Nearly fifty years after the inception of the modern live-bait rig—what’s
today known simply as the ‘Roach
Rig’—its sheer effectiveness still raises eyebrows and turns heads.
Take a vigorously squirming minnow, nightcrawler or leech, and couple it with
a hook, leader and sliding sinker and you’re fishing the deadliest walleye
presentation of all time. Get a natural, lively bait to the bottom, and just start
creeping your way along fruitful structure. Sooner or later, a walleye is going
to eat. It’s just that simple.
Well, sort of. During the same fifty years, a number of nice little developments
have transformed a serviceable bait delivery vehicle into a precision live-bait
system. The walking sinker evolved into the Quick-Change
Roach Sinker. The bottom bouncer transmogrified into the Northland
Slip Bouncer. Live bait care tools, like those by Frabill, now ensure a
healthy supply of critters. All the while, hooks, lines, and electronics have
advanced almost beyond comprehension.
Which is where “power rigging” enters the equation. It’s
old school rigging (light and easy) meets heavy metal bottom bouncing (head-banging
fast), plus a dash of new wave tackle and tactics. Developed by ace guide Tony
Roach, this hybrid live bait system is indeed, as he calls it, “Roach
rigging on steroids.”
“Power rigging lets me maintain a natural live bait presentation, while
triggering fish with a bit more speed,” states young Roach. “Sort
of like rip jigging, the presentation induces a reactionary response, while
the live bait closes the deal. Early in the season, you’re moving slow
with rigs and jigs, presenting bait to fish on a definite ‘feeding bite’;
show ‘em a tempting morsel, keep it in front of their snouts, and they’re
going to eat. Later on, as water warms, and the food supply expands, walleyes
can turn a little tricky—a slight boost in speed is often all it takes
to get fish to go.
“What I really like about the power program is that I can work quickly
along a lengthy edge or over a vast flat, moving .9- to 1.2-mph,” he continues.
“I can still put natural bait in front of them, but I can show my wares
to a lot more active fish. What I also like is that the more boats there are
working a spot slowly with rigs, the better. I can cruise right along and mow
down the active biters.”
From a lake-wide perspective, Roach’s power spots aren’t secrets.
“This approach works on nearly any classic late summer and fall walleye
location. Rock points, weed edges, transition areas, mudflats—anywhere
you can drag a standard walking sinker and live bait, you can power rig,”
“It’s really sort of a hybrid between slow-down rigging and dragging
spinners on three-ways. I’ll start doing this pretty early in the summer—right
after those initial insect hatches— and stick with it on and off through
late summer into early fall. Once surface temps hit 60-degrees or so, it’s
time to break out the power rigs. Then again in August and September, it really
shines as water begins to cool a bit.
“Those days when everyone is either creeping along with a standard rig
or bottom bouncing at a good clip--especially on flat calm days--that’s
when I’ll break out the power rigs.”
Roach’s power program employs a straight wire bottom bouncer, such as
Slip Bouncer, coupled with a super long leader—up to 15-feet for coverless
flats— tied with 8-pound test Berkley XT. At slower speeds he typically
rigs a live ribbon leech, small shiner or chub on a single #6 or #4 hook. If
Roach is pulling crawlers, it usually means he’s moving a bit faster,
employing a dual hook harness. For added attraction, he occasionally adds a
single fluorescent bead, or a single 00 flicker spinner. Often, too, especially
with longer snells or near vegetation, he likes to add a Rainbow Float, 1 to
8-inches above the hook. “You can pin the float in place using a rubber
Stop,” he asserts. Keeping the float well above the hook holds the
entire leader off bottom, rather than just the bait itself.
While the hook, float and live bait power the presentation, the Slip-Bouncer
drives. Unlike the standard R-bend bottom bouncers, Slip-Bouncers are composed
of a single straight wire shaft with an open eyelet on top, which lets you feed
line freely to biting fish—no resistance. The 5-inch wire “feeler”
transmits bottom types like a stethoscope, while a slide-on weight system yields
rapid adjustments to varying depths, speeds and currents. Another advantage:
tickled over soft silt, mud or sand, these needle-like weights disturb very
little bottom substrate, an occurrence that often spooks walleyes. “Slip
Bouncers are a gem—something every angler should add to their bag of rigging
tricks,” Roach says.
“Power rigging is ideal for inexperienced anglers and old pros alike.
If I’ve got beginners in my boat, I can just set soft-tipped 8-1/2- foot
trolling rods, like my Mr. Walleye SuperPros, in rod holders, and let them load
up and set themselves. If we start missing fish, we simply hold rods and delay
our hooksets. Drop the rod tip back toward a biting fish, feel for solid weight,
and give a nice long sweep. Once you get things dialed in, you’ll hook
every biter. It’s a pretty forgiving system.
“Really, power rigging can be the answer on any given summer day. Right
in the middle of a classic ‘slow-down’ rigging bite, you can really
put on a clinic. But the power program shines later on, too, when everyone else
is moving faster, pulling standard spinner rigs. In both cases, the system can
really make you a hero on those tougher flat calm day bites. Tell you what,
any method that saves my hide on tough guide days is okay in my book.”