Sep 10, 2015

Size Does Matter – To Walleyes

 By:Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz

Choosing the right size of crankbait to trigger walleyes to bite may seem like a simple case of “match the hatch,” but we assure you, there is a great deal more to it. Just because the walleyes in your favorite lake primarily feed on minnows or young perch in the 2 to 3 inch range most of the year, doesn’t mean that a 4 or 5-inch bait wouldn’t trip their trigger now and then. And of course, a smaller offering may also be the ticket on other days.

When Keith does his annual Kids Fishing Seminars around the local schools in the spring, he always tells the kids that, “Small baits catch any size fish.” To flat out catch more fish, often smaller baits do the trick – numbers wise at least. That said, there are many situations where anglers target larger fish (4 pound plus walleyes) and often a larger profile bait will be the top producer.

Lure size is just another part of the puzzle that needs to be fine-tuned along with color and lure shape when you are putting together the pattern for a day of walleye fishing. Shape is one of those that is often overlooked, but a crankbait’s shape has a great deal to do with the action the bait has and therefore the vibration it puts out. When we were working with the designers at Berkley on the Flicker Shad line of cranks, we always knew we would need to also develop a minnow-style line of baits to complete the arsenal and thus the Flicker Minnow lures came about.

As effective as the Flicker Shad lures are, there are times that a more slender profile will get more bites, and when the 7cm and 9cm sizes of Flicker Minnows were first introduced, the fish-catching results were phenomenal. However, it didn’t take long for anglers around the walleye belt to begin asking for more sizes of these deadly baits. So, plans began for a smaller 5cm version and a larger 11cm to be added to the mix.

The new 5cm Flicker Minnow is a great fish catcher. It is really the only "deep" diving minnow style bait in its size category, diving to a surprising 14 feet deep with 153 feet of 10 pound test Berkley Trilene XT let out (according to the Precision Trolling Data App). And, of course, it has all the great walleye crankbait attributes like roll rate, side flash and tail wag too. We really put these cranks to the test, fishing them from small waters like the glacial lakes of eastern South Dakota, to the large waters like Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago and the Bay of Green Bay on Lake Michigan, as well as in rivers like the Mississippi and countless other bodies of water. The results were the same everywhere; the action on these lures attracts walleyes.

As for the new 11cm Flicker Minnow, that proved to be one of the harder baits we have ever tested and proto-typed to get the action right; right meaning the bigger walleyes liked it. Large baits like this not only need the right roll (and side flash) but also the right swimming action. Finally, after three years of testing, we felt the bait was ready for release.

This bigger lure was tested in waters where big walleyes swim – primarily big western reservoirs and the Great Lakes. The 11cm Flicker Minnow proved to be a fish magnet,  working great at speeds all the way down to 1.4 mph and as fast as 3 mph. With 217 feet of 10 pound test Berkley Trilene XT out, the bait dives to 24 feet, but what is impressive is that this big bait does not pull excessively hard making it a dream to use on boards like the Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planers. Bites are easy to read with this set-up too … a good thing since with these lures, bites tend to come often.

If you need to get more depth with the 11’s, you can do so by running them on 10 pound test Berkley FireLine. This line’s thinner diameter line lets it go to 31 feet with 247 feet of line out.

So with all these great crankbaits available to you, what determines which ones you use in what situation to get the most bites? You might think it has to do with the forage base in the water you’re fishing. Many anglers hit the water with a predetermined game plan as to what baits “should” work. That’s a mistake! Our best advice; never assume you know what the walleyes want! If there is one thing we have learned over all our years of fishing, it’s that you need to let the fish tell you what is the best bait to use on a given day. That’s the reason we carry so many different colors, sizes and shapes of cranks.

Oh sure, there are basic guidelines you can go by, and matching the local forage is always a good place to start. General rules-of-thumb like ‘bright colors – bigger baits’ in dirty water and ‘natural colors – smaller lures’ in clear water are good strategies to begin with. But keep an open mind and always be willing to try something different. The plan is to fine-tune your presentation to get the best results. Say you’re catching some fish with a 9cm Flicker Minnow in the Slick Mouse color. On one of your lines, tie on an 11cm Flicker Minnow in that same color and see if the bites are more frequent, or maybe that lure triggers fewer bites but bigger fish.

Keeping a wide range of lure sizes, shapes and colors in your tackle box will ensure you have options. Use those options … experiment all the time. One thing most anglers don’t get is that the best time to experiment is when you are catching fish! If you’re catching fish, it’s the perfect time to throw out some different lures to see if you can target bigger fish, or even more fish. Don’t settle for “good fishing” … go for “great fishing!”

Good walleye anglers often don’t hesitate to experiment with color, but if you are looking to be a great walleye angler, try experimenting more with lure size. Changing up the lure size may just be what’s needed to help you get your Next Bite!