by Daniel Kiazyk

One of the most versatile tools in almost every walleye man's tackle box is the spinner rig. The spinner rig introduced in the 20th century has undergone a whole makeover in the past 10 years. The changes have made the spinner more relevant to a whole number of new contexts. It almost seems as though the spinner rig can be used throughout most of the open water period.


The question "when" for spinners is really dependent upon two components, the biology of the fish being sought and the particular time in the calendar year where the rig is being used. I have found that at both extremes of the calendar period, walleye are not as susceptible to the spinner as other techniques. The spinner itself is dependent upon motion and its use would seem to correspond to that time in the season when everything is in motion. Walleye from late spring on to summer continue to feed heavily. In fact, as a cold-blooded animal their metabolism is itself in "high gear" during the warmest months. Corresponding to this time of year, walleye are spread but scattered throughout lakes, rivers and ponds trying their best to meet their forage requirements.

It follows from the latter that spinners allow an angler to cover more ground. It also allows the anglers to make contact with fish at different depths. Covering vast flats becomes more feasible and following a break is rendered possible through the use of electronics. Even more significantly of late (for spinners) is being able to target suspended "eyes" who aren't necessarily relating to cover or structure. Spinner rigs shine in this context and allows the angler to take advantage of fish populations, previously untouched.

Speed seems to be a key in the summer months, as does coverage of different areas at different depths. The spinner has qualities that meet the latter requirements.


The rig itself is very flexible. Many excellent pre-tied rigs are available with most of the components required by walleye anglers. Some of the special twists added by these companies have included: the line used to tie the rig (super line); the number and types of hooks used (new high tech super sharp hooks), the clevis used allowing for changing of blades and finally different kinds of blades and beads.

These developments present with commercially tied rigs are important. They do save time and they are manufactured according to exacting specifications. In essence you may never have to tie a rig with all the choices available to the consumer.


Fisherman, however, are forever looking to "tweak" their presentations. Rigs as prettied preclude this option to a large extent. Hence a whole number of suppliers supply to walleye anglers components required to tie effective rigs.

Line: generally the rule is to tie with line weight > 10 # test. The theory is that too supple a line will wear (at different points of stress or will not have the necessary ruggedness to be pulled through various situations). Many prettied rigs are tied with 17# test or better. Perhaps the only exception to this rule would be those rigs tied with super line. Super line by its nature is very supple – and as such, can create incredible tangles in a spinner rig if an angler is not careful.

Hooks: Size and type and number are the three most important considerations. Size of hook used with your rig will vary depending upon the type of bait to be used. A number 1, 2-octopus/salmon style hook will be effective for lip hooking minnows. But a size 1, 2 or 4 aberdeen style hook will also be used for minnows by some anglers. Leeches and worms will necessitate a different size of hook #4 or even #6 octopus/salmon style hook (and in the case of worm rigs, the number of hooks may be increased to three tied in series, but with (2) two hooks being the general usage). Actual hooks types will depend upon angler confidence or experience with types of hook: New color-coated hooks will add a dimension of color (keeping in with the color combinations of the rig). Moreover, new "super" hooks will with their super sharpness give an added advantage to hook ups. Finally with some applications single hooks have been replaced with treble hooks giving the added edge of the grabbing/holder power of a couple more hooks.

Clevises: Generally the rule for clevises is: slow travel requires the use of metal and ease of blade change can be accomplished through the use of plastic clevises. A rig, which is tuned into a particular fishery, would benefit from the use of metal clevises (speed changes while fishing would be more aptly facilitated). However, plastic as was mentioned aids in blade changes, which in turn, is a tool, used in modern day walleye tactics to tune into a particular fishery.

Beads: Beads and their manifestations are manifold. Size and type are primary considerations. Part of the "dialing" in of a rig to specific fishery involves imitating forage and its colors. A fishery with lots of perch will require more yellow blacks and some reds. But, other fisheries where tulibee and whitefish are forage, will require the use of whites, pearls and silver. As to the size of bead, once again, knowledge of the forage base and size of walleye being targeted are all considerations. Generally, a 4 mm bead is a good start with 6 mm being a large bead. Glass vs. plastic, multifaceted vs. plain opaque are all small fine tuning considerations. Northlands even has a rattle bead available if the waters you fish are more turbid and require some sound to attract fish.

Blades: Continuing with the thought that "sound" is a significant factor when angling, the blade plays a significant role in this regard. The walleye, even though famous for its "marble" eye, uses sound to a great extent when foraging. In some waters, e.g. Winnipeg River system, English river, water tends to get stirred up, reducing visibility sometimes to six inches. In this context, walleye will rely upon sound more than sight to locate prey. The type of blade used will have an impact on the sound emitted. Hatchet blades for example seem to chop the water or displacing more water (giving off more underwater sound/vibrations). Willow leafs are at the opposite end of the spectrum they really don't give off a great amount of vibration (or it is very high pitched) rather they are important because of the flash they produce. This latter reflection points out another facet of blades and their purpose. In clear water, the blade will form a part of the attempt to imitate forage e.g. a perch running away with a worm or a minnow etc. etc. A number of companies market blades, which have excellent detail, naturalistic colors or holographic 3d images. I'm not sure walleye can see such detail (but I'm sure it can't hurt). Perhaps a rule of thumb with blades is that walleye see a range of colour – orange to green (the best) while other colors don't react with the physiological structure of their eye (rods and cones are not as sensitive to other colors). Having an assortment seems to be wise because there are those days when they show a preference for wacky colors.

The size of blades is also very important. In some instances, only one size is effective or attractive to fish. Early season fish seem to show a preference towards smaller blades while end of season "hawgs" are attracted by larger blades. These generalizations however, are not applicable on all occasions. One day, on a lake in the Porcupines, I caught three fish over 28" on a blade orange in color with a single hook #2. This rig had nothing to do with finesse and everything to do with presenting a leech or a worm to large females who were ready to bite. As another exception, lakes south of Riding Mountain National park are notorious for being extremely weedy. Rigs for these lakes are no longer than 8" and are trolled with an in line weight (maximum) 3/8 oz. This consideration will be made to suit the situation in which you are angling. If the waters being plied are snag filled, a shorter rig is necessitated. Open water trolling may require a longer rig. Flurourcarbon lines can make rigs nearly invisible and are a good choice for this kind of application.

Floats: This last component is not used on all rigs. The reason for its presence is primarily to add lift. The blades used by anglers will also create a certain amount of lift. The only difficulty with this concept is that when turning or slowing down, the rig will fall. Floats also create a larger visual profile – a bit more for the walleye to be attracted by visually.

That brings us to the a last section on delivery. Delivery methods themselves are as complex as the rigs tied.

weight – or lack thereof, on occasion this can be a killer tactic especially when fished behind boards and walleye are high in the water column.

In-line weights or snap on weights. The first option was how many of our fathers took spinners down to walleye. This tactic has applications yet today. In some weed infested lakes, a bottom bouncer will jam up with weeds while an in-line weight will pull through. Snap on weights are a variation of the prior theme except they are used in big water trolling applications.

Bottom bouncers can be the easiest way to fish rigs. The key is to fish ½ - 1 oz. For each 10 feet of depth. The line from the rod to the water should be kept at approximately 45 – this is only a suggestion – a larger angle will make the bouncer topple a bit more as its dragged along – giving the rig a more erratic action. Too perpendicular an angle will raise the rig too high off bottom not giving you the advantage of being able to follow structure.

Lead-line rigging. This option is very popular amongst open water trollers (who are targeting suspended fish) using a specified number of segments and a bottom rubbing technique to establish a depth. The advantage to working depths with lead line is that it has less drag than that which a dipsy diver or jet diver might put on a rod and reel.

Divers: Divers have an advantage of pushing down rigs to depths unattainable by either snap ons and lead line. Dispy divers also have an ability to dive out (left or right) from the boat.

Boards: Finally, boards serve as another means of delivering most of the previous delivery platforms already discussed with one twist – away from the boat in open water.

Rigs are an incredibly versatile and have an infinite number of manifestations. Developments over the past 10 years have moved the rig from being a summer option to a season long necessity. The rig now has a chameleon like character able to adapt to the moods and changes of that underwater gold chameleon- the walleye.