Catching fish depends on many variables: weather, water temperature, wind, fish movement, all of which are beyond the control of anglers. One variable that anglers do have control over is how to rig their lines. There are many options for tying a hook to a line. Each method has both strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes how the bait is presented makes all the difference in catching fish or going home skunked
Before one can become adept at rigging tackle, an angler must first know how to tie a few knots. The two most commonly used knots are the improved cinch knot and the Palomar knot (illustration 1). The improved cinch knot is the most commonly used knot since it can be tied on in any situation. The Palomar knot is a bit quicker to tie than the improved cinch, but it can not be used in all situations.
One other knot trick is to leave the knot loose rather than cinching it tight upon the lure. This allows the lure to move in more directions and hence to have more action. This trick is particularly effective with ice fishing jigs.
The simplest rigging is a jig (Rig A) . Jigs have the benefit of being relatively cheap, but are still effective. Jigs can also be fished with live bait like leeches, minnows or worms, or they can be used with plastic tails. Jigs can be fished vertically, cast and retrieved or trolled.
A hook and sinker is another simple and effective rig. The hook is tied on the end of the line and a sinker is placed somewhere on the line. The placement of the sinker depends on the presentation the angler wants. If a float is added to the rig the bait can be suspended and the bait becomes more visible.
A three way rig (Rig C), sometimes called a Carolina or Wolf River rig consists of a three way swivel with one swivel tied to the rod and reel, one with an appropriately sized sinker, and the third with a floating jig or hook with live bait. Often, the line with the sinker is a lighter weight line than the other lines so that if the sinker becomes snagged that is all that is lost. The rig is very effective when fishing rocky bottoms for walleyes. It gets the bait off the bottom so the fish can see it and helps to prevent snags. I like to fish this rig on the Chippewa River where the rocks and trees make fishing the bottom tough. The two main drawbacks to this rig are that it takes time to tie it up and the number of knots needed. Each knot is a weak point so limiting the number knots keeps the line stronger.
The drop shot rig (Rig F) is currently considered the hottest thing since sliced bread for bass fishing. The hook is tied on first but it is not tied on at the end of the line it is tied one to two feet from the end of the line with a Palomar knot. After the knot is completed, the line is run again through the hook eye and a sinker is tied on the end of the line. If done right, the hook is perpendicular to the line. The bait is the placed on the hook. It is attached at the very end of the worm. This rig works ok for walleyes but really does not out-fish other rigs.
The bobber is another addition to rigs. There are two types of bobber—clip on (Rig E) and slip (Rig D). The clip on bobber attaches to the line through a spring loaded catch. Clip bobbers are either ball-shaped or an elongated float. The round bobbers are generally made of plastic and the longer floats are usually balsa wood or plastic and Styrofoam. Plastic bobbers are the cheapest and the floats are more sensitive. The trick to using the floats when fishing light-biting fish is to have the line weighted so the float rests on its side. When the fish starts to bite the bobber will pop upright. The clip on bobbers work if one is not fishing in water deeper than the length of the fishing rod.
To use a slip bobber, a stop is put on the line at the desired depth. The tie on stops are best because they do not abrade the line. Then the line is threaded through the bobber. Finally the hook is tied on and the sinker attached to the hook The weight of the sinker is critical when bobber fishing. It must not be too heavy or the bobber will sink, but must be heavy enough so that the bobber sinks easily when the fish strikes or the fish may reject the bait. Anglers can also fish a jig below a bobber. Jigs are multicolored and on some days the color may trigger fish to strike that otherwise would just swim on by.
The Lindy rig (Rig B) uses a specialized sinker that is shaped like an old telephone receiver. It has a hole in the small end. The sinker is threaded on the line and then a snap swivel is tied on. A lead with a hook or a jig or a lure is then tied at the end of the leader. The rig was developed by Al Linder, (hence Lindy Rig) for catching walleyes. The idea was to reduce the resistance the sinker.
A floating jig or a hook with a float ((Rig B) can be tied on to get the bait off the bottom. Personally, I like to use floating jigs. Not only do I catch more fish, but I catch more game fish and fewer rough fish, especially when working the rivers.
No matter what kind of rig an angler is using, using 4 to 8 lbs test line is generally the most effective. 6 or 8 pound line will work in most situations. Line that is heavier than 8 lbs reduces the action of the lure. It also makes it more likely that the fish will feel the line when striking and spit out the bait. Lighter line also casts better than heavier. The only reason to use 10 lbs or heavier line is if one is fishing for big fish like muskies or big northerns. Also anglers should use the smallest hook and sinker combination possible for the given conditions. Finally, when tying a knot wet the line with saliva or water before cinching the knot tight. The lube allows the knot to chinch tighter and help to avoid abrasion. When I was fishing the Mississippi River from the Alma Float, a 3 ounce sinker was as light as it got. But for a river like the Chippewa or Red Cedar a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce sinker will do. When fishing some brook trout streams a sinker is not even necessary. Give these different rigs a try, and the next time you are fishing you may also be catching.