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Lindy Rigging

By Dave Duwe - September 1, 2013
Live bait fishing has been part of my fishing repertoire since I was old enough to hold a pole. Using natural bait will increase your odds of success. Some forty years later, I am still fishing a making a career out of it being a professional fishing guide.

With clients, and young people, live bait is the easiest and most productive way to catch fish. Anyone who has fished with me over the last twenty years of guiding knows my love of Lindy rigging. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways to present live bait. I rig for walleyes, smallmouth and northern pike.

The lindy rig is a walking sinker or Lindy no-snagg sinker, a ball bearing swivel, a snell from two feet to 10 feet and a hook. When fishing nightcrawlers or leeches a #4 or #6 size octopus hook is one of the best. For minnows I choose a larger #2 hook. The size of the weight is determined by a couple of factors. First is the water depth you are fishing, the deeper the water, the heavier the weight. Walking sinkers come in a whole bunch of sizes, 1/8 oz to 1 ½ oz is what I use the most. Secondly, how fast you are trolling makes a difference. You want the rig on the bottom and the line at a 45 degree angle off the bottom. A simple rule, the faster you troll the heavier the weight. The snell length is a bit more complicated. There are a myriad of factors including, clarity of water, where the fish are located in the water column, how skittish the fish are, etc. The most important component to the lindy rig is the quality ball bearing swivel. Without one you will have a day full of line twists.

Rigging with customers I almost always position fish or back troll very slowly. The need for a heavy weight isn't necessary. I choose a leader length of two to three feet.

For bass or walleye I use a spinning outfit, a Pflueger President reel spooled with 8 lb Silver Thread monofilament and a 6'6" medium action Fenwick rod. For Northern Pike, I use 20 lb monofilament on an Abu Garcia 6500 with a bait clicker on a 7' medium heavy Berkley lightening rod. The areas I concentrate on are "spot" on spots, which make my presentation stationary and vertical.

For walleye, the bait of choice is nightcrawlers or leeches. For smallmouth use minnows, chubs and leeches and for Northern Pike, I use exclusively "meat" ,suckers or chubs.

As an avid Lindy fisherman, I wanted to gain some pro walleye angler's perspective so I called a couple of buddies who are in the know. I contacted Brad Davis, a Skeeter boat pro who fishes the pro walleye trail and Jon Thelen, field promotion manager for Pradco Outdoor Brands, the company that now owns Lindy Legendary fishing tackle.

"Lindy rigging is decades old and still effective. It should be a part of every fisherman's repertoire..."
Jon and Brad's approach to rigging were similar to each other, however, very different from my application. Brad covers water, trolling 1.4 - 1.5 mph, but slows down to 1 mph when he finds fish. By moving faster he believes he puts his bait in front of more fish. The sinker of choice is a 1 oz to 1.5 oz sinker; Brad always keeps his line angle at 45 degrees and adjusts the weight accordingly. The snell length starts at five feet and goes up from there. The clearer the water, the longer the snell as a rule. Areas of the lake he rigs range from 15-35 ft of water. He keys on scattered weeds and rock and if he had one bait to pick, it would be a 5 inch red tail chub. If he finds the areas holding fish are too "snaggy" he will shy away from Lindy rigs in favor of a bottom bouncer with a shorter snell. The most interesting tip he spoke about was the length of time until the hook set is approximately 90 seconds. He waits that long to make sure the walleye has the big chub down. His rod/reel combo is a 7' medium heavy rod, and a baitcaster spooled with 14 lb Fireline with 10 lb fluorocarbon snell. I asked him if he snapped fish off with the Fireline and light leader, and he explained that you don't want a very aggressive hook set, more of a sweeping motion than a hard jerk upward. His number one philosophy is that you have to cover a lot of water.

Jon's approach to lindy rigging was quite comparable. Jon fishes defined edges with scattered rubble deeper than 15 ft. of water. He uses a medium sized walking sinker 3/8 oz to ¾ oz or Lindy no-snagg sinkers with at least an eight foot snell. He trolls at 0.7 to 1.0 mph, half the speed of Brad Davis. The rod and reel combo is exactly the same as Brad's with the only exception being his reel is spooled with monofilament. Jon only uses a fluorocarbon snell in a 10lb line diameter. Jon believes the Lindy no-snagg sinkers allow him to catch more fish on a given day. Once a walleye bites, Jon waits about as long as I do to set the hook, 10-15 seconds.

To recap, here are the keys to Lindy rigging everyone should use.

  1. The deeper the water, the heavier the weight.
  2. Ball bearing swivels are a must.
  3. The clearer the water, the longer the snell
  4. When trolling, make sure your line remains at a 45 degree angle to the bottom.
Lindy rigging is decades old and still effective. It should be a part of every fisherman's repertoire.
Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website .
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