Live Bait Rigging for Walleyes

I break out my rigging gear when walleyes are holding on a breakline, mud flat, rock pile or sand break. The technique is tailor-made for hovering over fish that aren’t aggressive enough to hit a crankbait or spinner rig blazing past them. It’s an option anytime from early season to late fall; the only variables are depth and location.

Total Solutions Technique

Step one is driving over likely structure, watching my sonar for fish or key breaks, transitions or isolated rock piles. I mark potential hotspots with GPS, then fire up the bow-mount and slowly work my way around ’em. Rather than trying to cover water, I hover over the fish, enticing them with a live creek chub, leech or ‘crawler.

Watch the rodtip for pickups. The length of time between detecting a strike and setting the hook vary depending on the size of the bait and how hungry the walleyes are. If you’re using small bait or the fish are really swallowing whatever you’re giving them, you can sometimes get by with simply dropping the rodtip and setting when the slack is gone. With less aggressive fish or larger bait such as chubs, you may have to wait 20 to 25 seconds. When I’m fishing ’crawlers, I generally give the fish a little time no matter what, because I’m not sure whether they grabbed the head or tail of the bait.

Total Solutions Equipment

Rigging requires a relatively long spinning rod for gathering line before you set the hook, and a soft tip so you can actually see the fish bite before it feels any resistance. A medium-light action is perfect. I use Berkley AIR IM8 spinning rods. The 7½-foot graphite stick works great, especially paired with an Abu Garcia’s Cardinal SX. I spool up with 6/2 FireLine, adding a small barrel swivel and leader of Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. A ½-ounce egg sinker above the leader keeps the rig on bottom and slides freely up the line when a fish takes the bait. Hook size depends on the type of bait; I use size 2s with creek chubs and size 4 to 6 with leeches. ’Crawlers call for size 6 to 8.

Abu Garcia® Cardinal® sx

Berkley® FireLine®

Berkley® Trilene® 100% Fluorocarbon