Live Bait equals Live Wire How to Lindy Rig Better

By: John Campbell

Certain systems have been developed over the years that continue to show themselves as primary weapons in the fishing arsenal in spite of technological advances. The difference is, that over that period of time, we get the opportunity to refine our presentations, tweak the original item, and expertly define the niche or set of circumstances where the apparatus performs best. Such is the case with the Lindy Rig.

Live bait rigging is nothing new, it’s probably the oldest form of fishing there is. When the Lindy rig was first developed decades ago by Ron & Al Lindner, it revolutionized the way live bait was presented. The bait had more than the freedom to swim and act naturally; that could be attained by just using split shot farther up the line. It had the ability to pay out line through the walking sinker as the fish picked up the bait and swam away with it. The fact that the fish felt no resistance like he would by dragging a split shot showed amazing catch results.

It wasn’t just that the line paid out through the hole in the sinker, the shape of the unique sinker allowed it to be dragged through obstructions with a much lower rate of snagging than other lead sinkers. It has always been the adage, that if you weren’t losing jigs or rigs in the snags, you probably weren’t fishing where the fish are and to a large extent, that is very true. Well, I’m afraid the day has come when we put that old adage to bed and need to find a new one. The reason is because Lindy, the company that first invented the walking sinker live bait rig, has now developed a walking sinker that is virtually snag free. In fact it’s called the Lindy No-Snagg sinker. I have personally watched this sinker in tanks and with underwater cameras as it was dragged into rock crevices, through tree limbs, and every manner of snag filled area, only to come through it without ever having to be popped off or snapped to free it. The Lindy No-Snagg sinker is one of those devices that without a doubt is going to put more fish in the boat because you’ll be able to fish areas that hence had been unfishable and you won’t spend all that down time retying after you had to break off.

Now that we covered that, let’s talk some about how to properly fish a live bait rig and what its applications are. Situations ideal to live bait fishing are typically when fish are structure oriented in anywhere from 15 to 50 feet down. Don’t think of these as limiting numbers, because I’ve caught fish on Lindy Rigs in 2 feet and 70 feet, but generally, that’s where they shine. Shallower than 15 feet, I’d generally be considering pitching crankbaits like Shad Raps and Husky Jerks.

Now the Lindy Rig itself is simply a snap swivel, leader and hook. The leader is typically 3 to 4 feet in length, but some situations call for up to 10 feet. The hook is a matter of personal preference and bait selection. My personal preference is to use Gamakatsu live bait hooks in either size2, 4 or 6. I use Gamakatsu brand because their the sharpest hooks made, and I’ve boated a ton of fish that are barely hooked that I am confident that I would have never stuck with an inferior hook. As to size, I use #6 for leeches, #4 for crawlers, and # 4 or #2 for minnows, depending on the size of the minnow. Weights can vary anywhere from .25 to 1 oz. Again, weight is dependent on depth fished, wind conditions and size of bait. In short, if the bait is larger, the depth gets deeper or the wind picks up to the point you can’t feel the sinker, you need to get heavier.

One of the indicators that I have found useful, is the line angle of my presentation. By maintaining a line angle of about 15 degrees to vertical, I have good control of my bait and am in proper position most times for a hookset. Once you get beyond that, you begin to lose contact with your sinker and there is quite a bit more line to take up on the hookset, thereby diminishing your chances of sticking the fish that picks up your bait.

When I get on the water and am confident it’s going to be a live bait bite, the first thing is to find the fish. When I get over a potential structural element, I slow down my Mercury 225 Optimax so that my Ranger 620 is just barely on plane. Then I turn on feature called revelation on my Bottom Line Champion NCC 6500 and watch for fish. The revelation feature is a computer feature built in that will show me fish that are sucked belly to the bottom that other depthfinders miss. Once I’ve located some fish, then it’s time to shut down the big Mercury Optimax and start my finesse presentation.

In order to present and fish properly, we need to be geared properly. Shimano has just developed a new rod series known as the V series of rods and the VSA66M in that series is by far the best live bait rod I have ever had the privilege to pick up. It is a 6’6" medium action spinning rod with an extra fast taper. I team this with a Shimano Sustain reel with instant anti reverse and spool it with 8 lb. test Stren Magnathin in Moss Green. The moss green is lo-vis but the Magnathin is high strength.

Now I lower my Minnkota Maxxum trolling motor and my Ranger 620 has transformed from a boat into a fishing platform. With the trolling motor, I am actually going to be using the action of my Ranger to present the bait to the fish. Choosing my bait is usually a matter of season. Generally minnows are used in cold water situations while crawlers and leeches are warm water baits. Having made my bait decision, I’ll open the bales on my Sustain reels, (I am generally fishing two rods, one in each hand off each side of the boat), and drop the bait all the way to the bottom. Instead of closing the bales on the reels at that point, I simply pick up the line in my index fingers.

Now I begin moving about the structure with my Minnkota trolling motor while concentrating on my rod tips and maintaining contact with the bottom and my Lindy No-Snagg sinker. A Walleye hit at this point is usually just a tick or a sensation of weight. The moment you sense this, drop the line from your finger and point your rod tip at the fish.

There are a number of different adages about how long to let a fish munch on the bait before setting the hook and really what it boils down to is the experience you get on a daily basis. Some days you need to hit them right away and others you need to time them all the way out to 5 minutes. As a starting point, I generally let the fish run as far as he wants until he stops. Once stopped, I’ll wait a bit and if he hasn’t started to move off again, I’ll let him have it. If he has started to move off after his pause, I’ll nail him right then. Setting the hook when live bait rigging takes some feel also. Generally what I want to do is move my boat toward the fish while taking up slack in the line. When I get to a point where I can feel the weight of the fish, I’ll reel all the way down until my rod tip is almost in the water and then sweep my rod up and away to take up the remaining slack and set the hook.

Some things that can affect how long you let the fish run are, how large is your bait, how heavy is the fishing pressure, are you post cold front? All those scenarios would cause me to allow the fish to have the bait a bit longer.

So, there’s some insight into one of the deadliest Walleye tactics available still, Lindy Rigging. I can’t urge you enough to get yourself some of the new Lindy No-Snagg sinkers, simply because I know it’ll help you boat more fish and make your day on the water more fun. I hope to see you on a lake somewhere, Lindy Rigging a point or hump right next to me. Good Luck! I’ll see you on the water!


John Campbell is currently leading for Angler of The Year on the most prestigious and competitive Walleye Fishing Tournament Circuit in the world, The Professional Walleye Trail (PWT).