W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
Dirty Water is the time for 3-Ways
by Colin D. Crawford
3- way rigging...especially riggin' in the stained or dirty water can be both productive and challenging. As the beauty of spring surrounds us, what better time...and in what better conditions can we apply our rigging skills. All fish, especially predators walleye, northern pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass are on the prowl for LARGE MEALS...meals we can best offer through the basics of live bait rigging. Here are a few factors to consider:
As springtime patterns start to develop more walleyes are starting to spread out over flats. Walleyes frequent flats, particularly those with gravel or sand spawning habitat. The edges of the flats are a regular fish attractant. The difficulty lies in the question of how to get live bait rigs down to where the fish are located and still present the bait naturally to them. The answer is simple, yet effective, a 3-way rig.
3-way rigs are among the oldest yet least refined rigging concepts in walleye fishing. They're chiefly used with livebait snells in rivers, lakes and reservoirs during summer months when walleyes move out on deep flats. Three-way rigs cover the water quickly when active walleyes spread across flats, but they also excel with slow presentations more subtle to neutral fish.
The basic rig features a 3-way swivel with two attached lines a 12 to 24 inch drop line with a 1 to 3 ounce bell sinker and a 30 to 40 inch leader tied to your bait or lure. The drop line positions your offering a set distance above the bottom, while the leader provides an invisible connection between the swivel and lure.
Use a 1 2/3 to 3 ounce weight to maintain trolling drifting speeds of 1 1/2 to 2.5 miles per hour with spinners or crankbaits, or to hold live bait steady in current. Lighter weights 1/2 to 1 ounce work better with subtle livebait rigs or floating jigheads fished slower with frequent pauses.
The 3-way is a good rig to use when the walleyes are spread out, and it's easy to put together. Simply tie the line from your reel to one eye of a 3-way swivel. The dropper holding a bell sinker is tied to another eye and the line for the bait or lure is tied to the third eye.
A large area can be covered quickly and effectively with 3-ways. In water 20 to 40 feet deep, it might be necessary to go with up to 4 ounces of weight, while in shallow water only a half-ounce sinker is necessary. The key is, enough weight should be used to maintain contact with the bottom at whatever speed you're moving.
Sometimes, when the wind is low and the fish are finicky about the offering I will downsize to a 1/4 ounce sinker, or I will trim off a hook on a 1/4 ounce jig to replace the dropper weight. This also is the weight that I would use on a Storm Thunderstick pulled on a long snell to make these walleyes more aggressive.
The No-Snagg is a banana shaped sinker that has balsa, lead antimony weight that is surrounded by epoxy paint and protective clear seal coating, with a special rubberized coating on the outside. The sinker also has a stainless steel wire feeler out of the bottom that is tipped with a colored bead. This has the super principles of the 3-way and the bottom ticking ability of the bottom bouncer. Also, the No-Snagg when it hits an obstruction simply pivots away from the snag and doesn't get hung up.
Now with the weight and snagging problem solved I can slip a live bait rig with a plain Aberdeen fine wire hook and a bead through the massive entanglements of wood to get some of those shallow schooling walleyes. In fact, as I moved into the first log laying across the opening of this inlet I flipped out my rig and just as the No-Snagg touched the vertical limbs of another tree I felt a walleye pick-up my minnow and I set the hook. The race was on now, I held tension on the line and muscled the walleye out of the flooded timber and soon netted a nice 3 1/2 lb. walleye.
Experiment with dropper and snell length. The dropper is the line going from the swivel to the sinker. When the walleyes are tight to the bottom, use a short dropper, sometimes as short as 8 inches. Other times, when the fish are riding high, go with a dropper that is about as long as the distance of the fish from the bottom.
The snell is the line extending from the swivel to the bait or lure. In clear water, a long snell is usually more productive. Start with a 6-foot snell and experiment from there.
There it is, simple and yet a very practical technique that will allow you to fish where the walleyes are. In dirty or stained water it adds an extra edge that you should explore for spring walleyes.
Hope to see you on the water! Look for me Colin Crawford NPAA #94 on
my motor and let's talk over the 3-way rigging approach.
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