Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Know your speed limit when trolling for walleyes

By Turk Gierke
Contributing Writer

The term “speed kills” originated as a warning slogan for motorists to note their speed and stay alive. This catchy phrase has since described many different things. In football, you’ll hear the commentator say it when a receiver outruns a defensive back for a touchdown. 

And I’ll use it here for a fishing concept that is this: Speed kills when using leeches. It doesn’t kill the fish; it kills the catching of the fish.

Let me start with the rule that fishing presentations and lures have speed limits. For example, a crankbait has a speed limit before it destabilizes and spins out. This maximum-speed guideline applies to crankbaits that are tuned to track straight. A tuned-up walleye crankbait can hit just over 3 mpg and run true. 

Throw on a crankbait for walleyes and start trolling and at some point, as you slowly accelerate, there will be a speed at which the lure will veer to the side and roll. It’s exceeded its maximum speed. Even a lure tuned like a laser beam will at some speed blow out.

Imagine a walleye crankbait rolling through the water. Next imagine a leech on a hook instead of a crankbait. I’m sure in mere moments the leech would be tore from the hook at such a ridiculously high speed.

Whether it’s crankbaits or live bait, presentations have speed limits, and if you’re using leeches on spinner rigs or three-way swivel rigs, the speed limit is that at which any more speed will twirl your leech, crawler, and spinner.

A seductively swimming leech that’s pulling against a hook is a fish bite-triggering bait. But its attractiveness to fish is over when the natural action can’t occur because of the force of fast water. Soon, if you’re trolling or drifting too fast, the leech will roll and twirl.

I’m not here to say a rolling leech cannot catch a fish, but I am here to say that a leech presented slowly so it can swim will catch a lot more.

How do you find the speed limit? Simply move via electric motor or drift and watch the speed at which the leech swims well and the speed its at which it doesn’t.

I prefer to push the speed limit. If I’m going with the flow on a river, I can get an additional .5 mph out of the speed and get the drift to 1.0 mph. Normally at around .5 or .6 mph, the leech starts to get shaky on a lake.

Another key consideration regarding leeches and speed is where you hook the leech. Any non-centered hook placement greatly destabilizes the leech as speed increases.

I hook from the underside of the leech, as near center as I can, where the sucker meets the body. I don’t go through the middle of the sucker disk, although that’s not necessarily wrong. I just prefer getting more meat in the hook gap. It seems to keep the bait on better.

A side note: If you’re slip-bobber fishing, most any hook placement works. Just remember that the goal is covering water and reaching but not exceeding the speed limit is important.

In June, leeches are a good choice for fishing walleyes because their high action and swimming movement of leeches is a walleye trigger. 

Gierke can be reached through www.croixsippi.com

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