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Refine Your Live Bait Presentation

By Jerry Carlson - April 1, 2014
There are a lot of different ways to catch walleye and I have tried most of them. Some of these techniques have worked well under certain conditions, others have not impressed me very much.

There is one presentation that has consistently been successful for me, especially early in the year. This basic presentation is the live bait rig.

Although the live bait rig is often times thought of as a simple means of angling for walleye, it isn't always as simple as one may think. There are certainly many variations and noteworthy equipment refinements that can be made to increase success.

Walleye are known for their finicky eating habits. Their pick-ups are often so subtle it is hard to tell when you have a bite. For this reason, the fishing rod chosen for live bait rigging is critical.

I am a big believer in using high quality rods for live bait rigging. The extra feel associated with a sensitive fishing rod will pay big dividends down the road. I personally find Fenwick products to be ideal.

I like seven foot medium light actions. Having a light, sensitive tip is extremely important for detecting those very finicky bites. Many times I can see the fish load up on the end of the rod but not really feel any kind of bite. Longer fishing rods are also ideal for playing fish.

Line is another critical component of live bait rigging, especially the leader material. Since walleye teeth are round, they do not cut line like northern teeth do. Because of this, anglers can easily get by with six-pound-test leader material. I often will use four.

As for the leaders, the new fluorocarbon lines, like Vanish, are excellent. They are less visible in the water than standard line and do make a significant difference in success.

For years, it was believed red hooks were necessary to catch walleye. I do use red hooks but believe having a small, sharp, light wire hook is more important than color. I often add a chartreuse or orange bead above the hook when tying my leaders.

At times, I find some variation in the leader is helpful. Spinners and Gum-Drop floaters should be tried on a regular basis as there are days when these presentations will out fish a plain hook.

One last thought. You can't catch fish that are not there. For this reason, take advantage of quality electronics and map chips from LakeMaster ( Being able to find fishing spots is the first step in catching anything.

There are a lot of walleye presentations that will successfully catch fish but few are as versatile as the live bait rig. I find that by refining some of the basics of live bait rigging, I can be successful on most bodies of water.

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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