Using Shad Rap Crankbaits for Walleye Fishing

Published on:

Shad raps were among the first lures I was introduced to when I started walleye fishing. I had a buddy in college who’s brother loved to fish. He showed up one weekend in September with his boat and decided to fish the local lake. He picked a popular mid-lake flat and started pulling a little #5 deep diving shad rap in about 12 feet. Over the course of the evening we boated some large walleyes. This experience started a long love for this little balsa lure. Sometimes I depend on it too much, but more often than not… when the going gets tough, pulling out this crankbait in the evening has put more than one nice walleye in the live well.

Crankbaits for Walleye

Some things we need to know about walleyes:

1. Walleye have very light sensitive eyes.
They are therefore known to avoid very direct sunlight. You sometimes hear the term “walleye chop”. Fishermen often consider windy days an advantage because the wind produces a chop on the water that cuts down on the amount of sunlight, thus increasing the chances that walleyes will become active in shallower areas. For this same reason, evening fishing is an absolute prime time to catch walleyes in shallow areas. In low-light conditions walleyes can use their eyesight advantage to catch prey. Eating… a very important criteria for walleye survival 😉 .

2. There are almost always walleyes in shallow areas.
This is a personal opinion shared by many. On the same lake that you find fishermen catching walleyes deep, you may also find fishermen catching walleyes shallow. Never neglect to look for walleyes in prime shallow areas. This should generally be an area with weed cover that holds baitfish.

3. Walleyes generally relate to some kind of structure.
This is one of the basic tenets of pretty much any kind of fishing. Structure holds baitfish and therefore it holds the larger game fish. Structure means humps, points, weed beds, and even large flats.

Shad Raps for WalleyeGiven these basic premises, you can formulate some options for when to pull out the crankbaits. The thing I like about pulling crankbaits is that you can cover a ton of water in search of walleyes over a relatively short period of time. I’ve speculated several nights that if we just pulled a couple of crankbaits around the perimeter of a walleye lake during the evening we would probably eventually pick up a walleye or two. This attitude has often gotten us the one lousy fish we caught during an evening. The one likely time to avoid cranks is during calm sunny days. If you have a sunny day but some decent wind, give it a shot on the side taking the pounding from the wind. Look for spots that naturally attract fish… weed beds (cabbage is great), and sharp transitions from deeper to shallow water where baitfish can get trapped against the break.

We started at about 5:30 one evening on a lake we literally had never fished before. This was a league night, so we were feeling a little pressure. There was a decent breeze, so we gravitated toward the side of the lake taking the wind. We marked some fish in deeper water so we tied up a couple of Lindy rigs and started working the break. There were definitely fish down there but we got no action. For some reason we both had zero patience that evening and said “to heck with it”. We clipped the rigs, tied on a couple of #5 Shad Raps and started working the shore. In about 5 minutes we came around a sharp point, worked the inside turn at about 6 feet and my son hammered our first walleye. We continued on about another 100 yards and he nailed another one. For the next half hour we worked the same 100 yard stretch in literally 4 or 5 feet of water and managed to boat 7 very nice walleyes, including those two fat ones in the picture. We also caught a pile of northerns. The wind was perfect, the sky was overcast and we were very lucky. When we got back to the landing we weighed in and discovered that we had come in second. Guess what the other guys were doing… yeah… pulling crankbaits over a shallow gravel bar at the other end. They beat us by one big fish. Everyone else was griping about how they were marking fish deep but couldn’t get a darn thing to bite.

During the evening, walleyes often naturally move from deeper water to shallow water to take advantage of their excellent eyesight and prowl for prey. Likely fishing spots include mid-lake flats or other areas that transition from deep to shallow. The tops of these types of structure can be great at night or during windy, overcast days.

What to Use:

The vast majority of my crankbait collection is comprised of Rapala Shad Raps… mostly #5, but with several #7. I mix the colors making sure I buy matching colors in both the deep and shallow running variety. The shallow-runners have a short angled lip that keeps the bait running shallow enough to avoid weeds but keeps the bait close to the fish. The deep-runners have a fat lip that pulls the bait even deeper. Which one to use depends completely upon the conditions and depths. If I am fishing on a flat at night that gets to 10 – 12 feet, I will usually pull a deep-runner. If I can occasionally feel the bait hitting the weeds I know I’m good. When I get less than 8 feet I will go to the shallow-runner. I also keep larger baits in various configurations to get the bait even deeper if the fish are hanging off the edges. I always tie the lure directly to the line. Some fishermen I know use “Rap-snaps” to make it easy to change between different colors and sizes. I hate to add any potential point of failure to the rig. We generally pull them anywhere between 1.5 and 2 mph… and at least 50 feet behind the boat. We generally do not fish in waters where planer boards are a reasonable option, but many fisherman will use planer boards to get the lures way out away from the boat and the noise. This is probably better suited to situations where you can pull the bait in one direction for longer stretches.

If you’re fishing in areas populated with panfish a crankbait may not be typical choice, but a mini crankbait can do the job.

Looking to make your own bait? Try our powerbait dough bait recipe or follow these tips to catch earthworms or nightcrawlers for fishing bait. If you try a live bait fish, learn how to rig it to stay alive longer.

AnglerWise Avatar


2 thoughts on “Using Shad Rap Crankbaits for Walleye Fishing”

  1. Good stuff here, thanks for sharing with us all. My local lake has a budding population of Walleye, so this knowledge will come in handy.

  2. Thanks Mel. I checked out your blog, very nice. I’ve been working on my own Walleye Fishing blog since February. There may some other tips over there that will give you some ideas about chasing those reservoir monsters over there.


Leave a Comment