Program For Saginaw Bay’s Walleyes…

It’s no secret that trolling with spoons is an extremely popular and productive fishing tactic for Lake Erie’s walleyes. Spoons also work exceptionally well on Saginaw Bay’s walleyes too; however for some reason, most anglers have not caught on to the hot spoon bite on the Bay. In fact I’ve caught more walleyes on spoons in the last five years on Saginaw Bay than on any other lure type. We’ve also caught more trophy walleyes on spoons than on any other trolling program. Spoons are a win-win program on Saginaw Bay.

There are some important considerations though that anglers need to heed when pulling spoons for walleyes on the Bay. The old saying “the devil is in the details” really holds true for consistently hamming walleyes with spoons. By gearing up properly and understanding how and where to deploy spoons, anglers will cash in with some of the hottest walleye action they’ve ever experienced.

Last year in late June the conditions were simply perfect for walleye fishing. We had limited out on every charter for two straight weeks fishing the same large area. This day I began to set lines in earnest. I can usually set out an eight rod trolling spread in less than five minutes. Funny thing, as I continued to quickly set lines, I noticed that we were hooking up with fish on all the rods just a few seconds after I’d engage the clutch lever on the reels. I had some new customers that day who didn’t notice the fish bunching the boards around, so I decided to just keep quiet about the bites and see how many fish we could hook right off the bat. By the time I engaged the clutch lever on the eighth reel we had seven fish hooked-up and seconds later the eighth rod bent over with a nice walleye firmly attached to the business end. I calmly turned around and announced that we had “fish-on”. They all looked at the rods and planer boards with confusion and simultaneously asked me, “which rod?” Then with a big smirk on my face, I said “all of them.” After a moment of disbelieve, they started reeling in fish after fish until my four customers had maxed out on walleye fishing fun big time. In fact the fishing was so good that I cut down the trolling spread to just two rods and still had non-stop action. The hot lures that day were Moonshine Walleye Spoons trolled down near the bottom in 25-30 feet of water off Point AuGres.

Even though spoons are typically my best walleye lure for Saginaw Bay walleyes these days, I still like to mix some crank baits into my trolling spread. Oftentimes, for some reason, walleyes do not bite on spoons very good early in the morning but they do on crankbaits. On morning charters, we often start out catching most of our fish on crankbaits for the first hour or so, and then the bite takes off on spoons providing us with a steady stream of walleyes pouring into the fish box.

When the spoon bite takes off, I typically still leave the crankbaits out on the middle and outside boards to actually slow the action down a little; that’s right, slow things down. The biggest complaint I get from my customers on Saginaw Bay walleye charters is that they catch too many fish too fast. At times I actually have to slow things up just to keep the fish catching pace more manageable and enjoyable for my customers. Some days though, like when bad weather is predicted later in the day, we push the catch rate to the max by loading up with the lures that are hitting the best and often limit out in an hour or two.

If I can, I typically run an eight rod spread on Saginaw Bay consisting of six lines run off Church Tackle Walleye Boards and two more run right off the gunnels behind the boat. My favorite Saginaw Bay crankbait is the old fashion Hot N’ Tot. I like to run four Hot N’ Tots off my outside and middle boards, especially in the morning. The reason I run them off the outside boards is because these lures will typically have a setback of 80-100 feet to reach the near bottom target area in the 25-35 foot waters I often fish off AuGres. The setback is the amount of line from the waters surface to the lure. Those Hot N’ Tots are taken to depth with heavy rubber core sinkers attached about one rod length ahead of the Tots. My spoon rigs have a shorter setback. The longer setback on the outside boards allows the fish hooked there to keep well behind the other lures allowing the angler to pull in the fish without tangles and without having to clear other lines out of the way. Another reason to run the Tots’ on the outside boards is because we often get more fish on the spoons overall, so running them on the inside boards and right behind the boat makes for better fish catching efficiency on those rigs.

My spoons are taken to depth with 030 Jet Divers on the Bay. The diving data that I’ve read says that you can expect those 030 Jets to reach 30 feet down with 100 feet of line let out. However the diving characteristics of Jet Divers are greatly impacted by the type of line used. Using thinner line allows the divers to hit much deeper depths with less line out. I use 15 lbs. test Cabela’s Salt Striker line on my walleye trolling rigs. This clear, co-polymer monofilament type line is extremely thin. It allows me to hit 30 feet with a 030 Jet Diver with only 75 feet of setback; the shorter the setback the better. It makes setting lines faster, increases the hookup rate with less line stretch, allows fish to be reeled in faster with less chance of loosing them and also results in fewer tangles. The thinner the line the better, but I still prefer the fishing characteristics of mono lines for walleye trolling. The Salt Striker line in the best walleye trolling line I’ve ever used bar none.

My spoon/Jet Diver rigs are fairly simple. I tie snap swivels to each end of a six foot length of clear, 14 lbs. test fluorocarbon leader material. One end is clipped to the spoon and the other snap swivel is attached to the Jet Diver. Another snap swivel connects the main line to the Jet Diver. The snap swivel that attaches to the lure needs to be a ball bearing swivel, however I use all ball bearing swivels these days because I bought a few hundred of them on a clearance sale and have an abundant supply. Another tip is to add a 1″ piece of soft, rubber hosing (carburetor hose) between the snap swivel and the rod tip. This will act like a shock absorber when novice anglers keep cranking on the reel after the Jet Diver hits the rod tip. The hose will prevent the rod tip and the snap swivel from being damaged.

I also mentioned that I run two spoons right off the gunnels. Because the setback is measured (with line counter reels) from the surface of the water to the lure, don’t forget to let additional line out on those rigs to make up for the distance from the tip of the rod to the waterline.

Oftentimes on Saginaw Bay, the action gets to be so outrageously fast and furious that it is impossible to keep up with an eight rod spread. When the action is non-stop, I usually pull in my Hot N’ Tots and just run a four or two rod spread with all spoons. Spoons are the most pleasant lure to catch walleyes on. They only have one hook, so unhooking chores are easier and spoons also won’t tangle much in the net especially compared to crankbaits or other lures with multiple hooks. Spoons are just more efficient to deal with than other presentations.

There is one other factor to consider when running spoons for walleyes: Saginaw Bay’s walleyes much prefer silver backed spoons compared to the gold or copper colored varieties that are so popular on Lake Erie. I’ve done side by side tests using spoons with either silver or gold backs and found that the Bays’ walleyes preferred the silver spoons about five times better. That means that using silver spoons will result in five times more walleyes being caught, which in my mind makes it well worth the cost to gear up with silver.

Last year my favorite spoons on Saginaw Bay were all Moonshine Walleye Spoons. These spoons are a little bigger than the other walleye spoons on the market measuring about three inches long. These spoons are painted with a super glowing finish that provides maximum visibility in the deep, green algae stained waters where I mostly fish on Saginaw Bay these days. These Michigan made spoons are also very durable too. Some of my spoons still look like new even after catching hundreds of walleyes. My favorite pattern last year was Pink Eye; however Shell Bell, Blue Mellon, Red Grape and Glow Purple Nose were also good producers too. My favorite Hot N’ Tots were ¼ ouncers in chrome patterns.

The author offers fishing charters for Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay walleyes along with trips for salmon and trout at Manistee on Lake Michigan and Rogers City on Lake Huron. Contact Mike Veine at or 734-475-9146.