Tips on Crawler Harnesses for “Dog Days” Walleyes
Jul 22nd, 2022 by Keith Worrall
Modified Jul 22nd, 2022 at 10:16 AM
It’s “Dog Days” on Lake of the Woods, a time in the heart of the summer when the ecosytem is in full force. On many bodies of water, it is darn tough to catch a walleye right now. Between huge blooms of weeds combined with the baitfish, perch, panfish and young of the year baitfish all perfect sizes for a walleye to eat, walleyes can be finicky and hard to get to. On LOW however, this is a time that shines for catching walleyes trolling or drifting with crawler harnesses on the deep mud and around reefs.
There are different techniques that shine different parts of the year. In colder water, earlier summer and the fall, the jig and minnow is a go to. It has caught more walleyes out of the big lake than any other presentation. Right now, however, the walleyes are more spread out and covering water along with a bit of speed is advantageous.
Trolling crankbaits during the dog days of summer is also a very effective technique in catching walleyes. You can cover water with a variety of size, shapes, wobbles, rattles, etc.
There can, however, some very good arguments made in learning the nuances of pulling spinners for dog days walleyes, also called crawler harnesses or simply snelled spinners with a crawler, minnow or leech. The technique can have big advantages. Harnesses:
-Are easier to use on and around structure
-Provide strong vibration which is picked up by a walleye’s lateral line
-Are easy to alter by changing blades on a quick change clevis
-Provide the action and smell of live bait
-Are effective for both neutral and active walleyes
-And very simply, summer walleyes can’t resist them.
Spinners for summer walleyes really kicks into gear as the water begins to warm up. Normally when water starts to hit the mid 50’s, it is time to start considering drifting or trolling with spinners. Currently the dog days water temps on Lake of the Woods are in the high 70’s and even some days reaching the low 80’s.
This video was not filmed this year but it has some good info about pulling crawler harnesses that is pertinent all of the time. Check it out.
First off, a crawler harness and snelled spinner are basically the same thing. When you are not using a night crawler, we don’t call is a crawler harness anymore, thus it’s a snelled spinner. Semantics out of the way, these set ups are effective for summer walleyes.
Why are spinners for walleyes so effective for dog days walleyes? A lot of reasons, the flash of the blade. The different color combinations of the beads and blades. The vibration of the spinner is sensed by the walleyes lateral line much like that of the prey they feed. You can put crawlers, minnows, leeches and plastics on a harness.
My go to set up is a two ounce bottom bouncer with a harness between 4-6′ long. It is conducive to use a longer snell in clearer waters, thus on Lake of the Woods, I normally go about 5′ or so as the water is stained. In a nutshell, the key with this presentation is to slowly be pulling this through the water column where the fish are so the blade is spinning and a desirable speed the walleyes want that given day.
What that looks like is drifting or trolling your set up with a desirable 45 degree angle. When I am trolling in my boat, my goal is 1.25 mph. You don’t want the harness way behind the boat like when you are trolling with a crankbait. You want that 45 degree angle and have total control.
Keep the sinker just off the bottom, not dragging the bottom, but rather touch the bottom once in a while to know you are down there and lift just off so you avoid snags and other debris.
When a walleye grabs it, it loads up like a wet sock. Normally they don’t hammer it. Simply lower you rod tip back at the same speed of the boat so the walleye doesn’t feel anything change for two seconds and swing the rod with a mild hookset.
When using a crawler, I suggest a two hook harness and pinch off the crawler once hooked on the harness so only about 3-4″ of tail hangs off of the back hook. This will avoid missing walleyes that grab the back of the rig.
This set up covers water. It can be used from shallow to deep. It will catch everything that swims. And for the folks who go fishing with you less experienced, is a relatively easy way to get walleyes hooked up.
There are many good brands of snelled spinners or crawler harnesses you can purchase with length, fluorocarbon line and quick change clevices. Some anglers like to tie their own crawler harnesses as well which allows creativity in the bead pattern, length of snell, etc.
Give spinners for summer walleyes a try this year, you might be surprised how many more fish end up in your boat!