Try a live bait rig to bring fish into the boat
This week we will cover some of the finer points of live bait rigging. This is sometimes referred to as "slip sinker rigging" or even more commonly called "lindy rigging." The system is fairly simple and straightforward. It consists of a weight with a hole in it that can slide up and down the line, some kind of weight stop which is usually a barrel swivel, and a length of leader (also called a snell or tippet) with a hook to hold live bait.
The concept is to let the weight down to the bottom while moving slowly around structure that may be holding fish. One benefit of this style of fishing is the ability to cover water looking for active biting fish. When you get a bite, you release some line to the fish. Because the line can slip through the weight without resistance it does not detect that you are on the business end. You then pick up the slack line and set the hook with a jerk of the rod, and..."fish on."
The sinkers come in many shapes and sizes. It is usually with trial and testing you will develop a comfort with weight and designs for your comfort. The most common shapes include the walking weight or "lindy sinker," barrel or egg shape weight, bell sinker, and the bullet or worm weight. The most common sizes used are 1/8 oz, 1/4 oz, and the 3/8 oz. The bullet, worm, and egg sinkers usually fish a little cleaner in heavy weeds. The walking and bell sinkers usualy fish through rocks, gravel or hard bottom areas better than some of the other designs. The 1/8 oz is used to cover water in the 6-15 foot range. The 1/4 oz covers the 15 to 25 foot depth range well, and the 3/8 oz will cover from 25-40 feet of water for most situations.
Wind and boat speed will change the formula and you may need to increase your weight to maintain contact with the bottom depending on the situation. For very shallow water in the 2-8 foot range a 1/16 oz weight or split shot on the line is commonly used.
As a stop for the weight, most fisherman use a barrel swivel. A snap swivel can also be used as leaders can then be changed with ease. Some fisherman will use a split shot so adjusting leader lengths is easy. I recommend using some type of swivel as this helps reduce line twist. A bead is sometimes used between the swivel and the weight as a way of protecting the knot or the risk of the weight hanging up on the swivel.
Most leader material will be made of monofilament or fluorocarbon line. In some applications the no stretch lines with high abrasion resistance are used. Keep in mind that the fluorocarbon line does not absorb water and is a sinking line. Most monofilament lines are floating lines. Leader lengths can vary from 18 inches to 12 feet (7-12 foot leaders are commonly used on the famed Lake Mille Lacs mudflats). For most situations in our area a 2-5 foot leader will work fine. Lengthen the leader in clear water or situation you are noticing the fish suspended off the bottom. Shorten the leader in thicker weed cover or during cold front situations. Line sizes of 4lb to 8lb test will work in most situations.
The hooks can consist of floating jigheads, inline floats with hooks, colored attractor beads above the hook, or just the plain stealth presentation. I like to use the octopus style hook and tie a snell style knot. Hooks come in multiple colors, shapes and styles. Again, your own experimentation becomes the best teacher, and you will find what you have confidence in using for success. I use size six for leeches and nightcrawlers and size four or two for minnows (depending on the size of minnow).
A couple of adjustments can make a big difference in hooking fish. Fish with your finger on the line and bail open if using a spinning reel. Keep your thumb on the line with pressure and the reel disengaged if using a levelwind reel. Have the line between your thumb and forefinger to hold the line with the button depressed if using a closed faced reel. This allows you to let line out immediately. After a few seconds of feeding line, engage the reel and get all the slack out of your line. When the rod has "loaded up" and you sense the weight of the fish, sweep set the hook. Do not drop the rod tip to get a better hook set. Set the hook when you have tension on the line. Keep pressure on the fish and try not to reel against the drag as you battle the fish. Let the bend of the rod and drag help you control your fighting fish. Good luck on the water.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)