Slow Death Hooks & Rigs for Fishing Walleye

One of the love-hate relationships I have in walleye fishing is slow death fishing. While I love what a proper slow death rig can do, it’s using crawlers that is my least favorite part of fishing late spring and summer. Crawlers are messy, they get everywhere in your boat. But when the timing is right, it’s worth the dirt…I will explain.

When I was young, we fished Lindy Rigs and Spinner Rigs almost exclusively in the summer.  We caught a ton of fish, but as time went on, we caught more fishing slow deaths than any other presentation.  There are times you need to slow down, and that’s tough to do when fishing blades (require a certain speed to turn, depending on size/style).

Slow Death Rigs for Walleye
I normally tie my own slow death rigs, but when I do use pre-made…I use PK Lures.

Slow death fishing is another one of those things that can be as simple or advanced as you want to make it.

In a simple sense, you tie on a bottom bouncer and a pre-made slow death rig and away you go.

In an advanced sense, you add various weights, slow death rigs, and speeds to match the situation.

But at the end of the day, they’ll both catch walleye.  In fact, I bet this style of fishing is used more up in the Dakotas than any other.  I can’t speak for every boat, but I don’t know anybody who doesn’t fish them at some point or another.  And it’s caught on elsewhere, as you’ll see a lot of articles on this topic the past 5 or so years.

Slow Death Rigs

The most important step in this type of fishing is rigging the crawler properly.  You’ll know right away if you rigged your crawler properly or not because it will spin if you do it right. It’s easier with some slow death hooks than others, as I will get into shortly.

How Do Your Properly Rig Slow Death?

But in a sense, this is the basic way to rig this presentation.

  • Usually, you’re using about ⅔ to ¾ of a crawler.
  • You want to insert your hook right into the anus and thread down the middle.
  • It depends on the size of the crawler, but you typically come out below the collar of the crawler.

I added the following video to show the proper way to rig a crawler for this presentation.  It’s short and sweet, no fluff.  Enjoy. 🙂

Of course, this depends on how big your crawler is and I’ve seen spring chickens to giants. You’re going to have better luck with a bigger crawler, typically.

Best Slow Death Hooks

I believe it could be the Mustad brand that was the first to bring the slow death hooks to the market. Nowadays, there are a variety of brands selling them. All brands aside, I typically like the wider gap style hooks. They have a wider roll in the presentation, and I feel like this catches more walleyes in the long run.

I’ve written about what I consider the best slow death hooks out there, and that’s the Matzuo Rip n’ Roll brand. I like them for 2 reasons:

  1. It has a very wide gap to the hook, giving it that wider roll you’re seeking in a slow death fishing presentation.
  2. It has an attached swivel to reduce or eliminate line twists entirely. Line twist is one of the most annoying parts of slow death fishing I’ve run into.

Plus I like the hooks, as they seem sharp enough out of the box. Now some guys have claimed they’ve had the swivels break on the hook. I’ve honestly only had this happen a couple of times ever, and that was almost always on snags, not fish.

Simple Rigging Tips

Twist than SHOUT – As I stated earlier, one of the most annoying parts of fishing slow death rigs is fishing line twists. If you don’t have swivels on both ends, the line will eventually start twisting up. The result is a REALLY short leader, and it’s all messed up, to begin with.

So if you’re not using the Matzuo brand or others that have a swivel, you’ll want to manually add swivels to both ends of your slow death rigs. It’s an extra step, but well worth your time in the long run.

Slow Death Walleye Rigging
The results of a good day fishing slow death rigs on Lake Sakakawea.

Slow Death Trolling SpeedNormally, your trolling speed for fishing slow death is around the 1 mph mark. Now you can get away with around 0.6 mph and at times you can cook it up to 1.5 or even more. But as the name says it, you’re normally fishing slow death, well…slow.

What makes slow death fishing so effective is the way it can be fished. If you’re in a cold front, you may want to keep it simple and slow. But when the summer comes on and water temps come up, so should your speed (normally).

Another reason why slow death rigging is so effective over fishing blade rigs is the speed it takes to make a blade turn. Larger blades mean you have to go faster, and often it’s too fast to mix and match with slow death rigs.

What Weights to Use – More often than not, when I’m fishing this way I’m using bottom bouncers. The main reason is the simplicity and the built-in swivel in most bottom bouncers on the market. I like to keep my bait about a foot off the bottom, if possible. And a bottom bouncer is the best way at doing so.

Slow Death Rig Lengths – I’ve used leaders as short as 2 feet and I’ve had them up to 6. I usually use monofilament, because it floats; while fluorocarbon sinks (and a lot of guys use it).

A rule of thumb for leader lengths is how clear the water is. If it’s really clear, you’ll want to keep the hook away from the bottom bouncer. But if you can get away with it, use shorter leaders. Why? Because longer leaders, when going slow, will drag on the bottom. This is normally where you get snagged or pick up debris on your hook.  So to save yourself some headaches, I suggest tying slow death rigs with mono and keep the leaders around 2-3 feet.

Blow it Up…Dogg – Another simple but old-school tip is to use a worm blower to inflate the crawler a bit. This will help float the crawler and keep it off the bottom.  This has been around for decades but it’s amazing how few do it.

Get Flashy – As I touched upon earlier, it’s always a good idea to have various Smile Blades or Butterfly Blades around.  They’re excellent for giving the crawler a flashy appearance, especially in dirtier water.  The great thing about these styles of blades is that they turn at very slow speeds.  In its simplicity, these slow death fishing rigs only need a few beads and then add the blade on top.

Tying Worm Crawler Rigs

Slow Death Rigs with Spoons – Nowadays, the newest craze is a combination of, well, EVERYTHING!  I’ve seen rigs that include slow death hooks, a long and narrow spoon, with blades on top.  Lots going on, but it looks deadly in the water.

So there you have it, some simple but effective tips for fishing slow death for walleyes. I normally start fishing crawlers in the mid to late spring and all throughout the summer. If you’re going to fish this way a lot, stock up on crawlers and be prepared for those days where you go through a ton of bait. It’s messy, but a heck of a good time.

Tight Lines

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