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Rapala Three-Way Rigging for Walleye

At times, walleyes hug deep contours like a glove. Tucking tight into corners and crevices along the drop-off. Long-line trolling presentations that don’t penetrate these nooks and crannies miss the fish and miss the bite. So what’s the alternative? Short-line tactics. Like vertical jigging and live-bait rigging enable slow, precise delivery into pockets along the contour, leaving walleyes no place to hide. But sometimes, slow is not the way to go. Especially when you need to cover water to locate walleyes. Or when increased speed is required to trigger strikes. Got ‘em. That’s where three-way rigs and minnow-baits take charge. Picking up the pace for increased coverage. Imparting aggressive lure actions. And weaving baits in and out of key contact points that other tactics miss. It’s the perfect blend of speed and precision for efficiently fishing large structures and zeroing in on key fish-holding spots.

Fish, that the one you said pecked you. That’s the one he could have been pecking me, I felt him come up and pop the bait. And then as we’re trolling along what I did, I just relaxed the pressure on the line and that bait sort of floats back up into the fishes face and ah, that time it worked. She bit. Nice fish. You want to put a lot of pressure on him, we’ve got all the time in the world to get the fish in the boat here. Oh it’s a nice day, yeah. Oh yeah, nice, nice big one. There you go Mr. Sura. The purple people-eater guy. You know when it comes to walleye fishing, precision is usually the name of the game. I mean you’ve gotta get your bait in the right target depth-zone and you’ve gotta keep it there. Whoa baby. And one of the really effective ways to do it is a simple hook-line-and-sinker, a little three-way rig, with a proper crankbait. Now we happen to be fishing with a, a new Rapala Flat Rap (discontinued). And this thing has got a tremendous slow-wobble to it. Like a wounded minnow and it really triggers fish into biting. Again, precision is the name of the game. That bait sure does hook boy. That dude really does hook em. I’m gonna go back in on that inside edge. I was in at about twenty-eight when that fish bit. Take a look at this. I’ve got about a three-foot dropper with a three-ounce bell sinker, maybe a what about a seven, ah, seven maybe eight foot, um Sufix fluorocarbon leader, and a little Flat Rap. That’s all she does. Just watch this bait in the water, when you’re moving, what is Al moving? About a mile and a quarter an hour. One, two, three maybe. Look at that, look at that flash of the bait that’s really triggering these fish. Working real slow, real precise. You know you’re so efficient with the three-way and ah the Flat Rap like the, like this. You’re fishing in off the point and back around. Staying in the zone all the time. If I had lead core or if I had the layout boards which work phenomenal when fish are spread high in the water column and spread out or spread across the basin in a big area. But when it comes to precision fishing, and that’s what talking about, precision fishing. You gotta do it this way. And you’re just what look you’re in, out, drop it down, you can make the point at a turn. Reverse the bait, reel up, reverse it, come right back right through again. And the whole thing to catching fish consistently is duplicating what you did, did as far as depth and speed. You can do it. Yeah, you know all these Hummingbirds we have, have today all have speed control indicators. These fish have been coming at about a one to one-one. And ah, that’s been about the most consistent. And you’re always monitoring depth and speed.

Some of the little tricks of fishing this technique effectively is getting the right amount of line out. And that may sound like, well that’s pretty simple. Yeah, you lower the weight to the bottom, you get the boat speed up and you let out just enough line so that you contact bottom as you draw the rod back. You don’t want to be two blocks behind the boat dragging the sinker. That isn’t going to work. You wanna maintain that feel. You wanna, if you can, when you pull this rod forward I can actually feel the bait wiggling. That gives me a lot of confidence that the bait’s running properly too by the way. But keep that maybe no more than a forty-five degree angle with the water. And maintain on the dropback a little bit of bottom contact and you’re in business. Just hand on. Oh man, big fish man. Big fish. I mean I’m talking a donkey. Oh yeah. Really a good fish. Boy did you suck that thing in. I’m guessing this fish, this is a big fish of the day baby. No question, nice one. Man I’m telling you she is a, really pulling. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That water gets warm. You know these wall meadows when they get in the deep water like this is so much fun. And one thing about these big baits, the, with the plugs. You know we see a lot of guys out here they’re, they’re lindy rigging with the leeches and crawlers, or just vertical jigging. Nah she’s just a nice one. But man when you put a plug down there you get the biggest fish in the school. I thought she was bigger than that. There you go. I see what happened, hang on, she was, yeah she was hooked kind of funny. Okay. Get that other hook out of the net for me. You know when you’re doing this type of fishing, shape is always a consideration. And day-in and day-out, the best shape you can fish, on these three-ways like this, is the minnow shape. Since three-way rigging involves trolling speeds of about one to two miles per hour, lures that have life-like minnow actions, at modest speeds, tend to perform best. Long, thin profiles with plenty of flash help attract walleyes and trigger strikes. Traditionally, balsa minnow baits like a number nine or number eleven original Rapala Floaters have dominated three-way rigging presentations. This was due to their lifelike action and very slow trolling speeds. Small plastic body floaters like Storm Thunderstick MadFlash or Juniors are good alternatives as well. Jointed lures are less used for three-way rigging but can be just as deadly at times. Good examples are a number nine or number eleven jointed Rapala or Storm Jointed Minnow Stick (discontinued). Jointed lures usually wobble best whenever extremely slow speeds are required. The introduction of Rapala’s number eight and number ten Flat Rap added a broader lure profile to three-way rigging options without sacrificing the classic wounded minnow action. It’s a particularly good choice when large walleyes are looking for a substantial meal.

You know just on the way we’re fishing here Al, up in uh, like there, like twenty-six, twenty-seven. I’m on the port side of the boat and I’ve got about a six, six-and-a-half foot rod out, so my bait is slightly separated from his. He’s probably in the way we’re working this, he’s a little bit deeper, I’m a little bit shallow. So we’re, we’re covering a couple of different depth levels at similar speeds. But, you know by manipulating the rod, and pulling and dropping it back, and stepping on the trolling motor and moving a little faster, a little slower. You can really vary the action and speed of that bait and a tremendous triggering effect. That one time they will hit it on a straight crawl. Another time you may have to trigger it by pumping a little bit. It’s kind of fun. It’s, it’s great when you feel that fish bite. I like fishing like this a whole lot better than using say rod holders. It’s just not as exciting. You don’t get to feel the bite. You’re, you’re doing some things with your hands like this where you’re accelerating. Sometimes you’re, you’re dropping back you’re feeling the bottom like that and then you just kind of lift, lift it a little bit. And it’s amazing how many times on that lift when you accelerate that bait a little bit and those walleyes are, are looking at it and all of a sudden that fish hits. And you can’t do that with rod holders. You know that’s one of the beauty of fishing. Precision like this, I mean you’re right on the, the spot where the fish are at. Are the fish at twenty-eight feet? Are they at twenty-five feet? Are they at twenty-two feet? You know if you’re dragging boards, or lead core, or even flat-line trolling and you got a lot of line out. You’re missing a lot of these high percentage spots. There’s no way better, period, to deliver hard baits like this in deep water than in this three-way system. You have got to have good boat control and you know, working with a good GPS mapping system, a good depth sonar, reading the bottom properly and controlling the boat. Because the boat is actually the platform that we’re fishing from and if the boat’s out of position our bait’s out of position so boat control is really critical to getting these baits in the right zone to be precise. I think too with that heavy bell sinker you can actually feel the bottom contact. Whether it’s sand or mud or morrow or gravel or rock. Which is kind of an interesting, it will telegraph what’s down there. Oh, got him Dan! Oh it feels so good boy. Oh. Oh yeah. Just a pumping. Just a pumping baby. You know of all the different delivery systems for these deep water fish you know the slowest day-in and day-out is a jig. The next slowest is live-bait rigging. Then you kick the speed up a little bit with spinners. And then when it comes to really covering water fast, this is the way to go. This is the way to go. I got, I had one deep look at him. I love this, It’s so much fun. Well the nice, it’s so much fun, two out, you got, you got the search thing going on here and you can always go back and rig a jigfish but this is a great way to eliminate water and just ah find fish too. Especially for finding big fish like this gal. Yeah she’s a good one I will tell you that, she’s a good one. Whoa, oh man she is pulling, she is pulling baby. You can tell, oh yeah she’s a big fish, that they don’t want to come up. Oh yes. Yeah, yeah she’s a good one. Okay hang on, hang on. Look, look, see. Okay, okay. Oh. Man what a whopper. Here you go Al. Okay, okay. Wait til you see this whopper. Huh. I’m glad Dan started catching them on that, on that smaller, smaller size fat. Look at that, look at that. Mouth’s full of hook. Got it? Look at that. Woo. What a way to catch big fish. Not to mention a whole lot of fun doing it. I need a pliers, no wait, wait I got it, I got it there, I got it there. I put a perch color on and got into the big dogs. Got into the big dogs. Look at that one huh. Lets get her back. Boy she’s a big gal. There she goes.

You know the times of the year and as far as locations go. For a deep, where I’ve really done well pulling three-ways and minnow-baits like this is number-one in Summer-time right now on these deep flats. We’re, we’re its summer the water’s in the seventies. We’ve got a lot of fish out here. We’re trying to get the biggest fish in the school. Not necessarily numbers. So we’re not rigging, we’re pulling hard baits and hard baits always produce bigger fish generally than live bait or jigs do on a regular basis. So that’s one of the spots. In fall, in a lot of the deep water lakes that we fish. When a lot of the fish quit suspending. Get down on, on, on ah, on, the bottom and kite the structure, is one of the absolute best times to pull a three-way in a minnow bait like this. It’d be my number one pick. The fall bite. And in rivers, it’s incredibly productive. All season long. Ends of wing dance, ends of rock piles, old channel basins, ledges, edges, phenomenal way of catching big fish fast. Not to mention an awful lot of fun. Come here, take a look at this. Look, look at what I’m looking at. The unit on the right is a Hummingbird eleven-hundred series and it’s connected to Al’s Vol unit which is a seven eighty-eight. So he is seeing exactly what I’m seeing. And as he’s working these spots there’s a, there’s a plot track so I know exactly where the boat is. When we catch a fish if we want we can mark it. But the whole thing is, it’s keeping the boat positioned correctly on any structure and with a mapping unit like this it allows you to pick the spots out as part of your overall strategy. And then go work these little micro spots. These corners, these points, these rockslides. But it gives you a visual reference to where you’re fishing and I think that’s very, very important.

You know most of our walleye fishing like, like this is done with a bait-casting rod. This is a seven-foot Comp Ray Envy. You know very soft rod, ideal for these conditions. You’re holding that rod all day. This is a small fifty Cal cutter. Remember I’m not casting. I’m not ah leaving out big amounts of work. So that real light rod and reel combination is the way to go. Yeah you know you fish all day your wrist or you elbow never ever gets tired. As far as weight goes, ah generally almost in any of these conditions we’re fishing twenty to fifty, sixty feet of water. And usually two-and-a-half to three ounces will, will do the job for you as far as speed and staying in the right ah, right angle you have to, have to fish. Ah, we’re using ten-pound test fluorocarbon. Which works the best day-in and day-out. This is Sufix 10 lb fluorocarbon. And you put that combination together you get out on your favorite body of water, start pulling down like this, on these tight contours where you know those walleyes are living. And a lot of times you’re catching the biggest fish in the school where everybody else is rigging or jigging. They’re catching fish, you, you know, but the big gals, the real big ones in the schools, hit hard baits. Oh wow. She just hammered it. She just hammered it. This, this feels like a better fish. You know you can kind of tell. They get that head-shake going on and you want to have a reel, a level line, with a really good drag system. This Shimano here it’s got an excellent drag system and the fish rarely tear off unless I pressure em too hard. Resist the temptation to thumb the spool. If it’s hooked or if she’s hooked lightly it will tear off. Notice ah, nice fish, nice ah, nice fish, medium action, extra fast taper with that tip that bends, with a little forgiveness. It’s all part of the right game here. Here she comes Al, see if I can get her. I see her, I see her. She’s got, that. She’s got it right across the side of her puss. Nice fish boy. Whoa. Right, there you go. Oh. There you go. Man. She was hooked across the bottom of her. She was. Let me get, pop that out. Hang on. Hang on. There you go. You got it? There you go, there you go man. Oh. Here you go. Another great walleye. Any time you’ve got walleye sitting tight in structure in deep water and you want to use crankbaits

Rapala Flat Rap (Discontinued)

Wind-On 100% Fluorocarbon Leader

Original Rapala Floater

Storm Thunderstick MadFlash

Sufix Fluorocarbon Leader