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The Full Circle of Live Bait Rigging  at Cabela's

The Full Circle of Live Bait Rigging

Author: Norb Wallock & Rick Olson

The simple, but affective, live-bait rig started out as an egg sinker, a barrel swivel, and a two foot snell.

Norb (foreground) and Rick with walleye. Photo by Tim Lesmeister ©.
It's funny how a technique gets discovered and then gets refined and refined some more, and then before you know it, after all the refinements, we were right back where we started. That's what has happened to live-bait rigging.

The simple, but affective, live-bait rig started out as an egg sinker, a barrel swivel, and a two foot snell. It has gone through many changes and modifications, but in some situations the original is still the best.

Consider a big deep sand bar or a mud flat. The egg sinker is a prefect approach. The reason the egg sinker went out of favor with anglers is because it was prone to snagging. On mud or sand you don't worry about that.

With an egg sinker you can use a heavier weight, maintain the slip sinker option, and fish almost vertically.

The vertical presentation is important for today's walleye anglers who use their depth-finders to locate fish. You can stay right on top of a school of walleyes, or in some cases just one fish, and target them with a live-bait rig that has a heavier egg sinker.

A long snell is necessary in some waters with heavily-pressured fish. That's why a barrel-swivel is necessary to keep the distance between the weight and the bait. A sinker stop knot or a rubber snubber just cannot hold the bigger sinkers and they will slip down to the hook and reduce the effectiveness of the rig.

In rocks you must incorporate a snagless sinker. Surprisingly a bottom bouncer works great. You can run one of these snagless sinkers over big rock and shale and not get hung up.

Another thing we are doing with rigs today is keeping the weight off the bottom. Instead of letting that sinker dig a trough in the bottom we keep it a few inches off the bottom. The longer snell compensates for the slight tug on the line when you release the line and the sinker drops to the bottom.

Line and specialty walleye rods have become factors in rigging. We spool up with Stren Easy Cast because with a live-bait rig when the fish takes the bait you feed them some line. The Easy Cast is so memory free that it just glides off the spool and through the eyes on the rod. You don't want that walleye to spit the bait when they feel a little pull from the line getting stuck in the eye on a rod.

We are often asked if a rig works well in shallow water. Rigging is a great option in shallow water, and there is one rigging option that people seldom use and we don't know why. Maybe it doesn't cost enough money, maybe it isn't high-tech enough. What we're talking about is a small hook on the end of the line and a little round sinker about a foot up, called a split-shot. It's the simplest rig we've ever used. Even novice fishermen can be experts when they have this tool in there hand.

What you do is tip the hook with bait and cast it into a foot or two of water. Let it set for 15 seconds, take five feet of line up and let it set some more. This rig fishes itself.

One afternoon we were out fishing and caught 100 walleyes between one and eight pounds with this rig. Caught a fish on every cast. The key is to remember to let it sit for up to 15 seconds without doing anything. Reel it in five feet and let it sit again.

Picking a rod for rigging means something long and with a softer tip. When a walleye hits you feed them some line, set the bail, reel in line until you feel the fish, and you should have a little arc in that rod tip. When you get that bend on the tip don't set the hook, just start reeling. If you set the hook, you could rip that small hook right out of the fish's mouth. Just reel them in and net them.

Live-bait rigging is the perfect finesse technique for finicky walleyes. And once again the rig has proven that what goes around comes around.





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