Nightcrawlers the Bait of the Ages
Catch more Fish with a basic Worm
By: Captain Dave Duwe
I’ve been fishing for over fifty years and fishing tackle has evolved greatly from the “Banjo” minnow to the Ned rig. Most of the tackle is designed to catch the fisherman, not the fish. Being a fishing guide, my job is to catch as many fish as I can for and with my customers. When I started guiding, I was an artificial bait guy, but trying to guide people who may only fish once or twice a year, it became quite evident that there had to be a better way. The answer was a simple one, the bait used by generations of anglers, the nightcrawler. Oh, it isn’t flashy or exotic, it’s just a fish catching machine! Keeping it simple is sometimes the key to catching fish.
The two methods I use for presenting a nightcrawler is the Lindy rig or the Split shot rig. The split shot rig is very basic, and every angler can tie one up in a matter of minutes. The split shot rig consists of a single hook and split shot positioned about 18-24 inches above the hook. My go to presentation is a small #12 Kahle hook and a 3/0 round split shot. This is a rig that I like to use down to 12 feet of water, any deeper and the size of the split shot needs to increase. Don’t be confused because the bigger the number, the smaller the split shot. The reason for using the round split shot without the wings is because it enables you to pull it through weeds as needed. I tend to use small hooks which enable you to catch a variety of fish from Bluegills to Largemouth bass and even the occasional Northern Pike. When I’m fishing specifically for Walleyes, I like slightly larger size 6 hooks in red or chartreuse color. The painted hooks seem to get more bites on the lakes I fish. Also, the larger hook allows for better hook sets in a bony mouth.
When using the split shot rig, the size of the split shot is also determined by the wind speed. As a rule, the windier the day, the heavier the split shot. The goal is a good feel and bottom contact. There are two places that the split shot is not recommended, heavy wood and big fractured rock. The split shot tends to get hung up and snagged in these environments.
The lindy rig is a walking singer or Lindy no-snag sinker, a ball bearing swivel, a snell from two feet to ten feet and a hook. When fishing nightcrawlers a #4 or #6 size octopus hook is one of the best. The size of the weight is determined by a couple of factors. First is the water depth you are fishing, the deeper the water, the heavier the weight. Secondly, how fast you are trolling makes a difference. You want the rig on the bottom and the line at a 45-degree angle off the bottom. A simple rule, the faster you troll the heavier the weight. The snell length is a bit more complicated. There are a myriad of factors including, clarity of water, where the fish are in the water column, how skittish the fish are, etc. The most important component to the lindy rig is the quality ball bearing swivel. Without one you will have a day full of line twists.
My favorite spots are weed lines with hard bottoms. I prefer deeper weed lines in fifteen to seventeen feet of water. In summer, these locations can hold great concentrations of fish. When I find spots like this that are associated with a point that is always the best place to start on an unfamiliar lake.