Live Bait Rigging Funnels in the Fall

Focus When Fishing Can Be Key

All to often, anglers start out in the spring of the year all fired up about fishing and getting things ready for the opener.  By mid season they start deciding that maybe they should be golfing or painting the house instead of fishing.  As September and October roll around they think of putting the boat away and getting ready for the hunting season and another opener.

Fishing and hunting have a lot in common and I will be the first to admit that I enjoy hunting as much as I enjoy the sport of fishing.  But, if you are going to do both well you have to stay focused on a specific sport.  Take for example, the distractions that I first described to you about the sounds from the woods.  If I took my eyes off my line I probably missed a strike from a good walleye.  Or, if I decided to put the boat away and get my decoys ready I would have missed some of the best walleye fishing of the season.


Funnels are a good way to stay focused on fishing or hunting.  We know that fish and animals use funneled down areas to migrate from a feeding source to a place of resting.  When I am on the water in autumn I tend to look for funneled down areas, because it is a great place to look for walleyes as they pass through in search of food.  Necked down areas, saddles between island and land, narrows, and even break lines are great places to begin looking for active walleyes in the fall.  Breaklines are areas where the floor of the lake or river drop-off from shallow water to deeper water.  The breakline is a transitional area.  Walleyes have a tendency to move up into the shallows on cloudy, windy days or in the evening and then slide back into the depths to rest. 

Walleyes love live bait, especially in the fall, and there's no more practical way to present live bait than behind a slip sinker slowly dragged along the bottom.  Rigging allows an angler to comb a lot of water quickly.  It's a great way to search for walleye schools that are scattered along a drop-off.

The key to live-bait rigging is a slow, meticulous presentation.  Terminal tackle for a live bait rig usually includes a walking sinker threaded onto the line on top of a barrel swivel.  Keep the sinker weight as light as possible, yet heavy enough to let you feel the weight along the bottom.  Usually 1/4 to 1/2-ounce sinkers should be adequate for early-season fishing.

From the opposite end of the swivel I run a 2 to 4 foot snell of 6 to 8 pound test monofilament.  Adjust the distance of your live-bait rig from the bottom according to water clarity.  In stained water the fish will be tight to the bottom so the rig should run closer to the bottom.  Just the opposite frequently holds true in clear water.

I prefer to use the Lindy Rig in this case, because it allows me the versatility of getting the live bait right in the face of suspended walleyes.  A plain VMC, hook or the colored hooks are great, usually number 6 or number 8 finishes off the rig except for the bait.

Let the fish show you, which form of live bait to use.  A general rule is to use smaller minnows in the spring and larger minnows in the fall, with leeches and nightcrawlers being most productive in the warmer months of summer.  However, I've found that walleyes don't always adhere to the rules.  I like to have a complete selection of bait in the boat with me whenever I go fishing.  I've had plenty of experiences when mid-summer walleyes attacked minnows and early spring walleyes showed a preference for crawlers.

Walleyes often take minnows lightly, and will sometimes nibble at the tail of the night crawler like a small perch.  These slow biters have to be given time to get the bait into their mouths so that the hook can do itís job.

That's the reason for the Lindy slip sinker, it allows you to feed line to the fish.  Some anglers use open-face Shimano spinning reels for live bait rigging.  They backtroll, with the bail open and the line caught under the index finger of their rod hand.  When they feel a bite, they simultaneously point the rod tip back toward the fish and straighten their finger, allowing line to run freely off the spool.  After anywhere from 3 to 30 seconds depending on how aggressive the fish are, reel up the slack line quickly until they feel the weight of the fish.  They then snap the rod back with authority and hoist another walleye into the boat.

I know that the fall is a great time to be outdoors and you are probably attracted to the sounds from the marsh and the fields, but if you stay focused on the walleyes and keep looking for ambush points or funnels you will have some great fall fishing.  That eight point buck will still be there and you can approach him with a funneling technique come November.

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