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Simple Pleasures

Editor's note: John Kolinski of Menasha, Wis., is a nine-time championship
qualifier during his seven years of competitive fishing on the Professional
Walleye Trail and Masters Walleye Circuit. His work can be read in numerous
outdoor publications and several web sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton
Boats, Mercury Motors, MinnKota, Lindy, Berkley, Normark, VMC hooks and Off-Shore Tackle.

Sometimes, walleye fishing is like placing a phone call that travels through an
operator. It can get routed in numerous directions with no guarantee it will
ever find the desired party.
In many angling applications, we rely on planer boards, snap weights and
three-way rigs to carry our message to walleye and sauger that aren't always in
a position to receive it. While each of those methods has its time and place in any successful angler's live-bait arsenal, the direct-line approach is sometimes a far better option. It's live-bait rigging, and it's one of walleye fishing's time-honored techniques. I'm talking about the old-fashioned, hook, line and sinker approach made famous years ago by a legendary group of Minnesota guides who have gone on to much fame and fortune in the fishing industry.
It's interactive angling, and a way to reach fish that many anglers motor right
Location is the primary factor that makes live-bait rigs the right choice. It's
effective when fish are tucked up tight to steep breaklines, when they're
relating to a slight indentation or cup along a shoreline or main-lake point and
when they just won't have anything to do with a crankbait or even a jig. Rigging
often excels during cold-front conditions that in late spring and early summer
tend to send the walleyes up against the steepest, hard-bottomed structure
In all these situations, no other presentation reaches and tempts those fish
like rigging. Any rig is only as good as its bait and by June that usually means leeches and nightcrawlers. I go to extremes to keep my bait fresh and lively, and I'm convinced it shows up in my catch.
Temperature is paramount. I store my leeches in a small cooler and add a few
cubes of ice several times during a day of fishing. When the day is done, I
change their water and keep them in a larger cooler or a refrigerator.
Keep your crawlers chilled, too. Again, a small cooler works well, as do some of the insulated crawler boxes on the market. Keep them out of the sun as much as possible and ice then down a few times during the day, too. If the bedding gets soggy by the end of the day, change it for the next outing.
If minnows, shiners or chubs figure into my plans, I purchase them  right before
I hit the water. Fathead minnows do well enough in a constantly aerated
baitwell. Shiners and chubs are better kept on ice inside air-filled bait bags.
Lindy Little Joes No-Snagg  sinkers My basic bait rig consists of a Lindy No-Snagg sinker followed by a barrel swivel and a snell tied with Berkley Vanish line that can range from two or
three feet in length to 10 feet depending on water clarity, bottom content and the mood of the fish. In stained water, when the fish are aggressive or when
there's a lot of debris on the bottom, shorter snells work well. Clear water and finicky fish call for longer leaders.Usually, I use a colored bead or two on my snell and colored or painted VMC laser-sharpened bait hooks in size 4 or 6. On occasion, I've found that adding a line float to the rig can make a difference, too. As with most presentations, experiment with several variations until you zero in on what the fish want that
particular day. Of course, nothing about your rig will matter if you can't get it in front of the walleyes. Boat control is critical to success.
Ideally, bait rigs should be fished at no more than a 45-degree angle below the
boat. If the angle gets into the 30-degree range or less, there is a
considerable loss of feel and control. Change the weight of your sinker if wind,
current, depth or boat speed prevent you from staying in that 45-degree area.
MinnKota Maxxum 101 bow mount trolling moto4r
Minnkota 101
In calm water, I use my MinnKota Maxxum 101 to pull me slowly where I want to go. More often than not, however, wind is a factor that makes maintaining a speed of one mph or less difficult.
If I'm working a break, I try to position my Triton 205 sideways so the wind pushes me along the edge. My trolling motor helps make brief adjustments in direction if I start drifting too far in or out from the breakline. When those gentle breezes give way to a bigger blow, drift socks become a bait fisherman's best friend.
John Kolinski with a nice eye while rigging
The author John Kolinski with a nice eye caught while rigging
When possible, I tie one off the center of the boat. Sometimes, that's not enough and it takes one sock positioned off each end of the boat to get me slowed down to an effective speed. Even when the wind refuses to let you drift
sideways, the combination of a trolling motor and drift sock can help you maintain control. Typically, I try to work my way up and down a breakline. That seems to trigger
more fish than a constant pull at a consistent depth.
Once I've got everything else worked out, the challenge is to get a hook into
the fish. Sometimes, they attack the bait and hook themselves. More often,
rigging requires a little finesse. I use a 7-foot Berkley Series One spinning rod with a Mitchell Copperhead Pro Series spinning reel. The rod has a lot of backbone, tremendous sensitivity and the leverage I need for solid hooksets.
I keep the bail open when I'm rigging, and my finger on the line. When I feel
that initial tick or any other resistence, I let the line go and drop my rod tip
toward the source of the action. If the line is moving, you know there's a fish
there and you can reel down until the line is tight. If the fish is still there,
you'll know it and you can set the hook with a simple sweep of the rod.
Sometimes, the line doesn't move. Then I'll wait 10 or 15 or even 20 seconds
before engaging the reel, tightening up the line and applying just enough
pressure to see if there's a fish there before setting the hook. One other critical element in rigging. Don't let your sinker drag on the bottom. Rather, find the bottom and then raise it an inch or two and keep it there. Drop the rod tip back every now and then to make sure you are within a few inches of the bottom without stirring up the mud or ripping through the weeds. Rarely does
dragging the sinker through the muck or sand trigger bites, although it does
Live bait rigs are a fun and effective presentation. In my book, they remain one of angling's simple pleasures.

E-mail John Kolinski

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