The State of Iowa is a diverse region offering anglers across the area a wide range of opportunities to chase after their favorite quarry. Whether you chase after bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, catfish or any of the other 148 known species in Iowa, there are times when a special or specific fishing rig can help land bigger and better fish.

We’re going to take a look at some of the common rigs for catching bass, crappie, walleye and catfish. Every angler has a favorite and there are those out there that are “specialists” when it comes to fishing for a specific species of fish. Let’s see where you might fit in.

Quite honestly, I could write an entire piece just on bass rigs alone. Professional bass anglers always talk about what rig works best and when. Do a Google search for “bass rigs” and you’ll get over one million related topics to that subject. So let’s talk about some of the most common rigs used for chasing bass.

This rig by far, has always been at the top of my list. Whenever I’m out fishing for bass, I’ll always keep a rod handy with a Texas rigged worm close at hand. This is an easy rig to tie, and also one of the easiest to employ and master.

I recommend fluorocarbon line for the Texas rig over monofilament. Mono has significant line stretch and will require some pretty healthy hook sets to drive the hook home when a bass takes the worm. There’s a huge selection of hooks available for the Texas rig, but for starters use just the basic work hook. To set this rig up, start by piercing the hook into the nose of the plastic worm. I usually use the first quarter inch of the hook as my guide, but basically slide the hook as far as the first turn in the hook and stop. Push the hook out through the side of the worm making a 90 degree turn. Slide the entire hook through the worm to the end of the shank to the turn. Rotate the hook so that it’s facing the body of the worm. Slide the hook in to the worm so that it just pierces the opposite side. I slide it back and forth a bit to create a channel that the hook can easily slide through. Pull the hook back in to the worm so that the hook is no longer exposed creating a weedless rig.

Jim Coulson, a local Iowa angler, uses the Texas rig, however he likes to thread on a Beaver Bait that mimics a crawfish. “These creature baits slip through the grass a little bit better”, said Coulson. “Rigged with a 4/0 extra wide gap hook and tied with a Palomar knot, normally I’ll use a 3/8 oz bullet weight, but that can change depending on the wind.” The plastic worm and the creature bait should be at the top of the list when rigging for bass.

This rig is a variation of the Texas rig that uses a two to five feet of leader. Rig this system by sliding a bullet weight or egg sinker on to your line followed by a small plastic bead. Tie on a barrel swivel to your main line. The bead is in place to protect your knot from the bouncing weight. Below that tie a two to five foot leader to the barrel swivel.

Both the Texas and Carolina rigs are great for weedless presentation. The Carolina rig works great in weed lines, shallow weed beds, and along timber lines. It’s one of my favorite spring time bass rigs. An advanced version and more of a finesse type rig would be to use a small weight like an 1/8 ounce bullet sinker with a small plastic worm tied to the hook. You would also need to downsize the hook to match the bait, but you can fish this a bit slower and methodically.

“I really like football jigs”, added Colson. “They roll off wood and do pretty well in rock. I like to pitch them into the nastiest cover I can find. These baits work great year round and can be tied with mono or fluorocarbon.” Though this is not what I would consider a “rig”, Colson makes a very important point here. “I use #20 mono or fluorocarbon, using the Palomar knot to tie my jigs on. Fluorocarbon can be hard to see at times, so I’ll use mono under certain light conditions. It’s not uncommon to “see” more bites than I feel”.

Be a line watcher… when you use these types of rigs for bass. Many times bass will take these baits as they fall. If your line goes slack before it should, i.e., it hasn’t hit the bottom yet, or it starts moving off in a direction it shouldn’t, set the hook! More often than not, you’ve got a bass hanging on to what he thinks is supper.

Iowa’s favorite spring time quarry! Warming temperatures in the spring draw these fish in shallow and anglers, young and old alike, can spend hours enjoying some fast and furious fun. It goes without saying that a slip bobber, hook and minnow rig will be one of the best ways to catch these fish. The key to fishing with a slip bobber is to find the correct depth that the fish are feeding. It may take a bit of experimentation, moving up or down, but it won’t take long before you find the correct depth.
Another very popular rig that I’ve used quite a bit is a tandem jig rig. Basically its two small crappie jigs tied in line with one another with about an 18 inch gap between them. I tie these directly to my main line by choosing my first jig and giving myself about a 20 inch or so tag line. Once the first jig is good and secure I chose another jig and tie it on. The great thing about this type of rig is if you’ve found yourself a very active school of fish you can bring them in two at a time.
A variation to the two jig rig is to tie two minnow hooks and bait them with minnows. Rather than casting these out and retrieving, a bobber is used to keep the minnow suspended above the crappie. You can slowly retrieve this rig and wait for the crappie to feast on your offering.

There is no doubt that walleye will be at the top of the list for Iowa anglers, especially when the ice leaves local lakes and these aggressive fish move shallow. Walleye rigs come in all sizes shapes and colors. Baits used are typically a night crawler rigged on a harness, a jig/minnow combination, or an artificial bait either casting or trolling.

One of the most common rigs is the worm harness. This harness is a leader that is about 18-24 inches long with typically two hooks in line with the leader. Blades are added for color and attraction. When rigging the worm, nose hook the crawlers and do not thread them. Go through the nose one time and thread the second hook into the body. One small tip when fishing with crawlers…once the worm is rigged on your harness; pinch off a bit of the end of the worm. This leaves a great sent trail that walleye will hone in on. Larger worms should be cut in half, these will stretch out to over 10 inches and many strikes are short.

A new variation to the worm harness is a single hook with no blades tied to four to five feet of leader. This hook is a unique design produced and released by Mustad called the Slow Death Worm Hook. This unique bend allows the worm to slowly roll as you troll or drift. I discovered this rig about three years ago and have had great success with it. Nothing fancy but the rig works very well.

Snap on a Slow Death Rig to the swivel end of the bottom-bouncer.  Thread half a night crawler all the way up the hook shank, over the hook eye, leaving approximately 1/2” of crawler dangling off the end of the hook. Best practice is to lower the rig just below the surface of the water and check it as you are moving forward at trolling speed. The natural spin will tell you you’ve got the worm and hook set correctly. This truly is a “slow death” rig and is incredibly effective at catching walleye.
Both the traditional and slow death worm rig use bottom bouncers, weight dependent on depth and speed of your trolling. Rule-of-thumb is 1 oz of lead for every 10 feet of water.

Last but certainly not least we’ll talk about a couple basic rigs for chasing after catfish. When I was growing up one of my favorite pastimes was to spend nights fishing for channel catfish. Fishing from shore, I used a simple two hook rig called a Kentucky Rig that allowed me to use two different baits. The leader was made of #20 mono with two drop loops for hooks. This type of rig allows you to experiment with baits. You can find out what the fish seem to be more attracted to and then concentrate on that bait. Catfish pick up the bait and just swim off with it…lots of great action when they are biting!

A second type rig that I recently started using here in Iowa is called the Santee Rig or Santee Cooper Rig. This method is great for drifting for catfish. Shiners are abundant in many of Iowa’s bigger lakes. A cast net well placed will garner a handful of these fish that can be used for bait. Tie this rig to your main line using a barrel swivel. A 1oz to 6oz sinker is used above the barrel swivel on the main line. Attached to the other end of the barrel swivel is a leader of about 18 – 24 inches in length. In line with the leader add a small float that helps keep the bait off the bottom. Thread your shad on to the hook and throw it out behind the boat and start your drift. This is a great way to cover a lot of water.

We’ve all but scratched the surface when it comes to some of the basic fishing rigs that are used for bass, crappie, walleye and catfish. There are literally an endless variety of rigs that are out there. “Necessity is the Mother of invention”. No truer words can be said when it comes to this great sport of fishing. There is no doubt that the next great “rig” is out there and comes when an angler just decides that “this” way will work better.

The rigs we talked about here are tried and true and all of which I have personally used with great success. One thing that really works for anglers is confidence. If you find something that consistently works well it will be one of the rigs you fall back on. But don’t be afraid to experiment and try different approaches in angling. Trying something new and being successful with it will only increase your angling success…so give it a try. Tight Lines!