Walleye Rigs 101: 7 Sure-Catch Walleye Setups

Written by Dale Shetler
Updated October 3, 2022

Ask most anglers who have fished for walleye, and they’re quick to tell you that walleye are far from the easiest species to target. This challenge is one of the reasons why walleye fishing is so much fun. These fish will definitely make you work for it. 

Fortunately, with the right gear and a reliable walleye rig, you’ll be well on your way to catching more of these elusive fish. We’ll cover seven reliable walleye fishing rigs to catch walleye all season.

Carolina Rig 

Arguably the most popular bass rig on the planet, the Carolina rig or Lindy rig, has plenty of applications beyond targeting bass and is also super effective as a walleye rig.

Carolina Rig Setup Guide Infographic

How To Tie a Carolina Rig

Not only is the Carolina rig effective, but it’s also one of the easiest to tie. This accessibility makes it an ideal walleye rig for beginners.

Basic Carolina or Lindy rigs consist of five components: 

  • Plastic or glass bead
  • Sliding bullet weight
  • Barrel swivel
  • 18-30” 15-30 pound leader 
  • Octopus hook 

To tie one of these walleye rigs, begin by threading your sliding sinker and bead onto your main line. 

Next, tie your swivel to one end of the main line, and then tie your leader material onto the opposite end of the swivel. 

Finally, attach your hook to the leader. 

When To Use a Carolina Rig

Lindy rigs are exceptionally versatile and prove effective for many species. The best time to use one when fishing for walleye is when drifting.

All you need to do is cast your bait and allow it to sink to the bottom until you find walleye. Since walleye are notorious for holding low in the water column close to bottom structures, you can easily position your bait in the strike zone. 

Why Is the Carolina Rig Effective for Walleye? 

The reason is twofold. The first reason is the rig positions you perfectly along the bottom of the seafloor where fish are holding. 

Since this Lindy rig setup utilizes a slip sinker, when a walleye finds and examines your bait, the fish can pick up the bait without feeling any weight on the line. 

If timid fish feel the weight when they lift the bait, they’re unlikely to strike. This isn’t an issue with Carolina Rigs, thanks to the weightless presentation of the bait.

Bottom Bouncer Rig

As an excellent trolling rig for targeting walleye, bottom bouncers offer several benefits that make it an excellent choice whether you're trolling the great lakes or hunting your local waters.

Bottom Bouncer Rig

How To Tie a Bottom Bouncer Rig

These walleye rigs may look complicated, but rigging one up is about as easy as it gets. Here’s what you’ll need to tie the bottom bouncer. 

  • Bottom bouncer weight
  • 3-7’ leader
  • Octopus hook 

At the heart of these walleye rigs are the bottom bouncer weight, which is essentially a bent arm made from steel wire with a fixed sinker about 6” above the bottom of the arm.

To set one up, begin by tying your braided line to the loop or the bend on top of the bottom bouncer weight. Tie your leader onto the bottom bouncer's snap swivel with a Palomar knot, and add your hook to the snap swivel, either with a loop or by tying directly to the snap. 

When To Use a Bottom Bouncer Rig 

Bottom bouncer rigs are ideal for trolling for lake walleye, especially when the seafloor has quite a bit of structure that would cause other setups to snag. 

The key to this rig is the arm that extends several inches below the weight. This design keeps your weight off the floor, preventing it from getting snagged. While the weight never makes contact with the bottom, it’s still close enough to the bottom to keep your bait or lures in the strike zone at all times. 

While trolling is the most popular way to use a bottom bouncer, you could also use this rig for shore fishing. Cast one out as far as you can, allow it to sink, and employ a slow and steady retrieve, bringing the bait past the walleye holding in the area. 

Why Is a Bottom Bouncer Rig So Effective? 

The bottom bouncer is so effective because these setups can troll fast to cover more water—or can move slowly if you know where the fish are holding—and you’re trying to entice a bite from a monster walleye. 

Many brands offer bottom bouncers with interchangeable weights, which makes them even more adaptable and allows anglers to swap out weights according to the depth they’re fishing. 

Drop Shot Rig

If the Carolina rig is the most popular bass fishing setup around, the drop shot rig runs a close second. However, this rig is useful for more than just bass fishing; it’s also a deadly tool for targeting walleye.

basic drop shot rig example ideal for catching bass

How To Tie a Drop Shot Rig

Like most of the best rigs for walleye fishing, tying this rig for hungry walleye is easy, and you’ll only need a few components to set this one. Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Drop shot weight
  • 6’ of leader material
  • Octopus hook

To tie a drop shot rig, attach a very long leader to your mainline, either by tying directly to the main line or with barrel swivels. Next, attach your octopus hook to the leader. Many anglers prefer using a Palomar knot to secure the hook to the line with this setup. 

The key is to leave a long tag end on your knot. If you were to hold either end of your leader, you want the hook suspended about halfway in between each end. With your hook secured to the line, feed the tag end back through the eye of the hook a second time. This step ensures that your hook will stand off perpendicular to your leader. 

Finally, tie the tag end of your leader to your drop shot weight, and you’re ready to fish. Keep in mind that the length of your tag end determines how far off the bottom your bait floats, so you’ll want to tailor that length according to where fish are holding in the area you’re fishing. 

When To Use a Drop Shot Rig

Drop shot rigs are deadly effective when you’re fishing vertically from a boat. Use your electronics to locate areas of structure that seem hospitable to walleye, and drop your rig straight down until you feel the weight make contact with the bottom. 

Why Is a Drop Shot Rig So Effective? 

Drop shots are deadly effective for a few reasons.

The first reason is that drop-shotting offers a different presentation than other rigs. A drop shot allows your bait to present however far off the bottom you’d like, and it allows the current to move the bait as naturally as possible, making it an excellent walleye rig.

With a drop shot, you also have control over the way the bait behaves, and you can influence it with the subtle movements of your rod tip. Not only does this allow you to fish more actively, but it entices fish to bite, too. 

Spinner Rig

A spinner rig is more a component of a larger setup than a complete rig. Walleye anglers love them so much that these setups deserve attention. 

How To Tie a Spinner Rig

You can think of walleye spinner rigs as fully rigged leaders, which often include a few extra sensory elements to help entice fish to bite. You'll need the following to tie one of these walleye spinner rigs:

  • 24”-48” leader material
  • Beads (variety of sizes)
  • Colorado blade (#2 or #4)
  • Octopus hooks

To build your spinner rig, start by threading one end of your leader through the eye of the first hook and then snell the hook. Thread the opposite end of the leader through the eye of your second hook, and bring it down towards your first one. Depending on the size of the worms you’re fishing with, you’ll want to hold the second hook in place about 2-4” above the first one and snell it in place.

Complete your spinner rig by threading several beads onto the leader, and finish it with the blade styles of your choice. You can tie them in place or let them move freely above the other hooks. 

The beads and spinner blades you choose are up to you, and you should experiment with different sizes and styles to see what provides the best results. Most anglers prefer Colorado blades or Indiana blades. 

When To Use a Spinner Rig

A walleye spinner rig, also known as a worm harness, is a nifty piece of terminal tackle for walleye anglers. They can compose part of most walleye rigs. You can use crawler harnesses with a bottom bouncer or Carolina rig, and they are a must when fishing with nightcrawlers.

Why Are Spinner Rigs Effective?

Spinner baits are effective because they provide the most natural presentation when fishing with worms, which are a favorite snack of the walleyes. The beads and spinner blade also add extra interest to your presentation. The blade provides flash and water disturbance, while the beads provide color and can often be mistaken for food the worm is chasing.

Slip Bobber Rig 

Slip bobber rigs are ideal for targeting freshwater game, and they’re deadly when you’re fishing for walleyes.

Slip Bobber Rig illustration

How To Tie a Slip Bobber Rig

Slip bobber rigs are simple yet adaptive setups for placing your bait at the precise depth in the water column where the fish are holding. Here’s what you’ll need to tie one: 

  • Slip bobber
  • Bobber stop
  • Bead
  • Split shot weights
  • Octopus hook

Begin by threading a bobber stop onto your line, followed by your bead and the float. The bead helps protect the bobber stop from damage as the bobber slides into the stop. Finish it by tying octopus hooks and then crimping on a split shot weight onto the line about 12” above the hook. 

When To Use a Slip Bobber Rig

Slip bobber rigs work well with many species, walleyes included. You can successfully target any freshwater and saltwater species with a slip bobber rig.

Using a bobber is easiest when you’re working with a fish finder to get an idea of where fish are holding in the water column. Once you have an idea, thread the bobber stop as far up your line as you need to so that your bait will sit at the right depth. 

Why Are Slip Bobber Rigs So Effective?

Slip bobber rigs are one of the deadliest rigs around because you can easily adjust the rig to target virtually any depth. Plus, they are easy to tie and fish with, so whether you’re a beginner or seasoned pro, a slip bobber rig should do the trick. 

Walleye Jigs 

Jigging is one of the most worthwhile fishing techniques to learn, and it’s a sure-fire way to land virtually every fish from the pond to the ocean. 

How To Tie a Walleye Jig Rig

Not only do jigs increase your chances to catch fish, but they’re also among the easiest to put together. Here’s what you’ll need to rig it up. 

  • Barrel swivel
  • 18-36” leader material
  • ⅛-¼ ounce jighead

Start by tying a barrel swivel to your mainline and attaching your leader to the opposite end of the swivel. Next, tie your jig head onto the leader. 

Bait selection is critical when fishing with jigs, and they’re effective whether you use lures or live bait. It’s helpful to have a selection of soft plastics as well as minnows and other live bait, so you can use whichever is performing best on a given day or time. 

When rigging a jig head with a soft plastic grub, you’ll want to start by sticking the hook point through the center of the grub’s head. Thread the hook onto the grub, and allow the point to puncture through the grub’s body as you continue to thread the grub onto the jig. 

When To Use a Walleye Jig

Unsure of when to use a walleye jig? You can start by using them everywhere, all the time. The versatility and effectiveness of the walleye jig are almost impossible to beat.

Any walleye angler will tell you that bait selection is critical with jigs, so you would want a decent selection of different soft plastic grubs and paddle tail minnows to add to your jigs. Live bait like nightcrawlers, leeches, and minnows is also very effective. If you aren’t getting any bites with soft plastics, switch to live bait, and vice versa. 

Why Are Walleye Jigs So Effective? 

These fishing rigs are effective because there are so many ways to use them. With a jig, you can target any depth. You can leave them on the bottom and wait, actively twitch the rod to make the jig bounce on the bottom. For shore fishing, cast them out with spinning reels, allow them to get to a specific depth, and then start your retrieve. 

Bucktail jigs are also a good tool for ripping through weed beds and areas with heavy cover if you’re dealing with walleye that are holding in the weeds. 

Three-Way Rig 

Another effective fishing rig is the three-way rig, which is on par with the bottom bouncer or Lindy rig.

How To Tie a Three-way Rig

Three-way rigs have a similar function to a bottom bouncer or Lindy rig, with a few tiny differences. To tie one of these popular rigs, here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Bank sinker
  • Two pieces of leader material (fluorocarbon or monofilament line)
  • 3-way swivel
  • Sinker snap (optional)
  • Octopus hook

Start by tying your main line to one of the loops on the 3-way swivel. On one of the other points on the swivel, you’ll want to either add a sinker snap or tie a short piece of leader material to the swivel and make a surgeon’s loop with the tag end of the leader. Finally, attach your terminal leader to the 3-way swivel, and tie on your hook. 

If using a sinker snap, attach the sinker directly to the snap. If you’re using a piece of leader with a loop, place the loop through the eye of the sinker and bring the loop under the sinker’s body and back up to the eye to lock it in place. 

When To Use a Three-way Rig

Three-way rigs are ideal setups when fishing vertically from a boat. Since these rigs are more prone to hanging up on a piece of structure than a bottom bouncer or Carolina rig, you’ll want to avoid using this rig when you troll. Three-way rigs are exclusively used for fishing off the bottom, either from a boat or from shore, and are practical when used with artificial or live bait.

Why Are Three-way Rigs So Effective? 

This walleye rigging is a deadly option if you’re fishing along the bottom, or towards the bottom. The sinker sits firmly on the bottom, allowing your leader and bait to drift naturally with the current, which is often all a hungry walleye needs to see before gobbling up your lures

Wrapping It Up

With these seven walleye rigs, you’ll reel in monster fish on your next trip. The key to success is to let the conditions and the fish dictate what you should use.

Switch up your terminal tackle often until you start succeeding, and then stick with what’s working for you. Once you’ve mastered the seven best walleye rigs we’ve featured above, check out our series on the best rigs for crappie, bass, and everything in between.

Written by Dale Shetler
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Updated October 3, 2022
Dale Shetler is a vetted fishing expert who has been fishing for over 20 years. Apart from working as a sonar technician and commercial fisherman, Shetler has a degree in marine biology from Samford University.
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