There are many variations that can be applied
to live-bait rigging, including floaters,
colored hooks and even spinners.
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I love to fish and I love to catch fish of all species. I enjoy scrappy panfish on light tackle. Watching bass squirt out of the water in an effort to throw the hook is always a treat. However, there is no question that there is something special about catching walleye.
When it comes to sticking lip on old marble eyes, there are many different approaches to try. Jig fishing and the ensuing "thunk" as a bait is sucked into the mouth is addicting. So is the aggressive hammer of a walleye hitting a fast moving spinner. Watching a float slid out of sight is definitely memorable.
Even though I fish for walleye in a variety of manners, there is no doubt my favorite presentation is still a standard live-bait rig. For me, live-bait rigging is as classic as walleye fishing gets.
I believe one of the reasons I like live-bait rigging for walleye has to do with the level of involvement I have in the process. When I am holding the rod, I am in control of feeling the subtle bites, feeding line and determining the correct time to set the hook. It just doesn't get any better than that.
There are variations that can be applied to live-bait rigging but let's first start with the basics as proper equipment is critical to success. This equipment starts with the correct fishing rod.
When it comes to spending money on fishing equipment, it is important to get the best rod you can afford for live-bait rigging. If there was ever a time when you need to be able to feel subtle bites, it is during the live-bait rigging process.
I personally like medium light seven foot rods with a soft but fast tip. The reason for the length and soft tip comes in being able to see your rod load up with weight on finicky walleye that merely suck in your bait without really indicating a bite. I find Fenwick products to be ideal.
Line is also critical. Most anglers I know do not like super lines for live-bait rigging as walleye feel you as much as you feel them. Instead, quality six or eight-pound-test mono is preferred.
The leader is extremely important. I tie all of my standard leaders with Vanish Fluorocarbon. Six-pound-test is my favorite. Fluorocarbon is less visible in water than standard mono. I usually start with a five foot leader and go up or down from there depending on what the fish are telling me.
On the business end, I will thread on a chartreuse or orange bead and then the smallest hook I can get by with. Many anglers prefer red hooks but I have had plenty of success with glow colors and plain bronze.
There are times when using a Gum-Drop floater is ideal, especially if the fish are up, off of the bottom or you are fighting moss or snaggy rocks. Chartreuse is hard to beat. Sometimes, a single bladed Baitfish Spinner can be deadly, as well.
As for the bait, it depends on the time of the year and the lake I am fishing. Early in the season minnows, especially shiners are hard to beat. Later in the year, leeches and crawlers become the norm.
If baitfish are chewing up your offering, switch to something else. On northern lakes like Kabetogama and Rainy, shiners work all summer long.
There are lots of presentations that will catch walleye, but for me, my all time favorite is still the standard live-bait rig.
- Jerry Carlson
Jerry started his outdoor career in 1987 when he began writing for Outdoors Weekly. He currently writes about a 130 articles a year for various publications in the Midwest. In addition to writing and giving numerous hunting and fishing seminars, Jerry does weekly radio shows on two St. Cloud, Minnesota stations; WJON and WWJO. He also authored a book called Details for Locating and Catching Fish. Hunting and fishing photos and articles written by Jerry, along with his email address, can be found at jerrycarlsonoutdoors.com. Jerry fishes all species but prefers crappies in the winter and bass in the summer. He also loves to hunt Canada geese in the fall.