Nothing says walleye fishing more than a nightcrawler on a crawler harness. This simple rig catches more walleye every year than all other presentations combined and can be fished in open water, on the bottom or around cover.

As simple as a crawler harness is, there are a few details and tips that can make them more effective for anglers.

Captain Lance covers the basics of crawler harness fishing from the parts you need to make a harness, bead options, choosing the right hooks and more.

Crawler Harness Basics

By: Captain Lance Valentine

Walleye fishing can be as hard or easy as anglers want to make it and in today’s high tech, go-fast world it’s good to slow down and go back to basics sometimes. Nothing is easier than fishing crawler harnesses for walleye. A simple hook, bead and blade tipped with a juicy nightcrawler is one of the oldest, easiest and most effective ways to catch walleye. But, like everything else walleye related, knowing a few little details can make this simple rig more effective. Let’s take a look at some basics of crawler harnesses.

A crawler harness is a very simple presentation, made of a few hooks, beads, a clevis, blade and a swivel on a length of line. For tying harnesses, I like to use a stiff and abrasion resistant line. My favorite is 20-25lb Fluorocarbon since it is stiff and can hold up to the constant pressure of the blade spinning without fraying or getting weak.

Two types of hooks are used for most harnesses. A single Octopus style hook with an upturned eye is the basic harness hook. Most harnesses use size 1 to size 4, with size 2 being a good all-around choice. Some anglers like to use a red single hook as the front hook as they believe it focuses where a walleye looks. The second hook type you should have is a high-quality round bend treble hook in size 10 or 8. Harnesses for open-water are usually tied with a single front hook and a treble for the back hook, while harnesses fished near the bottom or cover are tied with two single hooks.

Beads are threaded on the line above the hooks and are used to create color, bulk and spacing to keep the blade from covering the point of the front hook. Beads in the 6mm size are the most used and colors have no limit! For most harnesses 7-8 beads are the perfect amount. Here’s a Pro Tip; when tying a harness do NOT put a bead above your blade. Water pressure will press that front bead against the clevis and “pinch” it between the other beads, making it harder for the blade to spin freely.

Color combinations are endless, but here are a few of my favorites:

Blades are attached to a harness with a clevis. Traditionally clevises were metal and didn’t allow for the changing of blades without taking the harness apart. In recent years plastic clevises with a “quick-change” feature have become the standard. This allows for quick adjustment of blade size, shape, finish and color to instantly match the conditions.

Harness length varies based on where the harness will be fished. Open-water harnesses will be fished behind some type of weight such as an inline sinker, tadpole or diver. To get away from the weight, most open-water harnesses are tied around 60” long. If fishing a harness behind a bottom bouncer, they should be shorter, usually around 30-36”. This shorter length stops the harness from dragging on the bottom when moving slowly or turning.

Something as simple as hooking a crawler on a hook can be a huge part of fishing success. Putting a crawler on a harness should be done with a little attention to detail. We do not want any of the crawler extending forward of the point of the front harness hook. There are two ways to do this. First, you can thread the crawler onto the shank of the hook like you would put a piece of plastic on a jig. The second way is to insert the hook point into the head of the crawler between the first and second “ring” of the crawler. Attaching the back hook also should be done with attention to detail. Remember, crawlers will stretch when they get in the water, so the best place to hook the rear hook is just below the sex color, leaving a “loop” in the line so the crawler can stretch without pulling the line tight.

Crawler harnesses are a great way to catch walleye and are easy to use and fun to make yourself. Keep it simple, pay attention to details and you will be catching walleye in no time!


  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Harness Pieces
  • 3. Hooks
  • 4. Harness Beads
  • 5. Clevis Options
  • 6. Harness Length
  • 7. Tying A Harness
  • 8. Hooking A Crawler
  • 9. Final Thoughts