April 26, 2023
For many anglers, tinkering with tackle is one way to extend the fun of fishing to off-the-water hours. And now is a great time to do it, especially if you live in the northern reaches of the Midwest and are waiting for gamefish seasons to open. One excellent do-it-yourself project to tackle in your downtime is creating your own spinner rigs for walleyes. This is not only a lot of fun but also a great way to catch more fish this spring and summer. This process allows you to bring your own vision to the table and build the exact rig you need. And, as an added bonus, the ones you create are usually less expensive than those off the peg.
WHAT YOU NEED
You only need a few items to get started. These include the line you intend to use for the leader; hooks; beads or other body material; a clevis; and blades or some other kind of spinning attractor.
In most cases, there is little reason to go heavier than 10- or 12-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon. However, in pike or pickerel country, you might sometimes want wire. Monofilament is a great option because it’s inexpensive and it works. Fluorocarbon is more expensive and a touch harder, but has a greater resistance to nicks.
Hook selection is a bit more complicated. Most commercial spinner rigs are tied with two No. 1 or No. 2 octopus-style hooks 3 or 4 inches apart. Some folks also use a treble hook as a stinger in the rear. However, the Slow Death rig, a single, bent-shank hook behind a Mylar blade proves that a lone hook can be as effective as a pair and a whole lot easier to tie.
Using a single Tru-Turn 063 hook is quick—only one clinch knot is required instead of two snell knots. Speed may not be important when you’re sitting in front of the tube and tieing rigs, but it can be a real time-saver on the water.
In the past dozen years, this rig has become popular because it catches walleyes that aren’t interested in fast-moving baits. The original was a Tru-Turn hook, a bead or two and then a Mack’s Lure Smile blade. The Smile blade is a semicircular blade cut out of plastic with a Mylar coating. Now VMC, Mustad, Berkley and others have come up with their own versions using single, long-shank hooks.
There are two basic kinds of clevises: plastic ones that allow you to change blades quickly and folded metal ones. Avoid stamped wire options with a hole drilled through the wire. Those often wear through the leader material. With plastic clevises, you can tie up a bunch of rigged bodies and then quickly experiment with different blade colors and sizes on the water based on conditions.
In a walleye spinner, the body provides color and space between the hook eye and the blade, as well as a bearing surface for the clevis and blade to spin on. Picking the right body color depends upon the forage species and water clarity. When trout or shad are the primary prey species, for example, you’ll want at least some silver in the spinner’s body. Chartreuse and fluorescent orange are popular because they show up well, even in dingy water.
Sometimes walleyes are very picky about color, so having the right one is critical. That’s why fine-tuning your selection for local waters can be beneficial.
There are two basic body materials: plastic beads and floats. Glass beads work, but they are heavy and can lead to snags. Both beads and floats come in various shapes and colors. In fact, hundreds of possible shape and color combinations exist. For instance, Yakima Bait makes its Lil’ Corky in six sizes and 106 finishes—and they make three other float shapes. Beads and floats also come in glow and ultraviolet-reflecting finishes.
Ample blade choices exist, too. There are two basic materials—metal and plastic—but plastic bodies can also act as spinners. Examples include the Mack’s Lure Smile blade and the blades made by Dutch Fork Custom Lures that run great at dead-slow speeds. Northland Tackle Butterfly and Wingnut plastic blades are other examples. They weigh almost nothing and work well with floating bodies.
Metal blades are the traditional pick for walleye spinners and come in various shapes, sizes and patterns. Generally, the wider the blade (compared to its length), the slower it should be fished. The Colorado style, for example, is a better slow-speed blade, as it moves more water than the narrower Indiana blade. The even narrower willow-leaf blade doesn’t work well at slow speeds, but it’s one of the best designs for speedier trolling. Although those three blade styles are the most common, there are at least a dozen more styles available.
There also are floats that spin, like Yakima Bait’s Spin-N-Glo. These offer a different look and vibration and even more options for experimentation. The Spin-N-Glo comes in 10 sizes and more than 150 finishes; the wings are available in plastic or Mylar in different colors.
After choosing your materials, simply put your rig together. Cut a 3- or 4-foot leader section (a longer leader may be necessary in clear water), tie or snell on the hook(s), slide on the beads or floats, and add a clevis after the body. (Some folks put another bead in front of the clevis.) With the right clevis, choose the blade at home or on the water. Finally, thread on a nightcrawler and see if walleyes love your custom spinner rig as much as you do.