Use 3-Way Rigs on One of the Strangest Fighting Freshwater Fish, Lake Trout (video)

News & Tips: Use 3-Way Rigs on One of the Strangest Fighting Freshwater Fish, Lake Trout (video)...

Lake trout are considered by many anglers to be one of the strangest fighting freshwater fish species throughout North America. If you’ve had the good fortune of setting your hook into a large lake trout than you have a good understanding of what avid lake trout anglers are talking about. Lake trout will test an angler’s patience, stamina, gear, and fishing ability, during any given hookup. In large waterbodies, a lake trout’s size will range from fingerling, all the way up to the current IGFA (International Game Fish Association) world record of 72-pounds caught in August 1995, in Great Bear Lake, in the Northwest Territories, Canada. I’ve had the good fortune of fishing several lakes in the Northwest Territories, and I personally believe the next world record lake trout will come out of Nonacho Lake, Northwest Territories.

Where to Find and Fish Lake Trout?

w.david lake troutLake trout are a native fish species to the northern portion of North America, most common in the northeastern United States, Canada, Alaska, and have successfully been introduced into a wide variety of non-native waterbodies throughout North America for conservation efforts and to increase angling opportunities. Lake trout inhabit large, deep, and cold oxygen-rich waterbodies and will not only live but thrive at depths ranging from 50 to over 200 feet of water. Many avid lake trout anglers target deep lake trout using down-riggers which allows the angler to keep their bait on the bottom or at a desired depth as they troll their presentation looking for active feeding fish. Like any fish species, to consistently trigger bites from lake trout, your bait needs to be in the strike zone. However, how do you consistently do that if you don’t have down-riggers?

1 arrow pointTip: Click to watch Wes David's video fishing big lake trout using a 3-Way Rig

What is a Three-Way Rig and How do You Fish It?

w.david fishingOften referred to as a poor man's down rigging, a three-way rig is simply a three-way swivel acting as an intersection. The mainline from your rod and reel is the first connection at the (top) of the three-way swivel. On the second position of the swivel (middle) is the line that is tied to your bait and runs horizontal (when trolled) to your mainline. The third line ties to the (bottom) portion of the three-way and runs vertical to the mainline and secures a large ball-weight that will get your bait down to the desired depth. However, the real key to the three-way system is a good quality line counter reel. Your sonar and line counter reel are your eyes to accurately fishing the depth the fish are holding at. For example, if I’m fishing in 100-feet of water and the fish are holding at 80-feet, I will let out enough line, taking in account speed, line, and lure drag, to run my presentation at 78 to 82-feet of water so I’m consistently trolling my lure in the strike zone. Each time you get a hit take note of the depth and speed your presentation was running and repeat both speed and depth.

You want the fish to exert the least amount of effort to take your offering. I believe with any fish species if they don’t have to work hard for a meal they will feed even if they’re in a negative feeding pattern. The three-way works similar to a downrigger, however, it’s more hands-on. Anglers can easily adjust the depth of their lure by reeling in or releasing line using their line counter reel. This method can be just as effective as downriggers when fished correctly.

How to Troll for Lake Trout Using a 3-Way Rig 

The 3-Way Rig Setup:

Fishing Rod: Bass Pro Shops Power Plus Trophy Class Casting Rod, 7’ 6” Medium Heavy action.

abu garcia line counter 5500LC
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Line Counter Reel

Fishing Reel:Abu Garcia Ambassadeur line counter 5500LC or 6500LC reel with a 5.3:1 gear ratio.

Fishing Line: Bass Pro Shops Hyper Braid 30lb or 40lb line and spool on 300 yards or better.

Triangle Style Three-Way Swivel: Bass Pro Shops Three-Way Brass Swivel size# 1/0.

Bait line: 30lb monofilament 3-feet in length with a Bass Pro Shops Barrel Swivel with interlock size# 1/0 tied to both ends of the line for easy bait changeout.

Ball-weight Fishing Line: 12-inches 30 lb monofilament line like Bass Pro Shops Excel Monoflament Line.

lake trout lure spoon
Wes David with lake trout his catch of the day.

Bullet Fishing Weights: 8 to 10 oz.

My favorite fishing bait is a #4 Len Thompson lure spoon in the red and white or 5 of Diamonds color pattern at Cabela's.

Trolling Methods

Three-way trolling methods will work on suspended lake trout that are holding at deeper depths within the water column or lake trout resting right on the bottom. Trolling a three-way rig system is an inexpensive way to cover deep water and get your bait in front of active feeding lake trout.

Three Way Rigging Lake Trout bu Fishing the Wild West TV