Both jerkbaits and crankbaits have an important place in every fishers tackle bag. These minnow-style imitation lures have proven themselves successful time and time again in fishing a wide array of species – and when you’re going out for walleye, they are an absolute must have.
When selecting a walleye specific jerkbait or crankbait there are three critical components every angler must consider: diving depth, profile shape, and colour. With these variables in mind, the result will inevitably be more fish to the net.
In deciding the diving depth for your bait you have to first consider the area you are fishing in and either the known or likely depth you are going to find Walleye. Both crankbaits and jerkbaits can range from shallow diving lures right down to deep diving styles that can reach as deep as 20 or 30ft. The baits ability to dive is determined by two factors: the rate of retrieval and the size of the diving lip. For easy reference, many manufactures will print the diving depth on the lip of the lure. Some baits may not have a diving lip however, which indicates they are a shallow running bait.
The profile shape of your bait may be one of the most critical aspects in your selection process. The profile of your lure refers to the bait species being imitated. Anglers who fish on the fly will know the well used saying to “match the hatch”. This knowledge also applies to any Walleye targeting spin casters and indicates the importance of replicating – as closely as possible – the food type that Walleye will be focused on in the area you are fishing. Knowing the primary bait species, be it Shad, Perch, Shiners or Smelts can greatly increase your chances of getting a fish on. That being said, it is important not to rule out the effectiveness of trying a profile that is not natural to the region in the hopes of triggering a “stand-out” response.
With those giant eyes, it should come as no surprise that colour can play an important role in your bait selection. Because walleye are often found at greater depths – where a lack of sunlight decreases the range of colours they can see – it is often most effective to focus on selecting a shade that will work best for how you are targeting them. For example, your deepest diving lures should be a lighter shade (white or silver) to attract as much attention as possible, well a mid-depth lure could be successfully fished in a darker shade (black or brown) that will silhouette it well against the surface for any fish looking up for a meal. In shallower water, colour can play an even more important role, so be sure to have a wide range of options available in your box so you can pair properly with the area you’re fishing and switch things up throughout the day.
There is a litany of factors that go into a day of fishing, and as anglers, we are not always in control of every piece of the puzzle. We can; however, always adjust our game to maximize the chances we have to catch fish. Choosing the right bait to present is often one of the biggest things we do have control over. And so remember these three elements the next time you reach in to your box hoping to see a walleye in your net: color, profile and depth – three controllable variables that you can always count on to bring walleye success.