THREE WAY RIGS, A POOR MANS DOWNRIGGER
BY DON LAMONT
Finding springtime walleye can be somewhat of a challenge depending on the kind of weather conditions we get in this part of the world when the season opens. Moving water is always a great equalizer as it attracts fish for a variety of reasons. The size of the creek or river you are fishing will also dictate how you might want to present your bait to be the most effective. On larger rivers, with strong current flow, a three way rig is a very effective way to go. This is a simple setup and one that can be extremely productive. The first thing you do is attach your main line to one of the eyes of the three way swivel. On the bottom swivel eye you will tie a short piece of mono, about a foot in length. Onto this tie on a relatively heavy jig rigged with some kind of soft plastic, like a boot tail. On the top swivel eye tie a longer leader, say about 30 inches. Onto the end of this you can add a nice light jig, say 1/16 of an ounce. In heavier current this jig will ride up off the bottom. Dress this small jig with a lot smaller, lower profile plastic like a Berkley Finesse Minnow.
They key is to get a heavy enough jig on the lower line to get it down bouncing along the bottom. In heavier current, this will be the bait that gets the fish. In a bit lighter current, it will be the top trailer that will be the most productive.
What’s great about this setup is that you can cover water. In almost all cases you will troll up stream with this, working the current seams along the sides of the stream or river. Walleye like to hold on the seams, out of the heavier water flow. It takes a lot less energy to hold out of heavy flow and allows them to capture prey on the edges of the current stream. This style of presentation is also great in the fall time on the Red and Winnipeg rivers when you are dealing with heavier current flows. Some of the top anglers will keep the heavy jig on the bottom and switch over to a crankbait on the top line. In the fall I also like to use a bottom bouncer in combination with a floating crankbait to get down to the edges of the main river channel, again trolling into the current.
When trolling upstream, slower is better than faster when the water is cold. I like to sweep my rod forward and then drop backward as we move forward.
As mentioned earlier, heavier flows will keep the fish closer to bottom and with reduced flows and clearer water, most of your bites will come on the top hook.
It also helps to have good electronics so you can spot those fish hugging the bottom. I use a Humminbird 899 and it gets the job done for me.
The first time I saw this presentation in action was more than 20 years ago when I was fishing with Al Lindner on the Winnipeg River in Ontario. It was April and the previous day Al and I had jigged up a bunch of big walleye using heavy jigs and large live minnows. Al bet me that night at the hotel he would catch more walleye than I the next day using the three way swivel set up with a floating # 13 Rapala than I and a friend would, using jigs and minnows.
As it turns out not only did he win, he annihilated us, catching five walleye to our one, a valuable lesson that I have kept with me over the years. In this case he used a plain drop weight off the bottom line and the #13 Rapala on the top swivel with about a three foot lead. This allowed him to contour troll and cover a large area looking for active fish. Since that time I have used a three way swivel to catch a wide variety of fish including some huge lake trout from Selwyn Lake. It was summer time and we needed to get our lures down to 80 feet were the fish were holding. I added a three ounce weight to the drop line and put on a huge gold Canoe spoon off the back. The wide wobble of this huge spoon turned the trick on some monster fish. Once again a three way allowed me to get down to the correct depth. Give this system a try this year and you won’t be disappointed.
Anglers Notes: The opening of the fishing season in southern Manitoba occurs on May 14th this year. With a return to more seasonal temperatures this week, we should be good to go on that date. Water flows are bit lower in many rivers and tributaries due a slower melt in the southern half of the province. One of the great options we have in this province are our stocked trout waters. Last spring I visited the Duck Mountains in west Central Manitoba to enjoy some excellent success for large brown trout. Laurie Lake in the central section of the park, is a beautiful spot with trophy splake to go with along with the brown trout with some bonus lake trout thrown in for good measure. On the first day we caught them long line trolling floating Rapala’s then on day two I fished with Ryan Suffron of Alpine Country Outfitters. This time we were fly fishing with equally good success. That’s the great thing about angling, there are so many ways to successfully catch your target species.