Aug 30, 2016

Slow Death Rig

By: Chris Powell

I have been guiding in Western Wisconsin for the past decade, and have had clients from all walks of life with all skill sets.  There have been occasions where I taught folks how to cast and, other times, been more of a student when guiding tournament pros. When called, I ask potential clients what they are after.  Some say they want to learn the lake, and how to catch the walleye who call it home.  Others say, "We just want to catch fish.”  There is an old saying, "You can't have your cake and eat it too".  Well, whoever penned that famous phrase probably wasn't a fisherman, and I can guarantee, they never tried slow death rigging! 

The experienced walleye angler will, many times, look at me with a bit of skepticism when I show them the rig. There are no blades and no beads.  No color combinations to have to worry about.  But, at the end of the day, most want to know where to buy the hooks, or are taking pictures of the hook package with their smart phones. 

The hook itself, has a slight bend in it, which gives your nightcrawler (pinched in half, threaded up the hook head first) an awesome spinning action in the water that walleyes, and other fish, simply cannot resist! 

The rig itself is a simple rig.  I troll a bottom bouncer, anywhere between a 1/2 and 3/4 ounce.  I pre-tie the rigs with a #2 or #4 Mustad Slow Death hook, with about four feet of Trilene XT 8 lb. test.  For my barrel swivel, I use a #6, because it loops onto my holder better than any other size.  I like to go onto the water with no less than 15 in my arsenal.  When I am guiding, I always carry more.  There are days when you will get hung up more than others, because let's face it, fish are going to relate to all of those snags!  In fact, when I am super busy in the summer months, I employ my teenage daughter to keep my bait holders full! 

I fish these rigs the same way as one would run a Lindy Rig, or if dragging jigs.  Open your bail and find the bottom, then give about an arm's length of line to adjust for error. Now aim your rod down and towards the water.  Sometimes, bites will be quite obvious, other times not.  I always feed potential bites a rod's length of line before "crossing their eyes." 

I like to fish these rigs outside of weedbeds. A weedbed is a walleye’s favorite hangout in the lower light periods of the day.  So of course, this makes a weedbed a natural destination for walleye anglers running this rig.  Use your electronics to find the drop off lying outside of the weedbed.  When fishing mornings, the higher the sun gets, as the day wears on, the deeper, you want to run your rig.  Of course, in the evening, you will start deeper, and gradually move into shallower water as the sun descends on the horizon.  

So what does a fisherman (or woman) do during those times in between?  What exactly should you be looking for out deep?  Humps, points, drop-offs, structure and anywhere with a lot of varying depths.  Sometimes it can be a pain to run rigs over cribs, rocks, and submerged timber.  But if that is what is holding the fish on that particular day, you may have to change up your strategy to a lighter weight, or maybe even run a three way rig with a bell sinker.  One place I really like to run my rigs is on VERY sharp drop-offs.  One area, for example, on one of my go to lakes, is 3 feet deep on one side of the boat, and 30 on the other.  I always try to run right on the drop-off.  Now, you and I both know that drop-offs don’t necessarily run in perfectly straight lines, so this, sometimes, can be a challenge!  Lake mapping software will help, but not one hundred percent of the time.  That’s when you have to think “old fashioned,” and remember certain trees, or houses to mark your spots.   

I have found that the easiest way to run these, is to use autopilot on your trolling motor and set your speed, if you are equipped to do so.  If not, a regular foot powered trolling motor will work just fine. Typically, I run my trolling motor anywhere between .8-1.2 mph.  And I will tell you, from experience, you will want to have fully charged trolling motor batteries. I can sometimes go all day, or even days on end of trolling without having to worry about batteries burning up.  But a windy day can change that in a hurry, since your trolling motor will have to work so much harder. Some folks will back troll with their outboard or a kicker, which might be the only way you can fish these on a very windy, wavy day.  

One thing you may notice, is you will catch much more than walleyes on these rigs.  We have caught everything from panfish, to catfish, sheephead and even muskies!  Every species likes to eat nightcrawlers in the fish world!  A cool thing is, when the mayfly hatch is in full bloom, and walleye become tight-lipped, you can still consistently catch them on a slow death rig.  One of my theories on this is that a pinched off crawler spinning in the water, though much larger, looks similar to larvae.  I might be wrong, but if I am catching fish, it’s a good enough theory for me! Some days you might struggle to catch fish of a decent size.  When looking for bigger fish, I personally have had better luck with Gulp! Crawlers, pinched off and fished just like you would fish a live crawler on a slow death rig.  As a matter of fact, Gulp! makes a pinched off crawler just for the Slow Death rig called the Killer Crawler.  At times, I have truly seen this bait out fish the real thing.  But keep one thing in mind. No one fishing season is like the other.  What works for you in the summer of 2016, might not work in the summer of 2017.  But one thing holds true for me year in and year out.  Slow Death is the way to put great numbers of walleye in the boat on the Chippewa River system, throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest!