How Short is Too Short for a Lindy Rig Leader?

Did you know the original Lindy Rig came with a 24-inch leader? Only later was it stretched to 36 inches. Both Al and Ron Lindner believe that one of the most overlooked and potent of all Lindy Rig modifications is to shorten the leader even more than the originals. “I’ll use 10-inch snells, even shorter,” said Al. “It’s amazing how well short snells work.”

How short? When Ron first experimented with the tactic, he used rigs with a leader length less than 1 foot.

“I like the bait near the sinker itself,” explained Ron. “I think fish are attracted to the thumping. In effect, you are fishing it like a jig.”

Another advantage of a short leader: you can set the hook right away, instead of waiting long, heart-thumping moments for the fish to eat the bait. Al’s advice is that shorter is best in water 12 to 18 feet deep. Drag it as slow you can. Let the live bait do its job. You can use a lighter sinker to increase the angle of the line with the water’s surface to avoid spooking fish.

A congratulations after selling 1 million Lindy rigs.
A congratulations after selling 1 million Lindy rigs. Photo: In-Fisherman

When to go shorter
Al and Ron offered their opinions on when you might consider using a shorter Lindy Rig leader…

  • When fishing “snaggy” spots. An almost-vertical presentation will keep the sinker and/or hook from snagging as much.
  • In current situations, when you’re getting bites on a jig-and-minnow, but the fish are not getting hooked. (This is common in fall and winter.) If your minnow looks like it’s gone through a meat grinder, but there’s no walleye on the hook, try a Lindy Rig with a leader less than two feet long, and a thin-wire hook. When a fish grabs the minnow, let out some line. Give it about 15 seconds, tighten up, and with the rod tip near the water and the fish bending the rod slightly, sweep the rod up to set the hook.
  • When you’re anchored, and the boat is swinging in the wind. The boat might be in 30 feet of water on the outside, swinging into water as shallow as 15 feet as the boat moves with the wind. Because the boat is naturally slipping in and out with such big depth variations, a slip-bobber would keep the bait out of the fish zone much of the time. A Lindy Rig with the bait rolling up and down a rocky reef, for example, keeps the bait in front of fish a lot more of the time.
  • In a stiff wind. With big waves and all the movement that occurs (line, rod, boat, etc.), a shorter leader allows you to better detect subtle bites.
  • On steep-breaking structure. If the fish are hanging at a certain depth, say 35 feet, on a sharp drop-off that goes from 12 to 60 feet, a short leader and a heavier sinker will allow you to remain nearly vertical with your presentation, and keep it in the strike zone more easily. Control the boat for 35 feet, and the bait will be right where the walleyes are feeding.

Other Lindy Rig tips
Experiment with hook sizes, hook colors, leader lengths, leader types (mono and fluorocarbon), the use of various color beads, floats ahead of the bait, and size and color of weights. Some consider Lindy Rig fishing to be simple, but when all the variables are factored in, the best “Lindy Riggers” pay attention to every detail–and catch more walleyes.