Choosing A Live Bait Rig For Walleye

by Pete Bowman

MINNOWS, MINNOWS, AND MORE MINNOWS

By now I’m pretty sure that most of you know—or at least think—that some form of live bait fishing is as close as you can get to the holy grail of Walleye presentations. Let’s be honest, meat rules!

With that said, while on a recent Fish’n Canada shoot at Hawk Lake Lodge, with big Walleye being the target, Angelo, Steve Niedzwiecki and I set out to try for the ever-elusive 30-inch Walter. Not an easy chore, even on a fish factory like Hawk Lake.

Lodge owner Ted Putnam said, “You can try any of your typical Walleye tactics up here, boys, but live bait will be the ultimate for big fish. That, I can guarantee!”

Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. We used worms, leeches, and minnows on this trip for both on-camera fishing as well as just scouting around with a variety of presentation set-ups. That said, we did do a bit of an unplanned experimentation with our minnows.

THREE TACTICS, THREE GREAT RESULTS

Ang, Steve and I all caught what will most likely be our biggest Walleye of the season on this trip with each guy pushing the 30-inch mark on the bumper board. Here’s how we did it:

ANGELO:

Ang caught two of his three giant fish on his absolute favorite live bait presentations—a drop shot rigged minnow. That’s right: He used a Bass tactic, with live bait, to catch giant Walleye. By using the smallest weight he could get away with (around 3/16 or maybe down to 1/8), running an 8-12” lead and a small #2 drop shot hook, his Walleye couldn’t stand it! The fish pictured below was caught in shallow water at mid-day. That shows just how deadly this tactic can be.

Incidentally, he caught his third giant on a small white swimbait on a jig-head while dragging and drifting.

STEVE:

Stevie went to the school of Ted Putnam and ran a split shot rig. Simply stated, it’s a small live bait hook with a small split shot sinker pinched about 12 inches ahead of the hook. When you drag this sucker around slowly with your trolling motor, magic can (and usually does) happen. Guess what—magic did happen. While on an evening outing with Ted and me, Steve finally got his giants on the li’l ol’ SS Rig.

ME:

I decided to go back to my roots and run a Live Bait Rig or, as it’s sometimes called, a Lindy Rig. Essentially, it’s a walking sinker, a swivel, a line (leader), and a hook. Extremely simple. I ran it with a braid main line and both a fluorocarbon and monofilament lead (tried both at different times). By hooking the minnow through the lips, this becomes a deadly presentation at times. Deadly is a good thing.

My thoughts on my personal performance:

  • I won’t use braid as the mainline anymore. It just didn’t seem right to me. Way too sensitive and unforgiving (I missed and/or lost lots of bites—probably 50%. And that really sucks!)
  • I will stick to mono as my leader material, as it floats while fluoro sinks. The minnow seems to fight the weight of the fluoro but swims a bit more freely with the mono.
  • I was using a 6’3” medium-light rod since it was the first one I saw in the Princecraft rod locker. I’ll go with 6’6” to 7’ medium-action whenever I can; they’re heavier and longer.

In closing, these are three different live bait rigs that can and will catch you a ton of fish. And the beauty is, they all work with minnows, leeches, and worms.

Pete Bowman

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