Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Hand-tied harnesses for walleyes

(North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Contributing Writer

Acting independently, two Lake Erie walleye anglers have figured out a game plan that mates the enticing wobble of a flutter spoon with the irresistible allure of a nightcrawler harness.

For Bob Ashley, of Mentor, and Mike Tontimonia, of Ravenna, the merger of two Lake Erie walleye fishing standard-bearers is a classic case of the end product being the same thing, only different.

Though such combinations are commercially available – including via the Internet – the fully packaged rigs are a bit pricey and not always readily available. Which helps explain why Ashley has a friend make his rigs up and Tontimonia assembles his own.

No matter as the ends justify the means, that finish ending in tricking Lake Erie walleyes into biting. This is particularly true whenever the fish are more interested in a natural live bait presentation than they are in chasing an artificial bait made from plastic, wood, or metal.

What the rig basically consists of is a shortened worm harness of about 7 inches in length and attached to a flutter-type spoon. The importance is in the details, of course.

Tontimonia’s harness rig consists of 8- to 12-pound test monofilament fishing line with a single, wide-gapped No. 2 hook followed by a few additional inches of leader. This tag terminates with the attachment of a No. 2 treble hook. In essence, the treble becomes a stinger hook.

The hooks, by the way, are bold red in color, a choice Tontimonia believes adds much to the combination.

“I tie up quite a few of them, and it takes only about 15 minutes for each one,” he said.

The upper hook, says Tontimonia, is a couple of inches from where it connects with the spoon while the treble hook is a “four fingers wide” distance behind.

“What you want is to ensure that the nightcrawler is rigged so it extends in a straight line,” he said. “And behind the treble hook there should be a trailer of worm. You don’t want a gob of worm and you don’t want the worm being bitten off until you have nothing to show for the effort.”

Tontimonia, by the way, says he’s never had a walleye bite through a monofilament spoon-crawler harness rig.

Ashley’s rig follows the same pattern, only he has a friend tie them up using stainless steel wire, a job that requires a unique wrap and tug of the wire as it is threaded through the eye of the upper, single hook and a loop with crimped wire sleeve holding the treble hook.

Most commercial versions of the rig follow Ashley’s choice.

“You can use heavy mono line but I believe the wire helps keep the harness straighter without twisting,” Ashley says. “Wire also holds up longer than does mono.”

The one thing that both anglers insist on is the use of top quality ball-bearing-style barrel swivels. No exceptions, Tontimonia and Ashley each caution.

Similarly, Ashley and Tontimonia each employ split rings fore and aft of every spoon they use along with their respective worm harnesses.

The combination is ideal for slow trolling – Tontominia uses them at speeds as slow as 1 mile per hour – or drifting with an in-line sinker.

“You want a lot of flash and wobble, but what you don’t want is for the spoon to rotate and twist the line,” Tontimonia said.

Tontimonia added he also includes another swivel further up the main fishing line to help guard against severe line twist.

Where Ashley departs from Tontimonia is that the former uses a top quality snap swivel to the front of the harness whereas the latter ties the line directly to a split ring added to the spoon.

“I like the ability to take the harness off one spoon and put it on another spoon in a different color or a different, maybe larger, spoon,” Ashley said. “I can do that with the harness having a really good snap swivel.”

Ultimately, the combination of nightcrawler and flutter spoon has fooled its share of Lake Erie walleyes – For both Tontimonia’s bare bones version as well as Ashley’s deluxe model.

Give one or both of these options a try this summer on Lake Erie.

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