Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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An Oldie but a Goodie for Walleyes: The Crawler Harness

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer


Nightcrawlers and walleyes always have been a formidable combo. The scent, taste, and movement of a crawler appeals to every bite-triggering sense they possess.


Implementing a proper crawler technique, such as a single hook, slow-death rig, two- and three-hook harnesses, or a spinner rig, just tips the odds in your favor even more.


While rigging nightcrawlers is a solid year-round approach to catching walleyes, they truly shine during the late spring and summer. They’re often most productive about the time a fishery experience the season’s first major bug hatch.


The most basic crawler rig consists of a single hook with weight above it. In a shallow, clean bottom scenario this could be a sliding weight above a swivel or a simple split shot over the hook.


You can play with the distance between the crawler and weight, but 16 to 20 inches is a good starting point. Again, this is shallow water, think a wind-driven point or shoreline that you can cast up into or slowly drift across. 


Most important, only use half the crawler in a single hook presentation or they’ll bite short.


The more traditional two- and three-hook crawler harnesses require a bit more hardware, and anglers usually employ them in deeper water or on big structure with spread-out walleyes.


The main idea here: Cover water and pick off those aggressive fish while trolling or drifting. Once you locate a pod of active fish, slow down and implement this presentation vertically.


The weight is usually provided in the way of a bottom bouncer or other walking-type sinker in order to keep your crawler off bottom. This also allows you to fish those rock or other snag-heavy areas without issue.


Generally, a 2-ounce bouncer is a good starting point, but you can go lighter or heavier depending on water depth. Snell length can vary too, with 3 to 6 feet covering most situations.


Final tip here: Don’t thread your crawler on the hooks. Whether it’s a two- or three-hook harness, lightly poke the front hook through the nose of the crawler and slightly embed the other hooks into the body. This delivers a more natural swimming motion.


Spinner rigs follow suit with traditional crawler harnesses, but obviously offer more flash. Follow the same guidelines for bottom bouncer weights, snell lengths, and crawler hooking.


This too is a “cover water” approach that requires speed to get the spinner moving. Many anglers believe that 1.25 miles per hour is a good starting point, but adjust your trolling speed until you dial in what’s triggering bites.


There are many options for spinner rig components in the way of beads and blade sizes, styles, shapes, and colors. Implement a quick-change clevis into your spinner rig set up in order to swap out blade options without having to retie each time you want to give walleyes a different look.

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