Choosing A Live Bait Rig For Walleye

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

One Reply to “Choosing A Live Bait Rig For Walleye”

  1. The most significant part of being successful at anything is understanding your subject. The same goes for walleye fishing. In order to master these creatures you must first learn about them, their habitat, habits, feeding patterns, and more. It is not enough to buy the right gear and be on the right lakes if you don’t know where to find walleye. Start with seasonal patterns. Learn how walleye move from shallow to deep and back again in both lakes and rivers.

    Because walleye see well in poor light and sense vibrations over long distances, they prefer to swim in search of a meal rather than ambush prey. They also tend to feed on forage fish in low-visibility conditions, like at dusk or at night, in murky or stained water, on cloudy days and when the surface of the water is being disturbed by wind–also known as “walleye chop.”

    Next on the agenda. Add a bit of season-ing to your next Walleye adventure. As all anglers will attest, fishing is the spice of life.

    Spring Into Action :
    In the spring, Walleyes are either in a river current or right close to shore. When I say close to shore, I mean 5 to 10 feet from shore. In Northern Ontario Canadian Shield Lakes, the Walleye that do not spawn in the river will find sandy areas along the shore. By the time fishing season opens, most Walleyes are finished spawning and will hang around their spawning beds.

    Tie on a light jig and cast along the shore and retrieve it quit aggressively as the Walleye are very energetic this time of year. Using bright colours like red, chartreuse, yellow or white will do the trick. Those fish that are not feeding will still hit bright colours because they, like all predators of the deep, are defending their spawning grounds. Bright colours aggravate them to no end.

    Summer Slam :
    Common sense will tell you, in the summer Walleyes go a little deeper, hang out at the mouth of rivers or lay off rocky points. Islands that have patches of gravel around them are good spots. Rocky drop-offs are also good. With lakes that have a flat structure, the Walleye will head into the thick weeds to gain protection from the sun. Walleye that stay off rocky points or rocky drop-offs, do so because wave action on the rocks creates more oxygen. Bugs and other food floating on the surface tend to get more dense when drifting past a point, so small minnows show up to feed and the Walleyes feed on the minnows.

    Walleye tend to go after more natural colours like silver, brown, black and white. When fishing with jigs, many anglers prefer to go with a 3/8-oz. or even 1/4-oz. jig. depending on how deep they are fishing.

    As Pet has stated, live minnows are excellent whether on a jig or just a strait hook. If you are fishing on a lake where you can not use live bait, try some salted minnows. It may seem a bit cruel but it’s convenient and the Walleye go nuts over them. Just put a bunch of minnows on a cookie sheet and cover them with a generous amount of table salt.

    On hot days when these Walleye critters get overly lazy, cast out 1/8 oz. jig and literally drag it across the bottom. giving it tiny little twitches (2 or 3 inches) once in a while just to shake off any mud or weeds. The bottom dragging will get the Walleyes feeding. Jig slowly but make the twitching motion longer in the morning, since the Walleye are more aggressive. Natural colours like silver or brown seem to work best in this situation. Using bright colours will result in tons of pike.

    Fall In Line :
    In many lakes the water cools down and weeds start to die. As the weeds die, they absorb oxygen out of the water as then decompose causing the Walleyes to take off into open water or up rivers.

    Walleye which do swim up stream, hang around deep pools or back moving currents on either side of a rapids. Those fish that tend to head into open water stay suspended in 10 to 30 feet of water. Atmospheric pressure will effect what depth the Walleyes prefer. If the pressure goes really low, the fish may stop feeding all together. On the other hand, if the pressure starts rising, the Walleye will begin to feed aggressively.

    For all you night hawks out there, big females will come in close to shore at night between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. in 2 or 3 feet of water. Bait up with worm or a minnow and cast toward shore.

    Season-ed anglers know, fishing really is the spice of life.

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