They are so widely accepted among trout and salmon anglers andrarely used to target warm water species like walleye…until now!

Attractors are becoming an increasingly important part of the author’s and Captain Jake’s open water trolling strategies for walleye. Author photos

August 01, 2015

In the world of fishing the term “attractor” typically refers to trolling gear designed to create flash in the water. The idea is that flash in the water simulates game fish slashing at and feeding on bait fish.

Attractors are used in combination with a host of lures, live baits and cut bait. What strikes me curious is the fact that attractors are so widely accepted among trout and salmon anglers and rarely used to target warm water species like walleye.

The lack of attractor fishing for warm water species may all be changing soon as a new generation of attractors are hitting the market. These downsized products are aimed directly at catching the most popular of warm water fish…. the walleye.

Before we dive into how to catch walleye on attractors, it’s best to talk about the attractor types available and how they are typically used.


Dodgers are designed to swing from side to side giving off pulsations of light and also imparting action to a trailing fly, squid, spin n glo or wobble glo lure. The smaller sizes are often used in the spring to target coho salmon and brown trout and the larger sizes are favorites among lake trout and king salmon anglers.

Dodgers are very speed sensitive and produce best when trolled 1.7 to about 2.0 MPH. Also, the length of leader between the dodger and the lure impacts ultimately on the lure action. A longer leader ranging from 24 to 36 inches in length delivers a lazy action to the trailing fly or lure. A shorter 12 to 18 inch leader generates a more snappy action.


The next class of attractors are known as rotators because they rotate a full 360 degrees in the water. Typically fished on diving planers and downriggers, the size of the rotation achieved depends on how far behind the rigger or diver these attractors are fished.

A rotator imparts a rolling and darting action to trolling flies, squids and more commonly these days cut bait rigs or what are often called meat rigs. A typical rotator and meat rig set up consists of a rotator with a four foot teaser rig attached to the back followed by a 18 inch leader to a meat head baited with a whole herring or strip of herring meat. The herring is held in place on the meat rig head with a toothpick.

Rotators can be fished faster than dodgers and are often mixed with other trolling gear like body baits and spoons. Rotators and meat rigs are dominating the catch these days among Great Lakes salmon and trout fishermen. The biggest drawback to rotators is the cost of whole herring which run about eight bucks for half a dozen frozen baits. Also, a cut bait rig complete with teaser and a rigged head retail for around $15.00 making them a little on the spendy side as well.

Cowbells/Lake Trolls

The classic cowbell or what are sometimes called lake trolls have been on the trolling scene for decades and they do a great job of triggering trout into biting. Little more than a series of blades that rotate around a wire harness, cowbells have considerable drag or resistance in the water and are therefore fished most commonly in combination with a downrigger.

A lake troll can be fished with a spin n glo or wobble glo body, but these attractors are also commonly fished with a trolling spoon or plug.

Fish Flash

The new kid on the attractor market is a product known as the Fish Flash. These triangle shaped attractors simply spin on a center axis making them unique in that they have nearly zero resistance in the water. Because a Fish Flash has no resistance they can be fished in combination with just about any diving planer such as the popular Dipsy, Jet Divers, Tadpole Divers, etc.

The other advantage of the Fish Flash is the amount of flash they produce. Because they spin this attractor type puts out far more bursts of light than a rotator or dodger.

What Fish Flash doesn’t do is impart action to the trailing lure or bait. Because these attractors do not impart action, they are best used with lures that have natural action like spoons, darting plugs, spinners and live bait rigs.

Beyond Trout/Salmon

All of the attractors outlined above are in wide use for trout and salmon fishing. Rotators and meat rig combinations are dominating the overall catch of trout and salmon on the Great Lakes and products like Fish Flash are rapidly catching on as well. The effectiveness of attractors is indisputable, yet ironically it’s rare to see these trolling aids fished for warm water species like walleye.

It’s true that many of the attractors on the market are sized more appropriately for trout and salmon fishing than for walleye fishing. There are some noteworthy exceptions and I expect to see more manufacturers building “walleye specific” attractors in the future.

Fish Flash is produced in several sizes including four, six, eight and 10 inch models. The smaller four and six inch models are ideally suited to trolling for open water walleye.

A great way to incorporate flash into a walleye trolling pattern is to add the four inch Fish Flash directly to the back of walleye sized divers using a heavy duty coast lock snap to marry the diver and Fish Flash. A few of the popular walleye divers that lend themselves well to fishing with Fish Flash attractors include the No. 1, 2 and 3 Off Shore Tackle Tadpole Divers, the Big Jon Mini Disk, the Lurk 45mm Disco Diver, the Luhr Jensen No. 10, 20, 30 and 40 Jet Divers and the Lurk No. 20, 30 and 40 Rundown Divers.

All of these popular divers are in wide use among Great Lakes walleye anglers on Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay. Because the Fish Flash has no resistance in the water they can be added to divers to create fish attracting flash without impacting on the running depth of divers.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Attractors are a good thing when trolling open water species, but there is a point when anglers can incorporate too much of a good thing. In very clear water fishing too many attractors can actually have a negative impact on fishing success. In cloudy or stained waters adding more attractors to a trolling pattern often helps produce more strikes. The moral of the story is to use attractors sparingly at first and add more flash as conditions and water clarity dictate.

When fishing attractors for trout and salmon I like to mix things up a bit and run a couple rotators and a couple Fish Flash at the same time. For walleye trolling I’m using the four inch Fish Flash and running one or two of these diver/attractor combinations on each side of the boat.

It’s also important to understand that with Fish Flash these devices are putting out a ton of flash. I find that running a little longer leader between the diver and the trailing lure helps trigger more strikes. When fishing the Fish Flash in combination with a diver and a crawler harness I favor a six foot crawler harness. The same is true when fishing trolling spoons or crankbaits behind a diver/Fish Flash combination.

Flasher color is also something to consider and also to keep in mind that certain colors function better in certain fishing conditions. For example, silver attractors work exceptionally well on clear days and colored flashers like chartreuse or green are at their best on cloudy days.

Fortunately, all the manufacturers of the popular attractor types produce every color under the rainbow. The latest thing in attractors is the UV treated versions which are even more visible to fish and visible at greater distances.

Summing It Up

Almost everyone agrees that fishing “attractors” helps trout and salmon anglers put more fish in the boat. I for one feel that attractor fishing can be just as useful when trolling for warm water species like walleye. As more and more of these “walleye friendly” attractors are produced, I see only good things happening in the world of open water walleye trolling.