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Rigged and Ready for Live Bait

By Jerry Carlson - April 25, 2018
Live bait rigging for walleyes is about as classic a walleye presentation as anyone can find. It is a standard for catching fish on just about any body of water anglers choose to visit. However, there are subtle tweaks to this presentation that can make something great even better.

One of the first recommendations I have is to always take advantage of the low visibility of fluorocarbon leaders. If this means tying your own, than do it. My standard is six-pound Sufix with a light wire number six red hook. Depending on the conditions and mood of the fish, I will use a leader that is from four to six feet long.

Four feet is a good length to start with. It gives separation between your sinker and the hook. Bait can move freely and entice interested fish. For really finicky fish, a six foot leader will get more attention, it's just harder to deal with.

One may not think much about the weight, but it is one of the most important parts of the rig. Depth, wind and bottom structure all come into play when choosing the correct weight.

Most anglers I know go too light with the weight. I prefer a weight that will keep me fishing relatively straight down. This allows me to touch bottom and lift the weight up off of the bottom a few inches. I do not drag the weight as this is frequently a recipe for snags. Dragging can also stir up excess silt that can negatively impact your presentation.

If the conditions are extremely snaggy, I switch to a long, pencil type weight that is easier to keep out of the rocks. These longer weights are very effective in snag infested waters.

Although I typically fish with mono as my standard line on my spool, there are times I find braids to be very beneficial. Again, this is in rocky and snaggy situations.

I believe that when live bait rigging with the super sensitive braids, the fish feel you as much as you feel them. However, when working rocky areas that like to eat tackle, the braid will give better feel and help you adjust your depth more easily to stay out of trouble.

My standard braid is 10 pound-test-Sufix in low vis green. It has a very thin diameter and the extra strength helps get my tackle back when I do hang up in the rocks.

Since walleyes have an abundance of green color receptors in their eyes, I try to take advantage of this. I often place a chartreuse bead just above the hook for a little added attractant. Some days it helps and some days is doesn't. Orange is worth trying, as well.

Because conditions can change quickly, I always have several rigged rods in my boat. One always has braid on it and the other two will have different configurations of weight and leader length.

Live bait rigging is definitely a proven presentation. Whether you are using leeches, crawlers or minnows, a little tweaking can make this classic presentation even more productive.

Author Jerry Carlson
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 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.
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