There’s gold in them-thar’ Hatchet Blades — just ask Kevin Kraft and Glenn Rengo of Mapleton, Minn. The pair used the uniquely-styled spinners in hammered gold as well as silver and copper to win $100,000 at the Mega 2000 Wave Wackers walleye tournament on Mille Lacs in central Minnesota last June 8-9.
Hatchet blades and X-Change bottom bouncers produced a 20-fish two-day limit of 35.09 pounds. They were able to take all the 14-inch to 18-inch slot-fish they needed plus a 28-3/4-inch kicker that weighed more than 8 pounds.
Hatchet blades also have produced several major wins and top-finishes recently at other big-water tournaments including Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. There’s something about the combination of flash, vibration and live bait that walleyes find irresistible. Spinner rigs also pluck more active fish by covering more water faster than slower live bait methods, such as Lindy-rigging.
In their simplest form, spinner rigs consist of a snap swivel, a weight, a monofilament leader, a clevis on which the blade rotates, a few beads and a hook.
Improving Spinner Rigs
Lindy/Little Joe has improved on basic spinner rigs with the X-Change system, which features two innovations one of which is a specially designed clevis. Blade size and colors can be changed quickly simply by snapping one out and another in. Experiment with size and color. There are times when fish want the smaller #4 Hatchet, the medium #6s and the giant #8s.
In addition to Hatchet-style blades, they also come in three other shapes, including willow leaf, Indiana and Colorado. Sizes range from #2s to #8s. Choice depends on the size of walleye common in the targeted lake or reservoir. A #3 or #4 works for walleyes on Lake Winnebago where average size is about 20 inches. For the monsters of Lake Erie or Saginaw Bay, choose #5, #6, #7 or #8. Other factors sometimes come into play in the selection. Colder water sometimes dictates smaller blades and a slower presentation. Hatchets are great at slow speeds.
Minnesota allows only one rod per angler so if you are fishing with a partner, start with different blade shapes, sizes and colors until you find the right combination. The rule of thumb is in clouds, use colors; sun, use shiny, flashy blades. Green, chartreuse and orange worked for Kraft/Rengo in pre-fishing under cloud cover. But, experimenting proved hammered metallics were best during the tournament when sun was bright. When trying colors, use at least one multi-colored blade like rainbow or the chartreuse/yellow/orange. If it begins to produce, change up to try one of the basic colors included in the combination to see which color is triggering fish.
As with other live-bait techniques, staying in contact with the bottom is critical. The second innovation of the X-Change system allows weights to be quickly substituted to suit conditions without having to tie on new bottom bouncers. Merely pull off a rubber stop, change the weight and slide the rubber stop back on. Weight choice depends on depth and speed. Use enough weight to keep a 45-degree angle between your line and where it enters the water. Use a 1-ounce weight for depths of 10 feet or less, 1-1/2 ounces for 10-feet to 20-feet, 2 ounces for 20-feet to 30-feet and 3 ounces to go deeper than that.
Changing Weights Successfully
Rengo and Kraft used 1-ounce weights and fished at a crawl 28-feet to 32-feet down when the wind was dead calm on Day One. They increased their weight to 2-ounces and 2-1/2-ounces on Day 2 when the breeze started blowing, and they realized the walleyes wanted faster moving bait. Both men use big Mercury Optimax tillers that can be trolled down to 450 rpms to achieve speeds of 1 mph.
Leader length varied. Kraft and Rengo discovered that 7-foot snells avoided snags and caught fish. That was the same length as their rods, but sometimes shorter snells are better. If you use longer snells, use longer rods otherwise landing fish can be a trick.
Fish virtually hook themselves on spinner rigs because all you have to do is keep a bend in the rod and start reeling. Ten-pound mono is ideal for this type of fishing.
Use floats or a Lindy worm blower to make nightcrawlers more buoyant. There are times when minnows or leeches work well on spinner rigs, too.
Locate fish by moving from structure to structure looking for telltale marks that indicate gamefish and baitfish on the sonar screen. Try different depths. In prefishing, Rengo and Kraft used NO-SNAGG sinkers to fish shallower and slower in snag-ridden rocks. But, during the tournament, they found more active fish on deeper gravel, which is a perfect set-up for bottom bouncers. They focused on several spots on the south side of the lake that featured transitions from rocky bottoms to mud.
You then should troll at 1.5 mph and adjust the speed to match the mood of the walleyes. Make S-turns to check various depths along breaklines and to test different speeds. Baits on the inside go slower, those on the outside move faster. Make certain nightcrawlers are hooked right through the nose and insert the second hook so the worm is straight to avoid line twist.
When it’s a live-bait bite and walleyes hang tight to the bottom, try spinner rigs. It’s a spin that may leave you reeling.
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Ted’s sponsors include: Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Lindy/Little Joe, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu, Nautamatic TR 1, and Polar Wrap.