Ask 100 walleye anglers their go-to presentations, and chances are, casting lipless cranks won’t even show up on the radar. If it does, it’ll get a mention as a way to pluck summer or fall fish off riprap or windswept banks.
Mark Courts, a walleye pro from Harris, Minnesota, sees things differently. While some struggle to make ’eye contact as fish transition between spawning areas and summer range, he plumbs shallow vegetation with lipless cranks.
“Most people overlook shallow weeds because their minds are set on deeper rocks, gravel or sand,” says Courts. “But emerging weeds attract baitfish. Wall-eyes follow. It’s a great pattern from the time the water hits the mid-50s until the weeds reach the surface.”
The best beds often lie two to six feet deep in the fastest-warming areas—near balmy inflows or in sun-soaked, sheltered, dark-bottom bays. Weeds near the mouth of a tributary can be hot, too.
Big beds that stretch hundreds of yards can be good, but smaller areas are easier to dissect. Key on open slots or pockets, edges, turns and spits of rock, gravel or other firm bottom.
When he finds prime weeds, Courts cruises a cast-length away in deep water, firing long casts toward shore. His bait of choice is a Berkley Rattl’r, but other top options include the Cotton Cordell Super Spot, Rattlin’ Rapala, Original Rat-L-Trap and Salmo Zipper. “A 1/4-ounce, 2 1/2-inch lure is perfect,” he says. “The fish aren’t ready for anything big.
“A great thing about lipless lures is you can keep a lure in the strike zone, just above the weeds, all the way to the boat.”
Forage guides color selection. “Match the bait,” says Courts. “If walleyes are feeding on shiners, use silver or chrome patterns. Chartreuse is a wild card, though. Sometimes firetiger will outfish more realistic patterns 10-to-1.”
Courts often swaps standard bronze or silver factory trebles for hooks with a red finish, like Daiichi’s Bleeding Trebles. “In clear water, a flash of red can be huge,” he says. If hookups come hard, he may send wide-bend Mustad Triple Grips into action; the eye-point alignment and unique bend make for sure sets that are tough to shake loose.
Courts plays with retrieves. “Usually I start steady then speed up, slow down and blend in pauses and twitches until the fish tell me what they want,” he says. Ticking the weed tops is good.
A soft-tipped, medium-light 6 1/2- to 7-foot rod helps reduce the chances of ripping the hooks free, yet provides enough control. Courts spools spinning and casting gear alike with 6/2 or 8/3 smoke-colored Berkley FireLine, tied direct via a Cross-Lok snap for improved action.
Courts has tapped the lipless-crankin’ shallow-weed bite on lakes across walleye country. Try it early this summer on your favorite fishin’ holes, but don’t wait too long. Once the weeds stand tall, this overlooked pattern withers on the vine.