I was feeling a little cocky. A week earlier my fishing partners and I had caught a limit of walleyes by pulling ’crawler harnesses on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago. That’s not much to brag about, but it seemed significant since most people fishing around us couldn’t catch a cold. They were jigging or drifting; we were covering water, skipping bottom bouncers at a pace that probably looked more like we were motoring to our next spot rather than actually fishing.
So when FLW walleye pro Eric Olson told me he’d just been making huge catches “power fishing” spinner rigs on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs lake, I felt like I knew what he was talking about. Then he took me on the water and set me straight.
“People say you need to fish 8 foot leaders on live bait rigs to catch walleyes on clearwater fisheries like Mille Lacs, but that’s not my style,” Olson says. “I want to power fish—move quickly, cover water and find active walleyes.”
His system is brilliant, yet simple. Olson ties his FireLine main line to a snap, to which he attaches a small barrel swivel that leads to the mono leader and harness. To the mainline snap he attaches a second snap and a 12to 18inch mono dropper with a 2ounce bell sinker tied to the tag end.
The heavy weight pulls double duty.
“It lets me fish fast yet keep the rig almost directly beneath the boat and right on bottom,” Olson says. “And on silty bottoms, that bell will bog down every now and then. The rodtip loads up, the sinker pops free and that nightcrawler goes shooting ahead—that triggers your strikes.”
You can cover water as fast or faster as when using conventional bottom bouncers, and when a fish hits, all you have to do is point your rod at the fish momentarily, then set the hook—there’s no need to give line.
“By dropping your rod back, you’re instantly taking the sinker out of the picture,” Olson says. “The fish feels no resistance because the dropper goes slack.”
Plus, Olson’s system lets him pretie several droppers of different lengths, which allows him to change the presentation quickly and easily. “If there’s a bug hatch, I’ll bring the rig up higher in the water column by using a longer dropper—like 18 to 20 inches,” he says.
Granted, conventional bottom bouncers are still the way to go in rocks or cover, but Olson’s threeway excels on mud, silt and sand bottoms.
“It lets me fish ’crawlers quickly— about 1 mph, which is fast for this kind of fishing. I’m not worrying about finicky fish. Instead, I target the aggressive fish on the top of the breaks.”
One final tip: Olson says many anglers go wrong when fishing ’crawler harnesses simply because they hook the bait incorrectly. “Don’t thread the crawler on the lead hook,” he advises. “Just hook it crosswise through the nose, three rings down the body. Threading it on only serves to twist the leader.”