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Polar Bear

Three way swivel basics

17 posts in this topic

After a couple decades of walleye fishing using 3 way rigs I thought I'd take a few minutes to share some of the lessons learned over the years.

First line selection: I like to use 3 different test lines at once. First, my reels are spooled up with 10 pound Spiderwire, I love the low stretch, low memory and great sensitivity it offers. To the spider wire I use a palomar knot to attach a good quality snap swivel. The snells I tie are at least 4 feet long (up to 6 feet) and made of 8 pound Vanish. The third eye of the swivel holds 6 inches to 18 inches of 4 pound vanish to which you tie your sinker. The idea, of course, is that your sinker is expendible. If it becomes snagged in rocks you simply break it off and add another without needing to retie your whole rig.

The snell is tied directly to the 3 way with another palomar knot. I've found the best system for spinners is to use the small plastic exchange-blade spinner holders. These things allow you to change colors and sizes in just a second. After the spinner, next add 3 to 6 colored beads. I have used green, blue or red but seem to have the best luck with red. after the swivel, spinner and beads tie on your hook. Again, red seems to out produce the yellow or gold I've also used.

This system allows you to change weights according to speed and depth. It will also allow you to experiment with different colors of spinners without re-tying. Here's a hint: use a gold or chartruese spinner in sunny conditions and try red, green or blue if its cloudy.

Technique: Whether you use minnows, leeches or crawlers its important to keep the bait in the strike zone. This usually means within 2 feet of bottom. You do this by repeatedly lowering your rod tip till you can feel your sinker touch and then raising the tip to keep your sinker from snagging bottom. The action is very similar to jigging, with the same benefit. As you "jig" your weight upward you will automatically set the hook on a fish who picked up your bait while it was paused when your sinker was touching bottom.

I can't emphasize that point enough, If you "jig" your rig you will catch double the fish as your buddy using the same spinner rig who simply drags it along bottom. You will also experience few snags because your wieght is only touching bottom a fraction of the time. You will be amazed at how effective this can be. I believe the fish pick up the bait while it is stationary. You will also experience fewer short bites that take half of your leech while not taking the hook. The pause allows a following fish to inhale the whole bait.

Speed: Using my GPS I usually start trolling at 1.0 to 1.2 mph. If the fish are aggerssive you can cover more water by moving faster. I've used 3 way rigs as fast as 2.6 mph in shallow water but remember you still need to keep in contact with bottom. Usually, faster or deeper means more weight. You should have a supply of sinkers from .75 to 2 ounce on hand, though 1 ounce and 1.5 ounce will be mostly used. If the fish are in a negative mood you will need to slow to a crawl, at speeds below .7 mph I will throw out a drift sock, use the electric or just drift.

If you are sure the water beneath your boat holds fish its just a matter of matching your speed, sinker, and spinner color/size to find the right combo for that particular day. If its really tough to get a bite try removing the spinner, sometimes just 4 or 5 red beads ahead of a juicy leech will turn on those picky fish.

I believe the 3 way swivel live bait rig is probably the most productive method for walleye fishing during the warm summer months. These are the basics as learned the hard way. Hope it helps you land a few more fish.

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Very nice post with a ton of great information. It is a tactic that I do not have much confidence in, though I rarely fish walleyes but I would like to.

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What a great post full of information. I've tried this a couple of times, but I can see a couple of things I wasn't doing the right way. Thanks for the information.

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Very informative, but I do have a question, what are the benefits of a 3 way for a spinner rig vs a bottom bouncer?

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None really unless you use a jig on the dropper wich of course gives you 2 baits in the water off 1 rod. Check to make sure this is legal in your area. I like this rig it catches a lot of fish.

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With a 3 way you can adjust the stike zone by lengthening or shortening the droper weight snell and switch weight sizes eaier.

Spectacular read Polar Bear thank you

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Riverrat56...there are several advantages.

1. length of your dropper line can be adjusted to match suspended fish

2. you can quickly change the weight size to match speed and depth

3. less hardware to scare off finicky fish

4. if you do break off your sinker you don't lose your whole rig.

5. cheap sinkers cost much less than bottom bouncers

PS... thinking of trying Hanska this week, have you been there lately?

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great post; good info... alittle off subject here but any one else ever bypass swivel and just tie a knot into line to make a loop in your line and just tie a weight on one end and then a lure or bait to the other end. not as strong as swivel w/ knot I was shown to use but much less for fish to see in a very clear water.

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great post; good info... alittle off subject here but any one else ever bypass swivel and just tie a knot into line to make a loop in your line and just tie a weight on one end and then a lure or bait to the other end. not as strong as swivel w/ knot I was shown to use but much less for fish to see in a very clear water.
I thought about that and I did a check on some knots one could use for this.

I came up with the dropper loop knot and it acualy looks stronger than useing a swivel because there is no break in the line to worry about knot failure. Just tie the drop weight to the loop.

Go to "Animated Knots by Grog" for explanation on how to tie the Dropper Looop Knot. Great site for learning knots

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I used a threeway for the first time today on the Croix and it did produce for me. Thanks for this post, I've been meaning to use this technique this just pushed me into it even more. Lost two weights today, but never lost my rig.

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Polar Bear,

I use something similiar, I like a 2 to 3 oz bottombouncer with a 5-6 foot crawler harness. I use a float or two to keep the bait off the bottom which also keeps some of the moss off your hook. I like the feel that a bottombouncer gives and once you are educated you can tell by feel if you are in mud, sand or gravel and you will very rarily get hung up. Once or twice you will bury one of your hooks in a log but you usually won't lose the bottombouncer.

Windy

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criox _ I have used this presentation w/ bell sinker and baitholder hook drifting for deep water (10- 12 fow) trout. it worked great for us

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