It was during a Rainy Lake walleye fishing trip that one of our group complained about not being able to feel the subtle walleye bite very well. Nor could he seem to stay out of the rocks. The frustration that was written on his face indicated something needed to be done.

I suggested that his issue might be in the rod he was using. Although he was a little defensive about this comment, he was willing to listen.

A short time later, I had him set up with one of my spare live bait rods. It was a high quality, seven foot medium light action with a very soft tip. He seemed eager to give it a try.

The next day at our noon lunch rendezvous, he was all smiles. He had experienced a very successful morning of fishing and was astounded at the difference quality equipment can make. He was finally able to detect the light bites and stay out of the rocks, as well.

This true story has been a common thread in my fishing history. After learning the hard way about the value of good equipment, I have shared this lesson with countless others.

When it comes to spending money on fishing, it is important to put some thought into what is needed and where the dollars should go. If your main focus is slip bobber angling, a long rod is essential, but super high quality may not be necessary. The float is doing all of the work and will clearly indicate a bite.

One the other hand, live bait rigging is all about finesse and feel. It is about detecting the softest of bites and responding appropriately. Many times walleyes are very finicky about how much resistance they tolerate when they inhale your bait and will often spit it right back out.

Being able to play the bite with little resistance to the fish is absolutely critical. The next step that involves knowing when to set the hook after feeding line is also extremely essential.

This is where the soft tip comes in. I like to be able to feel and see the rod tip load up with weight before I set the hook. I don’t wait for another tap, I just feel for resistance and weight.

I have several brands of rods that I use for live bait rigging. They are all in the seven foot range and are extremely sensitive. I currently have the Jason Mitchell Elite Series rods as my favorites.

As for line, I spool on six or eight pound-test quality mono. If I am fishing very rocky territory, I will switch to a rod that has eight pound test high quality braid.

The extra feel associated with braid is nice for staying out of the rocks but can create issues when playing a subtle walleye pick-up. Because the line is so sensitive, it is possible for the fish to feel the angler as much as the angler feels the fish. It takes practice.

When shopping quality gear this year, keep in mind the need for spending money on live bait equipment. To some degree, you get what you pay for.

Sensitivity and feel are important in nearly all of the fishing I do, but the most essential during the live bait rigging presentation. In my opinion, long, high quality, medium action rods with soft tips are the way to go.

After all, you simply can’t catch fish that you can’t feel.