Photo of a colorful bluegill with a popper lure in its mouth

Favorite warmwater fishing rigs

Popular setups for bass, walleye and more
Amanda Boyles
July 31, 2020

Ask 10 anglers how to fish and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. However, there are a few types of fishing rigs that almost everyone can agree on – they’re both simple and effective. Here are 16 of some of our favorite rigs for warmwater species.

BASS

Topwater lures: frogs and poppers

photo of two frog-looking lures for bass fishing
Frog lures are a popular choice for topwater action.

image of popper lures used for bass fishing
"Pop" poppers across the surface for a splashy strike

These are most fun because not only do you get explosive topwater action, you also can fish in really nasty vegetation such as lily pads or on top of brush piles. I pop my frogs in a side-to-side pattern with occasional pauses.

Tip: Always pause a full second before you set the hook! I use braided line on topwater because it has less stretch, or “give,”  than monofilament. Also, it floats.

Skirted lures: jigs and spinner baits

image of a bass fishing jig
Jigs can be fished a number of ways

Flip jigs under boat docks or structure, jigged off the bottom, drag them along the bottom, or “swim” them in the water column. 

image of a spinner bait used for bass fishing
A spinner bait swimming through the water looks like a bait fish -- at least to a bass.

Spinnerbaits are meant to “swim” through the water column and mimic a bass’ favorite baitfish.

Tip: Choose colors that represent the fish’s prey -- in Oregon, this is typically crayfish, yellow perch, bluegill and crappie.

Plastics: wacky worms, Texas rigs, tubes

photo of how to rig worms wacky-style for bass fishing
Worms rigged "wacky-style" have lots of movement

photo of how to rig a plastic worm Texas rig for bass
The Texas rig is another popular way to rig plastic worms

Worms can be used by lifting and dropping, dragging slowly on the bottom, or twitching. The weightless option gives the worm a nice long drift to the bottom. A weedless hook is recommended to get into areas bass love to hide. Another option (not shown) is a Carolina rig, which includes putting a bullet weight, a bead, and then a swivel about 12-18 inches above your Texas rig.

image of a plastic tube used for bass fishing
Tubes mimic crayfish and are often used in rivers and streams

Tubes are meant to imitate crayfish and are especially successful for smallmouth in river systems during warmer times of the year. They can be fished by jigging along the bottom to mimic a swimming catfish. Keep in mind that many types of worms, grubs, lizards and other plastic “critters” can be used in place of a worm, and even at the tail end of your jig and spinnerbait (above).

Tip: Bass are tricky, and can hit your bait without you even feeling a bite. If you see your line move to the side, or stop mid-water column on the way down, reel in your slack and set the hook!

Flies: topwater poppers, crayfish patterns, minnow patterns

photo of two popper flies used to fish for bass
"Pop" these flies across the surface of the water

Photo of two crayfish fly patterns for bass fishing
Jig crayfish flies along the bottom

Photo of three flies mimicking minnows for bass fishing
Swim these baitfish patterns through the water column

There are many more patterns you can fish for bass using flies. Poppers imitate frogs and you can fish them by “popping” across the surface, you can jig crayfish along the bottom, and “swim” minnows in the water column in fast or slow bursts. There are a variety of other patterns to try as well, and panfish can be an absolute blast to catch with fly gear.

Tip: Ask your local outfitter or guide service for the best patterns or tie your own! Also, experiment with different rhythms and speeds to find the perfect rhythm to get a strike. 

WALLEYE

Trolling setup 

photo of a rig to troll for walleye
This walleye rig works well trolling from a boat

The Columbia River is a favorite spot for walleye. A popular trolling setup is using a crawler harness behind a bottom-walking sinker. A whole worm is hooked onto the first hook for extra scent and attraction. Anglers also use crankbaits.

photo of a walleye fishing jig
Walleye jigs can be used from the bank or a boat

Jigs

Jigs can be productive from the boat as well as the bank, where trolling is not an option. My favorite colors are green bloodline (shown), green pumpkinseed and green watermelon seed. Lures can also be productive.

Tip: Walleye are bottom-feeding predators that target pikeminnow, sculpin, perch, minnows and other bottom-dwelling prey species. When fishing for them, stay towards the bottom and match your trolling speed to stay with the current. Walleye fishing is a relatively small niche. Contact a local guide or outfitter for more location-specific tips and tricks.

CATFISH AND PANFISH

Catfish setup

image of a rig for catfish fishing
With this catfish setup, vary the hook depending on the bait you use

My favorite catfish setup uses an egg sinker and a bead (you can also use a swivel here) about 12 inches away from my hook. I use a treble hook if I am using dough bait, and a circle hook if I am using cut bait. My favorite way to fish for catfish is to cast out in deeper holes on warmer days or closer to shore at night and put a bell at the end of my rod tip.

Tip: Circle hook are less like to foul or gut hook a catfish than are “J” hooks.

Panfish setup

photo to two different lures to catch panfish
These small lures can be used for crappie, bluegill and other panfish

I have never had a bad experience with small spinner baits or jigs while going after crappie, and other panfish such as bluegill and pumpkinseed. Even bass like them. Cast out and let them fall a bit. For spinner baits, reel in through the water column, and for jigs either reel in steadily or jig it back. Jig tails can also be placed on a baitholder hook attached to a 3-way swivel and a dropper weight, and fished on the bottom.

Tip: Add a piece of worm for some scent.

FOR JUST ABOUT ANYTHING

Bobber and worm

photo of a classic bobber and worm setup for almost anything
A simple bobber and worm setup has caught its fair share of fish

There’s just something so nice about a rig that can catch anything, and that’s the trusty and classic worm setup. This rig has caught all kinds of fish. To use it, tie on a baitholder hook (I’d recommend size 8 for panfish and yellow perch, and larger for bass, walleye, catfish, etc.) and put your split shot about 6 inches (a dollar bill) above that. Depending on the depth of the water, adjust the length of the line between your hook and your bobber. You want to suspend the bait in the water column. If you want to drift in a river, or aren’t sure how deep the water is, take the bobber off and fish where the current takes you. You also can fish your worm on the bottom with a 3-way swivel and a dropper sinker.

Tip: Really wind that worm on to the hook and don’t give the fish any tag ends to pull off – because they will!

Small spinners

photo of spinners good for catching almost anything
It's hard to go wrong with small spinners mimicking baitfish

If you prefer lure fishing, you can’t go wrong with small spinners that mimic baitfish. I’ve caught tons of bass, perch and bluegill on little spinners.

Tip: Anything that eats small baitfish can go after spinners (I’ve even caught catfish on these)! They aren’t limited to trout. Pick the right size for the mouth of the fish you’re targeting and line weight you’re using.

Amanda Boyles is the ODFW angling education coordinator