October 01, 2013

If you’ve ever felt that “thump” when a big walleye has taken the bait… if you’ve ever seen your line spit out the spool on an open bail as a walleye makes a run… if you’ve ever leaned in for a hookset after your line has tightened… and if you’ve ever dipped the net on a big walleye on a Lindy Rig… then you know. Fishing with Lindy Rigs is the finest, simplest way to deliver live bait to walleyes. No doubt.

I remember when the Lindy Rig was born, right here where I live in the Brainerd Lakes area of central Minnesota. Some of the best walleye men who have ever wetted a line made it legendary. And if I had to guess at the number of walleyes I have caught on a Lindy Rig, I honestly couldn’t give you a number. It’s in the several thousands.


Even though the Lindy Rig technique is famous, I know there are people out there who have never tried it. So I wanted to introduce you to the basics, and offer a few rigging pointers along the way. For those who do know about it, read on anyway, because a return to the fundamentals is always a good thing.

As I mentioned above, the Lindy Rig is a live bait delivery method. It is most often associated with night crawlers, leeches and minnows. Although sometimes crayfish, mudpuppies, or even frogs have been Lindy Rigged. From your rod tip down, this is what this simple setup includes: on your main line you thread a slip sinker. The original Lindy Rig sinker has a telltale shape that allows it to “swim” with stability while resisting snags from rocks and other structure. As noted, it’s a “slip” sinker, meaning it has a hole through it that allows it to slide up and down on your line. After threading it on, you tie on a simple barrel swivel. The swivel is your sinker stop that also prevents line twist when dragging live bait (which can often corkscrew as it’s being pulled).

On the other split ring of your swivel, you tie on what’s called a snell. A snell is a length of fishing line (ususally monofilament or fluorocarbon) with a hook attached to it. Snell lengths vary to whatever your preference is. And length choices often vary based on water clarity, the aggressiveness level of the walleyes on a particular day, and other factors. A 3-4 foot snell is average.

Sometimes the choice at the end of the line is a basic, small hook. Sometimes it’s a hook with a second “stinger” hook attached. Or, as is the choice of many walleye anglers, the offering is a spinner rig with colored beads and a spinner blade (Colorado, Indiana or Willow style). Whatever setup you go with, this is where you affix your live bait .

When fishing with leeches, the hook point goes right through the “sucker.” With minnows, typically they’re lip-hooked – although some anglers like to hook them through the center of the upper back to make them appear more distressed as they get pulled along sideways. Tail hooking them works too, so they’re being pulled backwards. With crawlers, they’re usually hooked through the snout. But sometimes, when fish are particularly negative and just nipping at tails, hooking a crawler “wacky style” through the middle of the body can result in better results. It makes for a fatter profile in the water (with two dangling ends) and because it effectively shortens the length of the crawler by ½, it can reduce short strikes.

After the Lindy Rig is all set up with sinker, snell, hooks, spinners, bait, etc., the next step is presenting the bait on structure that’s holding walleyes. You simply open your bail and drop the Lindy Rig to the bottom, then slowly troll or drift at a speed that keeps the bait hugging bottom.

A 3/8-ounce sinker usually works great at most depths and speeds.

For faster trolling or Lindy Rigging

in very deep water, switch to a ½-ounce sinker.

As you troll or drift along, have your bail open with your line on your index finger. As soon as you feel a “thump” or “tap, tap” drop the line and give the walleye a free spool. As he runs, the line flows through the slip sinker so he never feels that weight. After giving him some time to ingest the live bait (times vary based on the feeding mood of the fish), click over your bail; wait for the line to get taught; then set the hook.

It’s that easy!

In addition to walleye fishing, Lindy Rigging works for a lot of other species as well. Fishing pike with Lindys and big suckers can be dynamite. It’s a great way to present baits to bass (often referred to as a “Carolina Rig”). Even some redfish and snook anglers use derivatives of Lindy Rigs in salt water.

But hey, we’re talking about walleyes here, and for my money the most deadly and simple bait delivery technique there is for ‘eyes is the venerable, magical, diabolical Lindy Rig.

Good Fishing.

Babe Winkelman hosts “Good Fishing” and “Outdoor Secrets,” the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America, Velocity, Time Warner and many local broadcast channels. Visit Winkelman.com for air times and more information.