Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Lindy rig: when less gets more

Paul Styve with big walleye. All these big fish were released.

Brett Styve takes hook from another larger fish

Big pike go for Lindy rigs too
There was something different about the water in Red Lake last summer. It was clearer than normal.
Red Lake has a clay bottom and in all such lakes suspended clay particles obscure the water's clarity a bit. Microorganisms, like algae, which get nutrients from the clay, add to the murkiness.
Normally if you look down into the water from above you can see about six feet down. But last year you could see farther, perhaps seven or eight feet.
I believe the change was due to slightly cooler temperatures. Although it was by most accounts a nice, warm summer, we had almost no hot days and the nights were cool the entire season. So the lake ended up a little cooler, maybe just by a couple of degrees, but I think it was enough that some of the algae didn't grow. Consequently, the lake was clearer. This affected how anglers fished for walleye.
A few blog postings ago I wrote about the swarms of smaller walleye everybody caught the first couple of days of their trip but then found bigger fish. Although they invariably said they did nothing different to get the bigger ones, there was, in some cases, a pattern to what they had done-- they used less tackle, fished slower and maybe a foot or so deeper.
There were also some people who immediately hit the bigger fish. Paul and Brett Styve, shown in the photos, were two such anglers. So what did they do?
Well, for one thing, they fished with Lindy rigs, not spinners. What is a Lindy rig? In its simplest form it is a hook, split shot or small swivel, and a slip sinker. The only thing different between it and just a hook and sinker is that the weight is a slip sinker, not a rubber core or clinch type. The Styves, I believe, like using worms for bait. Usually the worm is attached just once, right through the tip of the hose with the rest of the worm wriggling free. The angler leaves the bail on his spinning rod open and just holds the line in the crook of his finger. When a fish bites the fisherman lets go of the line and it feeds right through the sinker. In this way the fish cannot feel the weight of the sinker. The fish runs off with the worm a few feet, stops and inhales it. The angler, watching his line on the surface, can tell the fish has stopped running and sets the hook. That is the simplest form of the Lindy rig -- just a small hook, a tiny split shot (or swivel) and a slip sinker.
The next form is to either put a slip float between the hook and the split shot so the bait is raised off the bottom, or just use a floating jighead. Finally, there are specially shaped floats that act as lips that vibrate the bait, just like a crank bait. There are also brightly coloured slip weights instead of the basic plain lead walking sinker.
The point to why a Lindy rig, especially the simplest form of it, might have worked better than conventional spinners is that it uses less hardware. In clear water conditions, this can make a difference.
Something similar happened when jig fishing. Here's an example: I watched dock-fishing extraordinaires Mike Gage and Jason Pons the first morning of their trip last summer. These guys get up with the sun and often catch as many walleye off the dock by breakfast as many people get all day out in the boat. They always use a jig and a bit of worm. But this morning they were catching nothing. After awhile I saw them making some changes to their tackle. They then brought in fish after fish, either getting one on every cast or missing the hookset and cranking the jig back in to re-bait. I asked them at breakfast in the lodge what had happened.
Since it was quite windy, they had started out using 1/4-ounce jigs, but there were no takers so they switched to 1/8-ounce. It made all the difference in the world. Again, less hardware.
I always figure those mirror eyes of walleye are magnifying glasses. In clear or calm conditions, they won't fall for normal tackle. You need to go smaller, be more subtle and also fish slower. You might need to just drift instead of backtrolling. 
But what about all those smaller fish that people caught by the dozens? Smaller fish are just not as smart as older ones and are also more aggressive. They need to grow up, fast, if they are going to survive so they pretty much binge-eat all the time. Bigger fish are more selective and seem to do a "cost-benefit" analysis to eating -- how many calories are going to be expended compared to the number gained.
Brett shows off a beautiful redhorse sucker he caught while walleye fishing
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