Several types of fishing rigs will help improve your fishing game. Whether you’re a novice or have been fishing for 40 years, there’s always a new rig to learn. Fishing rigs vary in complexity from the simple worm and bobber to a more complex wedding ring harness for trolling. There’s always something new to learn.
A I love about fishing is that I am constantly learning new techniques even after all these years. I love passing that information on to other anglers. I started fishing with the old worm and bobber rig and moved on from there. My more recent trout setup is a simple jig and bait rig. It’s a 1/16oz jig with a cut minnow suspended below a cigar float. It’s my go-to before my favorite lake freezes over for the season. I always catch my fair share of 22” – 26” cutthroat trout up there, and the cold, clear water has them tasting (in my humble opinion) almost as good as salmon.
Fishing rigs can be simple, and in most cases, should be. You don’t want to waste your day rigging up a complex setup to cast out and get a snag just to have to do it all over again. Sometimes a simple water bubble and bait hook is all you need. Other times a live minnow on one hook and a piece of cut bait on another on a barrel swivel will get the job done. It doesn’t matter what the rig is; you just have to be familiar with them.
Let’s look a little more into some of the more common types of fishing rigs. I’ll start with moving water and end with trolling setups.
- Dropper Drifter – Simple to set up and easy to adjust drift method
- Spinner and Minnow – Hook a minnow to a spinner for big river trout
- Fillet Strip – Cut fillet with multiple hooks for large fish
- 3-way Swivel – A weight on one end, hook on one, and the main line on the other
- Bait and Bobber – The old Worm and a Bobber
- Drop-Shot – Great for fishing structure like submerged logs
- Flicker Rig – Another structure explorer
- Jig and Bait – Used with or without a float
- Double-Bait – A live minnow and cut bait on two hooks
- Brush/Weedless Rig – Keeps weeds and branches away
- Leader Length Rigging – Carolina Rig and Lindy Rig style setups
The dropper drifter is a great rig for river fishing. It uses a barrel swivel with a dropper line on the bottom. The bottom line has split shots while a small line is connected to the side of the barrel swivel with the hook and bait. The depth of the bait is determined by the number of split shots used.
The pros of this rig are that if it gets caught up in rocks, you’re most likely only going to lose a split shot or two. The hook isn’t connected to the same line as the weights, so they operate independently.
If the bottom has a lot of weeds or thick cover, extend the length of the dropper line. That will keep the bait out of the weeds.
These rigs are great for targeting trout, walleye, salmon, and steelhead in rivers.
Spinner and Minnow
The spinner and minnow rig is an excellent way to bring in the big trout in the river. The idea is to imitate a sculpin, which is every large river trout’s favorite snack. If you do this correctly, you’re in for an incredible day on the water.
One way of rigging this is by replacing the standard treble hook with a bait hook. Hook the minnow through the eyes or lips and cast and retrieve. Rinse and repeat until you have your limit.
This technique will work with most gamefish in the river. Walleye spinners are typically pre-rigged with the right type of bait hooks. Place a small weight if the river is deep. Sculpins are bottom fish.
The fillet strip or fillet-O-fish stripper is a great option for big predators. This is a good option if you’re targeting big, toothy critters.
Take a larger baitfish like a sucker or a chub and fillet it. Leave the scales on. Thread a hook through it. The larger the fillet, the more times you should weave the hook through the fillet. Once the hook is in place, the line should be woven through the fillet at least three to four times.
If you do not have any bites after drifting the larger piece through the area a few times, switching to a smaller portion might be good. Big fish like big food, though not all the time. Sometimes they just want a snack.
Attach a sinker ahead of the bait on a drop line to get the bait to the right depth. Adjust the length of the line as needed.
3-Way Swivel Rig
The 3-Way Swivel rig is a fantastic setup for bringing fish to your net. Here’s the basic setup. First, get a 3-way swivel and connect the main line to one ring. Connect a leader with your hook to the second ring. The third ring gets another section of leader with a sinker attached. Use a lighter leader in the sinker line, so it breaks under pressure before the hook line does.
Add your bait and cast out. These are great for river fishing and work well from shore or trolled.
Bait and Bobber
The original work under a red and white bobber is still catching fish. After spending 40 years fishing and untold amounts of money on equipment and gear, I could have stuck with a worm and bobber and kept catching fish this entire time. Hmm.
Tie a barrel swivel followed by two feet of leader. Add a bait hook and a worm or power bait. A couple of feet above the swivel is a good spot to add the bobber. Once it’s on, you’re ready to cast and wait.
The old standby drop-shot is one of the best rigs out there. Rig this up to cover any submerged structures. Docks, sunken trees, old Fords people misplaced, anything hiding under the water can be explored with a drop-shot rig.
Rig this with a soft plastic minnow and lightly jig it. Some fish respond like you just offered them some perfectly cooked fillet.
The setup is pretty simple. Tie a sinker to the line. Using a Palomar knot, tie a hook between two to four feet above the weight. Hook the bait through the nose, and you’re ready to catch fish. If you’re on a boat, use your finder to locate structure to target. Jig the bait slightly, and you’re in business.
I prefer to set this up with a barrel snap-swivel a foot up from the hook and a quick-change style weight so I can swap weights out on the go.
The flicker is another great rig for searching around submerged trees and other structure. The use of a super bright float keeps the bait out of reach of the obstructions so you don’t get snagged. It’s a great way to explore the lake or river without having to spend too much time in any one spot.
Rigging this is a little bit more complex than the drop-shot, though it works well when dealing with more rocky bottoms. Start with a weight. I like to use an egg weight, though you can choose between an egg, coin, or a bullet weight. Run the main line through it and secure it to a barrel swivel. Connect about three feet of lighter leader to the swivel and connect a brightly colored float about a foot from the end. Use the type that comes with the hooks you can press down on to grab the line and hold it in place.
The last piece is the most important. Add a few bright red beads, then a spinner blade (along with a clevis to help the spin), and a 2/0 bait hook. Now bait that bad boy up and chuck it out there. You’re in for some fun.
Jig And Bait
The jig and bait is as simple as it sounds. To rig this, tie on a jig, then add bait. That’s it, and you’re ready to fish.
The beauty of this simple little rig is that it will catch almost any species and in nearly every condition. You can vary your retrieve, let it bounce on the bottom, use the “jigging” method of lifting and dropping, or “swim” it back to you. However you retrieve it, you’re likely to catch something.
I like to put a live minnow on a jig. My go-to is usually a maribou jig with the hook through the minnow’s lips. Mackinaw slam this rig so hard that I’ve almost lost my rod over the side of the boat before.
I’ve also tipped it with live leeches, which works well for anything in warmer water. Black maribou jigs imitate leech patterns, so adding a leech to the hook is a winner. Whether you’re fishing this rig deep or fairly shallow over structure, it’ll bring the bigger fish out to play.
I love this rig. What’s not to love about fishing live bait and cut bait at the same time? The double-bait rig has two jigs. One has cut bait, and the other has live bait.
To tie this rig, you’ll need a barrel swivel. Tie two or three feet of leader to the barrel swivel and attach a jig for the cut bait. The second jig is tied to the top of the barrel swivel and has a shorter leader. The live bait is hooked to it and fished above the cut bait.
This approach works great and can lead to double hookups. Be prepared.
Fish this setup above weed beds and fallen logs. Smallmouth will aggressively take leeches. If you’re targeting walleye, get as close to the bottom as you can and you should have good luck with it.
Get this rig into deeper cover and brush without losing as much gear. I don’t know about you, but I hate spending more time tying new rigs on my line than actually fishing. Losing lure after lure in thick cover is the ultimate in frustration. Some of those lures cost a small fortune!
The brush/weedless rig is going to get you into those tight spots that usually cost you at least a lost hook and bait. Let’s face it. Trees like to keep your hooks as much as you do. This rig will fix that problem. The setup is simple. Tie a snap to your main line and put a No-Snagg sinker on the end. Now tie a piece of leader with a weedless bait hook about half a foot above the sinker. Use a minnow or a leech. If targeting trout in a stream or river, try a hellgrammite. Those nasty-looking critters bring all the hungry trout to the yard.
Leader Length Rigging
Leader length rigging allows you to adjust the length of the leader. This type has different rigs, like the Lindy rig and the Carolina rig. These rigs will enable you to get the bait to the right depth by adjusting the leader length below the sinker. The sinker bounces along the bottom while trolling or drifting, and the bait remains suspended at the proper depth, depending on where you set the leader. The longer the leader, the higher the bait sits in the water column.
A fast troll speed will bring the bait lower, while a slower speed will allow it to climb in the water. You can determine the proper height as you view the fish on your fishfinder.