Summer’s been here long enough now that you’ve probably gotten all the kinks worked out of your boat, you’ve fished a few of the local lakes, maybe figured out a couple patterns and…even trolled up a trout or two.
Well that’s great — good job. But, I’m here to tell you that things are going to get more and more difficult as the summer wears on. As they get pounded by legions of other anglers, the trout in our waters are going to get a little more skittish.
Warming water temperatures and intense sunlight will also make the bite tougher. That’s when you need an edge. Throw something at ’em that nobody else is using. I’ve got just the ticket: The Meat Rig.
Meat rig No.1
Chew on this for a second…what are some of the most popular trout trolling lures out there right now? How about Needlefish, Rapalas, Rebels, Apexes, Thundersticks, Dick Nites, Pro Secrets, Flatfish and Cripplures, etc.
And just what do those lures strive to imitate? Yep, you guessed it: baitfish. So, when the going gets a little tougher why not feed the trout the REAL thing instead of a counterfeit minnow made of metal or plastic? Enter the Meat Rig.
The main component of the Meat Rig is a live minnow. Before I go on, be sure to check the regulations governing the lake you plan to unleash this deadly technique on as some have specific rules about the use of live minnows. For this article’s sake, let’s assume it’s legal to fish with the standard variety of minnow you can get at most bait shops around the area.
For a full day of fishing for two people, you can probably get by with a dozen, but I’d get a couple dozen just in case. For most lakes around here where rainbows are the main species, I’d go with small or medium minnows. If you’re chasing landlocked king salmon, browns and big rainbows, mediums or larges are the way to go. Where legal (and available), threadfin shad also work well.
Anyway, this rig requires a large sewing needle (approximately three inches), a treble hook, a snap swivel, some fluorocarbon leader material…and of course, a minnow. Before you fish, tie up some 9-inch leaders as well as some 15 inchers. Depending on the size of your bait, you’ll need treble hooks (Gamakatsu has some very nice thin wire models) in sizes 4-8.
Tie the hook to one end of the leader and then tie a loop knot in the other end. Next, take a minnow and insert the point of the needle into its side, right along the lateral line and just aft of the dorsal fin. Push the point right along the minnow’s backbone until it just starts to come out the fish’s mouth (I guess I’m a bit of a softy because I knock the fish out with a flick to the head before I impale it alive!).
At this point, run the loop in the leader through the eye of the needle. Now, continue running the needle (and the line) through the fish so it completely passes out through its mouth.
Vola! You’ve got a threaded minnow. Slide the bait down the leader until it rests against the treble hook and you’re in business. Tie a snap swivel to the end of your main line and attach the leader’s loop to it. You’re ready to fish! Drop the rig over the side and attach it to your downrigger or leadcore leader.
Watch the bait in the water at trolling speed to see how it runs. You want a nice, slow roll with an occasional jerk to one side or the other. If the minnow has a quick, tight rolling action, reel back in and adjust the hook position. Often, you just need to slide the eye of the treble a little into the needle hole in the minnow’s side to get the right action.
When the trout are finicky, this rig is deadly! The scent of the bait, along with it’s hypnotic roll are often too much to resist. This works especially well on heavily fished waters and during periods of bright sun. If you fish on a cloudy day, in stained water or early/late in the day, try the Meat Rig No. 2.
Sometimes, you just need a little flash to get a fish’s attention. That’s where the Meat Rig No. 2 comes in handy. Thread your minnow onto one of the shorter, 9-inch leaders and then run a Sep’s 4/0 dodger ahead of it.
The dodger not only provides flash and vibration, but its side-to-side rolling action will give your bait some added “life.” If you find the fish need the added attraction of blades but don’t seem to like the herky-jerky action that a dodger gives the bait, run your minnow behind a set of small flashers instead.
Now, there’s no such thing as a magic bait that catches fish in all conditions, but I’m sure you’ll see your trout and landlocked king salmon catches go up if you give one of the Meat Rigs a try this summer. Good luck let me know how you do!