. I primarily use #5 or #6 bead combinations. 

For open water setups, I thread a red quick change clevis on because I believe the red clevis imitates a bait fish’s gill flashing. Once again, these clevises come in a variety of different colors. The quick change clevis gives me the ability to experiment with different size blades and color combinations. However, if I only had one size spinner blade to fish with, the #5 would be it. 

For weed fishing, however, I prefer to use a fixed metal clevis in gold or silver. In this application the metal clevises spin more freely and are less likely to get fouled up when you grind into the vegetation. I also prefer to use a #3 blade, while straining veggie’s, for eyes, occasionally, I will go up to a #4 blade. In regards to spinner blades, I primarily use standard Colorado style blades, but will sometimes substitute for an Indiana or a Willow leaf. 

A lot of people get real frustrated pulling spinners on Winnebago due to the abundance of unintended bites from sheepshead, bluegills, perch, catfish, etc. If you are pulling a crawler harness around without a tail on the crawler, you are going to be lucky to get a bite. This cuts way down on the efficiency of trolling if all of your rigs are not fishing properly, especially when fishing the shallow weeds. It is a process to constantly be checking and resetting rigs, because of this, I fish with the Uncle Josh Pork crawler. You will never have an undesirable wipeout your setup again. It is made of pork fat, which makes it pliable and buoyant. None of the other artificial crawlers on the market can duplicate the tantalizing tail action of a real crawler. I prefer the Great Lakes crawler color most of the time, but if the water is more tannic or turbid, I switch to the Canadian crawler. 

Typically, I match my spinner pattern with a Bead Tackle fish weight, which comes in a variety of different sizes and colors. For open water I almost always use a 1 oz. fish weight, but will drop down to the ¼ oz. bead chain occasionally in the weeds. 

For both open water and weed spinner trolling I equip my St. Croix Eyecon 8 ft. trolling rods with line counter reels filled with 12 pound Sufix Siege. This combination works great for handling a planer board spread.


It is important to remember that speed kills in spinner fishing! If you think you are trolling too slow, go slower. It is rare that I troll faster than 1.3 mph when pulling spinners. As you slow down, your spinners will run deeper. 

There are times when the vegetation is just simply too dense or inconsistent in height for trolling. And many times you will find a school in a section of vegetation. When you run into these conditions, get out the spinning rods!

For hand to hand combat, I rig up a St. Croix Legend Tournament Walleye rod in the 7-foot Riggin’ model. This rod has a fast tip that works great for long casts and solid hood sets on weed walleyes. I spool with 8 pound Clear Sufix Siege. This allows me to make long casts and still be able to watch the line. Casting a modified slow death rig with about a three inch piece of Uncle Josh Pork Crawler on it can be irresistible. This rig is typically fished with a piece of real crawler, but once again you waste a lot of time re-baiting. I rig it with a six inch lead of 10-pound Sufix Siege, tied to a two way swivel, a #1 slow death hook, and then put a 1/16 to 1/8 ounce bullet sinker above that. This is a simple rig to fish, bomb it out and swim it in just fast enough to tick the weed tops.

Take the opportunity to get out on our Walleye Factory this season and utilize the artificial advantages that are available to help us put more fish in the boat! 

Tommy Kemos is a touring Walleye pro with several of the most prestigious titles in the sport to his name, including 2006 PWT Champion, PWT Top Gun, PWT Eastern Division Champion, as well as wins in the AIM Pro Walleye Series, and MWC.