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FLW Outdoors Magazine : Features
2011 April - Walleye Edition 2011

10 new crankbaits for walleyes

Rapala TT-20 Minnow
A review of the top new designs to hit the market in the last two years
30.Apr.2011 by Ross Robertson

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Advancement in lure design, crankbaits in particular, is a never-ending game that results in countless new products anglers can try. On one hand, that’s part of the fun of fishing. On the other, it’s expensive to buy new lures every year, especially when they may not produce any better than such tried-and-true stalwarts as Rapala Husky Jerks, Shad Raps and Reef Runners.

To help you pinpoint which new crankbaits might fit your fishing style and local waters, I put the top new walleye crankbaits through the wringer both on the lake and in the test tank, and asked several FLW Outdoors pros what they thought. I learned a lot about what works on the waters I fish. In the end, though, only you can be the judge of what works for you. Hopefully, the following will help narrow the field.

RAPALA TT-20 MINNOW

Some background

The new Trolls-To Minnow series lives up to the Rapala history of building crankbaits that run true and catch fish. Indicated by its model number, the deep-diving TT-20 crankbait was designed to get down quickly and dive to 20 feet when trolled behind 100 feet of 10-pound-test monofilament, consequently taking the guesswork out of depth control. Other models are available that dive to 10 and 15 feet.

Cool features

This 4 3/8-inch long minnow-imitator features much flatter sides than traditional walleye crankbaits and a small glass rattle.

What makes this lure somewhat unique is that in order to get deeper quicker it runs nose-down. The modified triangular lip makes this possible and also creates less tail action than other nose-down lures.

Applications

While it caught fish in warm water, the TT-20 Minnow shines as a cool-water crankbait thanks to its subtle action. It performed in April on Lake Erie in cold, muddy water while the snowflakes flew. It even produced a 3-pound smallmouth in those conditions.

Website: rapala.com

Price: $8.99

RAPALA FLAT RAP NO.10

Some background

Originally tested as a bass jerkbait, the Flat Rap casts surprisingly well for a balsa minnow-imitator. Rapala Flat Rap No. 10However, it can be trolled at slow speeds, which opens up a handful of unique opportunities for walleye trollers.

Cool features

As its name implies, the Flat Rap features flat sides and a slightly humped back that cause the tail to wobble in a wide pattern, creating the illusion of a crankbait with a larger profile. It floats slowly when paused and has a slightly more active action on a slow retrieve than other balsa minnow-imitators, thanks to its triangular lip and body design. It also rattles.

Applications

The Flat Rap will produce in a variety of situations, but because it is a shallow diver (about 5 to 6 feet without weight) it excels when teamed with a weighting system such as lead-core line or a three-way rig. It’s also great in cold water due to its productive action even at speeds as slow as 1 mph. A bonus: The Flat Rap’s frantic wiggle at slower speeds enables an angler to troll it in multiple-choice spreads with spinners.

Website: rapala.com

Price: $8.99

REEF RUNNER 900 SERIES

Some background

The bigger brother of the original 700 series RipStick, the 7-inch 900 Series was designed to give Reef Runner a go-to lure for muskies, stripers and inshore saltwater species. The jumbo model has bigger hooks and beefier terminal connections. It’s also a catching machine when it comes to hog walleyes.

Reef Runner 900 Series

Cool features

Other than size, what makes this lure unique is that it is a stick bait that is able to reach 19 feet on the troll – more than many deep divers – while still providing the action of a short-lipped lure. Designer Scott Stecher believes the action is as close to that of a jointed bait as you can get with a straight-bodied lure. It requires less tuning than other Reef Runner products, while running straight as an arrow at speeds in excess of 5 mph.

Applications

While many consider its best applications to be for muskies and stripers, the 900 Series does catch walleyes, especially in the fall when oversized fish are targeted. Yet, my first fish on the 900 Series was a 20-inch walleye, so it’s for more than big bites, too. If you troll in fall when baitfish have reached their maximum size, or anywhere large baitfish live, this crankbait should produce.

Website: reefrunner.com

Price: $10.99

SPRO McRIP85

Some background

While designed as a suspending jerkbait for bass, the McRip85 definitely catches walleyes. It casts impressively and has the ability to get deep on a relatively short line. If you cast for walleyes, it’s game on; if you’re a troller, you’ll appreciate this lure too.

Cool features

The action is similar to that of a Smithwick Deep Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue. However, the 3 1/3-inch McRip is more compact, has better color options and dives deeper on less line. When casting, it will hit bottom in 10 feet of water with 10-pound-test monofilament.

Spro McRip85

Applications

This lure suspends in cold water, which makes it an ideal lure for subtle early and late-season cranking. It casts like a bullet and digs deep quickly — two reasons to give it a try on waters such as Devils Lake or the Mississippi River, where casting is popular all season.

Website: spro.com

Price: $13.86

SPRO McSTICK95

Some background

The McStick is a quality stick bait that can be cast a long distance, thanks to its weight-transfer system. Although it was designed as a bass jerkbait – much like many other favorite walleye stick baits of the pros – it catches walleyes as well.

Cool features

The hooks are scary-sharp black nickel models from Gamakatsu. The lure comes in great patterns that have a good balance of plated, painted and transparent finishes. The body is 3 3/4-inches long, with a sleek profile that dives about 5 feet on a typical cast.

Spro McStick95

Applications

Nothing stands out as the must-do tactic with this stick bait – that’s a good thing. It can be cast long distances for walleyes at night, pitched to shallow cover or trolled behind planer boards. Fish it fast for an aggressive action, or slow it down for a more subtle wobble that still draws bites.

Website: spro.com

Price: $13.86

LINDY SHADLING NO. 7

Some background

The Shadling was designed as a ground-and-pound lure with the capability of running in excess of 6 mph without blowing out.

Lindy Shadling No. 7

Cool Features

The Shadling features oversized red eyes that walleyes key on, and a sharp rattle. Lindy also incorporated what it calls “pull-point technology,” which basically means that it runs straight right out of the box. In testing, it did just that. The colors include natural hues with holographic attraction, which have been very productive in both the Great Lakes and upper Midwest.

Applications

Perhaps the best thing about the Shadling is its versatility as both a casting and trolling lure. Pair this with its ability to run faster than is normal for crankbaits, and you have a lure that excels when fish are active and willing to chase. It excels behind braided or lead-core line in current, as those situations often require lures to pound bottom for fish lurking tight to the mud in the current. Trolling into the current can also cause crankbaits to swim “faster” than what the GPS speed indicates. That’s no problem for the Shadling.

Website: lindyfishingtackle.com

Price: $6.31

SEBILE POSSESSED KOOLIE MINNOW 118LL

Sebile Possessed Koolie Minnow 118LL

Some background

French lure designer Patrick Sebile has a mathematical approach to all of his designs that has resulted in some lures that are starting to gain a foothold in the walleye market. The Koolie Minnow 118LL (LL stands for long lip) was designed to go deeper than any other crankbait in its category. The action is similar to the aggressive Storm Deep ThunderStick, but with a little more tail kick.

Applications

This crankbait is tailor-made for summer and fall, when walleyes often go deep in search of cooler water and deep baitfish. On the retrieve, the Koolie “fights back” with very little resistance, so little that the first time I reeled one in behind a planer board I thought that the lure had broken off my line.

Cool features

The best feature of this lure is its extreme diving depth. Thanks to its unique lip, which seems to float away from the face on a narrow plastic extension, the lure can be trolled without any weight down to 38 feet deep. That’s a huge advantage on just about any major walleye fishery. It also floats, which helps to keep it out of snags, and it has an internal rattle.

Website: sebileusa.com

Price: $14.99

SALMO HORNET 5SDR

Salmo Hornet 5SDR

Some background

The Hornet 5SDR is primarily a trolling lure intended to get super deep. The lure has also been redesigned to run much truer out of the box than previous Salmo models, which is important for a deep diver to achieve maximum depth and performance.

Applications

Long-time walleye pro Bruce Samson feels that this crankbait offers anglers a great advantage when fishing both lakes and reservoirs because it doesn’t require the use of speed-sensitive weights or lead-core line to troll deep around snaggy cover. With weights, any time the boat slows or turns, the crankbaits on at least one side of the boat sink, leading to snags. That doesn’t happen when trolling this crankbait on monofilament or braid.

Cool features

The body of the Hornet is made of a hard foam core with a thin plastic shell. It has a compact 2-inch, 1/4-ounce profile, but the extra-deep model is still capable of reaching nearly 20 feet deep. The bill length and angle make it a very effective lure around cover, as it will deflect off snags without hanging up or catching bottom debris.

Website: salmofishing.com

Price: $9.49

KOPPERS LIVETARGET RAINBOW SMELT

Koppers LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt

Some background

The LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt is a midlevel diving crankbait that has a somewhat more aggressive action than I expected when I first examined it. It is heavy and streamlined, and has a molded-in detail and finish that are second to none. A live smelt would likely think that this lure is real.

Cool features

The rattle on this lure reminds me of the old Mann’s Loudmouth jerkbait, meaning it’s extremely loud. The manufacturer claims it dives 7 to 9 feet, but it can actually be trolled several feet deeper than that. The lure also comes in a shallow-diving version.

Applications

National Guard FLW Walleye Tour pro John Balla of Bartlett, Ill., introduced me to this crankbait when he hammered a 31-inch Lake Erie walleye on it just minutes after putting the lure in the water. He believes that this lure is perfect for trolling in the spring. It dives to the perfect range that normally needs to be covered – from about 15 feet to the surface. Also, the loud rattle helps walleyes key on the lure in the low-visibility environment of mud lines and water-color transitions Balla commonly targets in spring. And the lifelike finish acts as a reaction trigger when transitioning from dirty into cleaner water. At the least, it seals the deal.

Website: livetargetlures.com

Price: $11.49

KOPPERS LIVETARGET YELLOW PERCH YP98D

Some background

Walleyes in nearly every system will eat yellow perch – hence the effectiveness of perch and firetiger patterns everywhere. The LIVETARGET Yellow Perch not only has a finish that would fool a live perch, but it has the most accurate profile and action on the market for imitating the favorite baitfish.

Cool features

The Perch is available in four sizes from 2 7/8 inches to a jumbo 6 1/4 inches. It comes in both medium- and deep-diving models that are advertised to reach up to 15 feet. A shallow-diving model (1 to 2 feet) that suspends is new this year. All are available in natural, metallic and fluorescent variations. LIVETARGET lures have a unique sound, and the Perch comes equipped with an internal weight-transfer system, which sounds similar to a rattle with a distinct and deep pitch.

Koppers LIVETARGET Yellow Perch YP98D

Applications

There really aren’t any other lures on the market to which I can compare this crankbait. It’s unique in its shape and finish, which is one of the best reasons to give it a try. In field-testing, the YP98D model fooled several quality walleyes fished on the troll, and trolling is where it excelled (although the smaller models are great for casting presentations anywhere perch take up residence around shallow cover). It actually digs slightly deeper than the manufacturer claims, at least when trolled on .014-inch diameter line. The realistic finish makes it great for clear water, but the rattle helps walleyes find it in murky conditions.

Website: livetargetlures.com

Price: $12.49



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