Tokyo Rig For Walleye (Everything You Need To Know)


by Robert Ceran

The Tokyo rig was originally invented in Japan for bass fishing in heavy cover.

Recently however, increasing numbers of walleye anglers have discovered that it also works extremely well for catching walleye. 

This actually makes a lot of sense, since the Tokyo rig is one of the best bottom fishing rigs currently available, and that puts it exactly in the part of the water column where walleye like to feed.

In this article we’ll walk you through the basics of what a Tokyo rig is, how to set it up, and how to use a Tokyo rig to catch walleye effectively.

Finally, we’ll also compare it to some of the other rigs that you can use for similar walleye fishing applications.

What is a Tokyo rig?

A Tokyo rig consists of a large long shank hook, a swivel, and a 3 inch leader wire that are all attached to a closed metal ring (see image above).

Finesse Tokyo rig

In order to use it, you have to attach a sliding weight to the leader wire, and then use a pair of pliers to bend the end of the wire, which prevents the weight from falling off. 

While the original Tokyo rig was designed for bass fishing, and comes with large hooks starting at 2/0 and going up to 5/0, you’ll need to downsize to a finesse Tokyo rig for walleye fishing, which comes with a smaller hook in the size range 2 to 2/0.

One of the key features of the Tokyo rig is that it is designed to be fished in heavy cover, and allows you to fish your lure right on top of all kinds of snaggy bottom cover that you would normally avoid, including weed beds, muddy areas, boulder fields, and even beds of zebra mussels.

Using a sliding bullet sinker on the leader wire makes this setup just as snag proof as a no-snag Lindy rig setup

Tokyo rig setup for walleye

While you can make your own Tokyo rig setup, it’s easier to buy them ready made. I recommend the one produced by VMC, which has a Finesse Neko Tokyo Rig on the market that works great for walleye. It comes with a neko hook with a fluorocarbon keeper on it that works extremely well for keeping soft plastics on the hook. 

In order to use the Tokyo rig for walleye, you’ll need a size 2 to 2/0 finesse Tokyo rig with a Neko bait keeper hook, as well as the following tackle components:

  • Rod: 6 to 7 foot long medium light power spinning rod
  • Reel: Size 2000 to 3000 spinning reel
  • Main line: Either 10 to 20 lb test braided line, or 8 to 12 lb test fluorocarbon
  • Leader: 6 to 12 lb test fluoro (if using braid as your main line)
  • Weights: 1/8 to 1 oz sliding bullet sinkers
  • Soft plastics: 3 to 5 inch swimbaits or soft plastic worms

Personally, I like to use the size 1 VMC finesse Tokyo rig baited with a Berkley Gulp Minnow or Paddleshad. Depending on the size of your bait and the size of the walleye you’re targeting, a bigger size 1/0 or 2/0 can be a better choice.

I also like to use braid as my main line, as it provides more sensitivity and translates every single rod shake directly into the action of my lure, since the braided line has no stretch. However, when fishing with braid it’s essential to use a fluoro leader, since walleye can be finicky these days (especially in crystal clear lakes infested with zebra mussels).

In terms of weight size, I like to start with 1/8 or 1/4 oz, and then go up to bigger sizes if necessary. The great thing about the Tokyo rig is that you can easily change your weight without having to re-tie the whole rig, which saves a lot of time. 

How to fish a Tokyo rig for walleye

Tokyo rig for walleye diagram

The Tokyo rig is an extremely versatile bottom fishing rig, and can be used with a wide variety of soft plastic baits, which means there’s no limit to the colors, sizes, and shapes that you can try out. I usually start with a soft plastic swimbait resembling a small minnow or shad, and then I’ll go on to experiment with plastic worms, leeches, or crawfish.

If you’re fishing in heavy cover, make sure to use weedless rigging by covering the point of your hook inside the swimbait. When rigged this way, you can use the Tokyo rig even in dense weed beds, and even on slab boulder fields, which are notoriously unfishable with other fishing rigs. 

In many ways, the Tokyo rig resembles a mini bottom bouncer rig, but the main difference between them is that the bottom bouncer is usually trolled, while the Tokyo rig is used for casting and retrieving. So you can think of it as a castable bottom bouncer setup to use in areas with heavy cover. 

Tokyo rig vs Drop Shot rig for walleye

While the Tokyo rig is superficially similar to the Drop Shot rig, it is more compact than the latter, which is better for penetrating heavy cover. Especially if you use weedless rigging, you’ll get fewer snags with a Tokyo rig compared to a Drop Shot rig.

That being said, if the cover isn’t that heavy, a Drop Shot rig will work equally well for catching walleye. Also, if you notice on your fish finder that the walleye are suspended slightly above the bottom a Drop Shot rig is better for presenting your bait higher in the water column than a Tokyo rig, which presents your bait right on top of the bottom.

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