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Live Bait Rigs and Spinners for Ice Out Walleyes
By Sam Anderson
During the spring, live-bait rigs and spinners are two of my preferred
methods of presentation. Sure, you can still take old marble eyes
on jigs, and crankbaits will produce big results in some conditions, but
much of the time, live-bait rigs and spinners will fool fish when nothing
else will. Live-bait rigs are effective for several reasons.
One of those is that they allow an angler to present a bait to the
walleyes in a very natural, life-like manner. The bare-bones rig
is nothing more than a hook, snell, and sinker. In some circumstances
a colored bead can be added like a Stealth Rig, with an adjustable sinker,or
a spinner, like the
Spinning Rig, or a float like a Lindy Floating Rig which makes the bait
ride higher off the bottom. Simple yet effective. The spinner
rigs we're talking about are the live-bait rigs with a
blade and a few beads just above the hook. As the rig is pulled
through the water, the blade turns, which attracts fish with both sound,
vibration, and added visibility.
A spinner is a rotating blade on a clevis, sandwiched among plastic
beads, followed by a hook or hooks and livebait. Today’s standard
spinner rig consists of a metal clevis with a #1, #2 or #3 Colorado, Indiana
or willow leaf blade followed by 4 or 5 BB-sized beads and a single 1/0
Aberdeen hook for minnows or two #4 short shank snell hooks rigged in tandem
about two inches apart for crawlers or leeches.
However, another hot blade that is really working well is the Hatchet
blade! This standard rig is tied on 36 inches of 14 to 17 pound test
line. Snell length is an important consideration when employing a live-bait
rig. Sometimes the walleyes will be tight on the bottom, sometimes
they'll be up three or four feet. The snell should be long enough
or short enough to get the bait up to the fish or directly above the fish.
The secret to this type of presentation is knowing that the walleyes
usually won't move very far to take a bait, so you have got to keep it
within their strike zone if you want to catch them. To determine proper
snell length, keep a close eye on your sonar unit.
If the fish are detected three feet off the bottom, try a snell lengt
of 4 1/2 or 5 feet. If the fish are detected just a foot or so up,
drop down to an 18 or 20 inch snell. Sometimes, lifting your sinker
off the bottom can also bring your bait into the fish’s strike zone. Walleyes
will change the level at which they're running from day to day
and even hour to hour. That's why I use Lindy Rigs and Lindy
Soft Stops exclusively for live-bait rigging. Snell length can be
changed in a matter of seconds, whereas most rigs must be cut and re-tied
to lengthen or shorten the snell. The other good aspect about using
the Soft Top is that it is soft plastic and it can be reused and it won’t
damage the line. Minnows, leeches, and night crawlers are my favorite three
use with a Lindy Rig. However, don’t be afraid to try other live
baits like crawfish or salamanders.
Power Bait have also been known to take fish when they are aggressive or
you have a lot of panfish stealing your live bait. Floating jigs and attractors
aren't always for suspended fish. In dirty water, walleyes will most
often be close to the bottom. At times, I'll use an attractor or
Lindy Spinning Rig on a short snell in water where the walleye's vision
is limited due to water color. That added
spot of color and vibration could be what it takes to get the fish's
attention and get it to bite. When using spinners, snell length is important.
The snell length is the distance from the swivel to the hook. When
moving quickly, increase the snell length as a general rule of thumb.
This will get your bait away from your bottom bouncer and improve your
hookups. A faster presentation is usually called for in clear water,
and you want the bait up high enough so the fish can see it from farther
away. Also, walleye are more likely to go up for a bait than go down
for it. In dirty water, the walleye will often be closer to the bottom.
So, you may have to slow down your speed a little bit to give the walleye
more time to react. Another note on bait, minnows will work in the spring
on live-bait rigs, but I generally use either a leech or crawler.
Remember, the population of baitfish is at a high in the spring due to
all the fish
that were spawned in the spring. It will be tough to get a walleye's
attention with a minnow when there are already millions of minnows swimming
around down there. Therefore, the different bait that isn't as abundant
will be more attractive. Live-bait rigs and spinners fool walleyes all
year, but they're especially productive in the spring. Give them
a try and you will see that rigging and spinning for ice out walleyes is
a great method.
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