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The Best Walleye Rigs for Three-Season Fishing: Our Favorites Explained

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Experienced walleye anglers know just how effective live bait can be, and whether you prefer nightcrawlers, leeches, or minnows, the right rig makes all the difference.

A good walleye rig is more than a slip sinker and hook, however, and to get the most from your time on the water, you’ll need to think outside the box.

We’re here to help, and we’ve assembled a few of our favorite walleye fishing rigs for you to consider.

With step-by-step instructions and a complete gear list, you’ll be ready to catch the walleye of your dreams.

So keep reading.

Related: Jigging For Walleye, Best Walleye Rods

Walleye Rigs: A How-To Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions

The Slip-Float Rig

slip float rig

Walleye anglers know that live bait gets a bite when nothing else will, and for rigging a minnow, there’s simply nothing more effective than a Slip Float Rig.

A slip float is a simple design with profound consequences. Because it’s free to move along your line until it’s arrested by a float stop, it’s easy to set the depth of your hook and minnow, allowing you to target shallow fall walleye at just the right depth. It’s also very easy to cast well, as the float rides up the rod to the split shot.

That lets you stand off and cast without spooking the fish.

And no other rig allows the minnow or leech the freedom to do its thing, tangle-free.

To assemble a Slip Float, follow these steps:

  1. Attach a silicon float stop to your line.
  2. Slide your slip float onto your line.
  3. Tie on a bare hook. I recommend a #2 Gamakatsu circle hook for quick, secure lock-up.
  4. Adjust the depth of your terminal tackle by sliding the float stop.
  5. Adjust the weight of your terminal tackle by adding split shot, if necessary, but don’t over-weight your float.

The Loten Rig (A Modified Slip Sinker Rig)

Loten rig modified slip sinker rig

A rig like no other in the fishing world, the Loten is a walleye staple that relies on unorthodox technique.

Essentially a Slip Sinker Rig at heart, the Loten Rig adds a jig head, stinger hook, and inflated worm to create a buoyant live bait that walleye can’t resist. And assembled properly, you can troll or work this rig across really nasty bottoms without worrying about snags.

To assemble the Loten Rig, follow these steps:

  1. Slide a slip sinker onto your main line. I strongly recommend the Lindy No-Snagg, but a standard slip sinker will work.
  2. Crimp a large split shot to your line to act as a sinker stop. You’ll need three to four feet of line between this stop and your hook.
  3. Using a Palomar Knot, attack a ¼-ounce jig head. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  4. Attack a pre-tied stinger hook.
  5. Using a syringe, inject your nightcrawler with air.
  6. Run the head onto your jig, and snug it up to the jig head.

If you want a standard Slip Sinker Rig, tie on a #2 circle hook instead of a jig head.

Drop-Shot Rig

The Drop Shot Rig is one of our favorite multi-species options, and we use it on everything from bass to catfish, crappie to walleye.

The Drop Shot allows you to work near the bottom at a predictable depth, avoid snags, and provide unbelievable options for soft plastics or live bait like leeches, nightcrawlers, and minnows.

Easy to tie and quick to assemble, it’s a winner for walleye.

To assemble a Drop Shot Rig, follow these steps:

  1. Using a Palomar Knot, attach a #2 Gamakatsu circle hook.
  2. Make the tag end long, approximately 18 inches to 3 feet. This length will control the depth of your presentation.
  3. Wet your knot and tighten it.
  4. Run the tag end back through the eye of your hook. This will create a long dropper below the hook.
  5. Attach a Lindy No-Snagg to the bottom using another Palomar Knot.
  6. Wet your second knot, tighten it, and trim the remaining tag end.Drop Shot Rig

The Carolina Float Rig 

carolina float rig

 

The Carolina Rig is rightly famous in the bass fishing world, but by adding a float to the mix, you can transform it into a walleye catching machine!

The resulting Carolina Float Rig is deadly for three reasons. The combination of a bullet weight and bead creates an enticing vibration that attracts hungry walleye. Second, it’s easy to cast, enabling long, accurate pitches that let you work the shallows for fall walleye without running them off. And finally, the float buoys your live bait, keeping it right where hunting fish can see it best.

That’s an almost unbeatable combination for worms and leeches.

To assemble a Carolina Float Rig, follow these steps:

  1. Slide a bullet weight onto your main line.
  2. Follow it with a bead. 
  3. Using a Uni Knot, attach a barrel swivel.
  4. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  5. Cut 18 to 24 inches of line. The length of this leader will determine the depth of your presentation.
  6. Attach a float stop. The position of this stop will determine where the foam float is placed on your leader, affecting the position of your hook and bait.
  7. Slide a foam float on to your leader
  8. Using a Palomar Knot, attach a #2 Gamakatsu circle hook.
  9. Wet the knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  10. Using a Uni Knot, attach the other end of the leader to the barrel swivel.
  11. Wet the knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.

The Bottom-Bouncer Rig

Bottom-Bouncer Rig

In the summer, walleye can hold deep, and trolling is the most effective technique to get a bite.

A true Bottom Bouncer Rig is among the best options out there, as it’s impossible to snag while still presenting your live bait near the bottom.

You can make these rigs from separate parts, but doing so is at least 4 times as expensive as buying them already put together by Eagle Claw. Just attach a foot or so of mono leader, tie on a #2 circle hook, and run a worm of leech.

It’s that simple.

Hildebrandt Hammer Time Walleye Spinner Rig

This “worm harness” is as famous as it gets, and rather than rigging your own, it’s better to buy the original.

A long nightcrawler run from the leading hook will produce hard hits from hungry walleye, and whether you’re working a submerged hump, casting down the sides of a point, or casting to the shallows, the Hammer Time gets it done.

Hildebrandt Hammer Time Walleye Spinner

Now its time to check out what gear you'll need. Once you're done check out our walleye tips to round out your know how.

Gear-Up For Walleye Rigging: A List of Essentials

Some of these items will already be in your tackle box, but others may come as a surprise.

Merlaxy Jig Heads

A good jig head sweetened with a worm or leech is just perfect for many walleye rigs, and walleye anglers have relied on colorful jig heads for big fish for decades.

The best size for most walleye is ¼ ounce, but slightly larger or smaller can work as well, depending on the size of the fish you’re after.

MERLAXY Fishing Lures Jig Heads with Double Eye Ball Head, Sharp Fishing Hooks for Bass Trout Freshwater,Saltwater Multi Pack (Assorted, 1/32 50Pcs)

Gamakatsu Circle Hooks

When I rig a hook for live bait, 99% of the time, it’s going to be a self-hooking circle hook. Especially on a rig where my reaction is likely to be slow--for instance, when I’m trolling--a circle hook is a fantastic option.

For walleye, I typically run a #2 Gamakatsu.

Strong, sharp, and utterly dependable, these hooks are as good as it gets.

Gamakatsu Octopus Circle Hooks Offset-Point (25-Pack), Black, Size 2

Northland Lethal Sting'r Hook 

Running a stinger hook behind your bait is a tried and tested method for catching more walleye. And while you can tie your own stingers with a #10 or #12 treble and a few inches of 10- to 12- pound mono, it’s more convenient to buy them pre-tied.

Northland’s got you covered, and these stingers come in two lengths: 2” and 3”. 

Northland Tackle Sting' R Hooks Fishing Equipment , Red, 2 INCH

thkfish Slip Floats

A quality slip float is perhaps the best way to present a live minnow or massive leech to hungry walleye. Thkfish produces excellent balsa floats that are easy to use and easy to see.

thkfish Slip Bobbers Fishing Floats and Bobbers Balsa Wooden Fishing Slip Bobbers for Crappie Panfish Walleyes Bass Trout Pike 1/2oz 5pcs Green

Eagle Claw 8 mm Beads

Beads are essential for a variety of walleye rigs.

Eagle Claw A8BEAD20R Plastic Beads, 8 mm, Red, 20 Piece

Mimilure Soft Silicone Float Stops

Soft silicone float stops are useful on a variety of rigs.

Mimilure 100 Pcs Rubber Fishing Bobber Stopper,6 in 1 Float Sinker Stops,Black Orange Oval Cylinder Float Stop Available (Black & Oval, M)

Riptail Barrel Swivels

Barrel swivels are another rigging essential, and you’ll need some strong options for monster walleye.

Riptail Barrel Fishing Swivels – Steel with Corrosion-Resistant Finish, Size #8 (45lb) - 100 Pack

Lindy No-Snagg Slip Sinker

While a simple lead sinker will work for trolling or dragging a rig across the bottom, experienced walleye anglers will tell you that snags can cripple your fishing and wreck your rigs.

An ingenious solution is the Lindy No-Snagg.

These sinkers are nearly impossible to hang up, and they’re available across the spectrum of usual walleye sinker weights.

Lindy No-Snagg Slip Sinker Banana-Shaped Fishing Sinker - Enables Anglers to Fish Unfishable Areas , 3/8 oz

BStean 3ml Syringe

This may seem like a strange addition to a walleye rigging list, but you savvy anglers will know why it’s here!

By injecting air into a big worm, you create a natural float, buoying your live bait off the bottom. Most anglers use a commercial “worm blower,” a plastic bottle with a big syringe tip.

But that’s a mistake!

The tip on the worm blower is too big, and it makes a hole that’s too big as well. That allows the air you’ve injected to escape, which is no good.

Instead, a diabetic syringe is ideal. These hold plenty of air for a worm and sport small, sharp needles that work wonders.

BSTEAN 25 Pack 3ml Disposable Syringe with 23Ga 1.0 Inch Needle, Individual Package

Dr. Fish Oval Foam Floats

Ideal for giving your live bait a little lift from the bottom, these oval floats won’t deaden a minnow or nightcrawler’s frantic action.

Dr.Fish 30 Pack Oval Foam Floats Trout Floats Fishing Rig Floats Pompano Walleye Catfish Crawler Harness Bead Stopper Sinker Stops Red 0.45X0.78

Reaction Tackle Bullet/Worm Weights

Not typical in the walleye world, you’ll want a few of these to tie your Carolina Float Rigs.

Reaction Tackle Worm Weights 3/16 Silver

Final Thoughts

From the tried and true Hammer Time to the unconventional Carolina Floater, our favorite walleye rigs offer a variety of presentations to match the conditions you face across three seasons of open-water walleye action.

We hope that these rigging instructions help you catch more fish and more fully enjoy your time on the water. If they’ve helped you, or if you have a favorite rig we’ve missed, we’d love to hear about it.

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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