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Go Plain For More Fall Walleyes

The plain rig consists of a simple bottom bouncer with a plain fluorocarbon snell and hook attached, with the hook baited with a nightcrawler.

By Mike Frisch

Jigs and slip-sinker livebait rigs are two “go to” lures for lots of anglers who target walleyes in September and October.  While those two lure presentations certainly put fall walleyes in boats and livewells, another rig, one I call the “plain rig,” has produced even better catches for me during recent falls.

The plain rig consists of a simple bottom bouncer with a plain fluorocarbon snell and hook attached, with the hook baited with a nightcrawler.  Pulling this rig over and around traditional fall fishing hotspots like sharp drop-offs, points, and along the edges of humps and sunken islands will often trigger aggressive bites from any walleyes holding on that structure.  Why?  While I can’t be sure, I think the stop and go, stuttering action a bottom bouncer imparts to a bait triggers reactionary walleye strikes.  Plus, because I use a least a 2 ounce bottom bouncer and fish quickly, my bait is simply in front of more fish during a fishing day than when fishing a traditional method.   While walleye fishing wisdom says jigging and rigging slowly in the fall is the way to go, I have learned that walleyes – even in water in the low 50-degree range – will aggressively bite a quickly fished plain rig.

As noted, a 2-ounce bouncer works well, particularly in waters up to about 30 feet deep.  If fishing deeper, however, I prefer a 3 or even 4 ounce model.  A key to this method is fishing the bouncer as vertically as possible while still maintaining bottom contact and a heavy bouncer ensures the bouncer stays tight to bottom.  Plus, as mentioned above, another key to the rig is pulling it quickly (.8 mph to 1.0 mph is often the sweet spot) and again a heavy bouncer allows this.

As for the rod and reel set-up, I use a medium action 7 foot baitcast model.  Lew’s in fact, has just such a rod in their Speed Stick line; a 7 footer that was designed with bottom bouncer fishing in mind.  The rod features a cork handle and has a sensitive tip, but with good backbone to support a heavy bouncer.  Not only is it perfect for plain rig fishing but it’s very affordable too.  I match it with a lightweight Speed Spool reel spooled with 15-pound CONTRA braid.  Braid is low stretch and sensitive so I can feel for bottom transitions and have the hook-setting power needed when fishing deep water.  As for the snell, I like the low visibility of fluorocarbon and tie my 42 inch long snells with 10-pound CONTRA fluorocarbon.  

Once rigged, I usually cruise likely walleye holding spots like those noted above with an eye on my depthfinder looking for the telltale “marks” of walleyes.  Once found, I drop the rig to the bottom, let out just enough line to keep it there and kick my trolling motor in gear.  When a walleye hits, I simply slide the rod tip back to the fish and count to about 4 before sweep-setting the hook.

If hooking more walleyes is your goal this fall, consider the plain rig and the suggestions offered above.  You might just find yourself with a bunch of aggressive walleyes in your livewell by day’s end!

As always, remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!

Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series on the Sportsman Channel and several other networks as well.  Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.

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