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Jigging Walleyes 102.
by Adam Johnson

In Jigging Walleyes 101 we learned the importance of equipment in jig fishing walleyes. Choosing the proper rod balanced by a smooth running reel loaded with good, abrasion resistant line is a key first step. Selecting color and matching to water clarity is next. Knowing how to make just the right presentation to trigger a good bite is third, and understanding location and boat control completes the package.

Location and boat control will be covered in the next of the series, Jigging Walleyes 103.

Jig fishing for walleyes is one of the most versatile and effective ways of catching fish. Jigging works in all waters, in just about every lake, river or stream and in virtually all conditions. There are as many different ways to present jigs as there are jigs, but knowing the right presentation to use given the conditions you are fishing is vital to success.

Jigs work well with almost all types of live bait and can be fished successfully with artificials, but again you need to give some thought to the mood of the fish, the time of the year, depth, structure, cover, water clarity, weather conditions, current and a host of other factors that may influence your decision.

Shapes and Rattles
All jigs are not created equal. As was pointed out in Jigging for Walleyes 101 the quality of the hook and the color and durability of the paint are extremely important factors in jig selection.

In this regard,

I’ve found that Scenic Tackle jigs are best. They have high quality hooks and the most durable paint on the market. It is also true that some styles of jigs work better than others in different conditions.

    Here are some examples.
  • Pyramid or cone shaped jig heads work best in weeds and timber. These jigs slither through the cover without getting hung up. They are able to get down into the thickest cover without fouling, which is obviously important in keeping your jig in the strike zone longer.
  • Bullet shaped jig heads work best in current. These jigs offer less resistance, allowing the current to flow around the jig. The net result is that you are able to fish more vertically with lighter jigs, always a plus in jigging big ‘eyes.
  • Aspirin-shaped jigs (vertically flattened) are best used in rocks. They tend not to wedge into crevices and slide through little spaces that would catch and eat jigs of other shapes. As such, these jigs can be fished over rocks without having to re-tie as often because of rock snags.
  • Stand up jigs work well in rocks and hard bottom areas, like sand, because they hold the hook off the bottom, keeping the bait up in the fish’s line of sight. They also help keep the hook out of the rocks and keep the bait up out of crevices.
  • Round jig heads, the most traditional and most widely used jig, are the best all around. These jigs work well in all bottom conditions and can be used in heavy cover, although they are not ideally suited for these conditions.
  • In stained water it may help to add a rattle to the jig. This additional feature helps the fish locate the jig and may trigger a bite that you would otherwise miss. Experimentation here is important to trigger the bite you are after.

Jig Size…Key to a Natural Presentation
The key to successful jig fishing walleyes is to use the lightest jig possible.

A good guideline to begin with is to use a jig weighing 1/8 ounce for every 10 feet of water fished. In other words, in early, shallow water fishing conditions where fish are generally found in 10 feet of water or less, 1/8 ounce is the place to start. Later, as fish move out into water up to 20 feet, start with 1/4 ounce. And in fishing water greater than 20 feet you may want to consider moving up to 3/8.

Of course these are just general guidelines and a host of factors may influence your decision, with current and wind conditions being dominating factors. Remember that contact with the bottom is vital, so be sure to use just enough jig to allow you to maintain contact with the bottom.

When jig fishing the presentation must look as natural as possible. The jig should fall slowly, making the bait flutter on the fall and keeping it in the strike zone longer. The jig should not just look like a rock jumping up and down, but should present the bait naturally. For example, a jig minnow combination should make the minnow appear to be wounded, fluttering on the drop and darting or turning on the rise.

The size of the jig should be chosen to allow you to fish as vertically as possible. This gives you the best feel and allows the best control over the presentation. The shortest line possible makes the presentation most sensitive, which is a key element in successful jig fishing. Feel and sensitivity are what make jig fishing work.

Tipping Jigs
Jigs can be successfully tipped with all types of live bait or artificials. Live bait is most often used with minnows, leeches or crawlers the bait of choice. Typically, minnows work all year and work better than leeches or crawlers when the water is cold.

Obviously, the type of minnow selected is your choice, but should be chosen to most relate to natural walleye forage. In some bodies of water, leeches are the bait of choice even in cold water conditions, and as the season progresses crawlers may out fish either minnows or leeches. So, again, experimentation is the key.

Early in the year, I tend to bring leeches and minnows and will add crawlers to the cooler as the weather warms up.

Soft body artificials, like curly-tailed grubs, paddle-tail minnow imitations or jig worms can be used when the fish are active. Even lizards can be effective, especially in the spring and fall. Combinations of artificials and live bait can be fished if the walleyes are aggressive, or in stained water conditions when the larger profile and vibration from the twister tail may be beneficial.

If fish are biting short, you may want to consider adding a stinger hook to your live bait set up. When the water is cold, or fish are simply not aggressive, they may grab and hold the tail end of the bait without taking it all into their mouth. A stinger hook allows you to catch these short biting fish.

Natural Presentation
For jigging in shallow water, casting jigs works well. This technique allows you to get the jig out away from the boat without spooking fish.

Cast the jig and let it settle to the bottom. Holding your rod at about 9:00 o’clock, lift to about 11:00 o’clock and let it back down to 9:00 o’clock. Keep the rod tip fairly high to keep a good feel with the jig and follow the line back to the bottom to pick up on any fish biting on the drop.

Feel is extremely important in this technique. Any type of twitch or stop could be a fish, don’t assume it’s rocks or weeds impeding your progress. This technique works well when fishing the top of a hump or reef, or when following a jig down the face of a drop off.

The most common method of jig fishing is vertical jigging, which works especially well when fishing any depths over 6 – 8 feet. When vertical jigging, start by dropping the jig straight to the bottom keeping the line as vertical as possible. It is important to maintain good contact with the bottom to be sure the jig is in the strike zone and not riding up away from the fish. Lift the jig any where from a couple of inches to a foot or so and ease it back down to again contact bottom.

If the fish are aggressive, keep the jig moving by lifting about a foot or so, dropping and repeating every few seconds. If the fish are less aggressive, jig slowly and not as high…maybe just an inch or a few inches. Lower it back to the bottom and hold it there for a while. You may even want to try not jigging at all. Simply drop the jig to the bottom, lift a couple of inches and hold.

Again, experimentation is the way to go. Sometimes dragging, sometimes jigging aggressively until you find the pattern.

Even swimming the jig can be effective. Run the jig to the bottom and lift to the depth at which you are seeing fish on the electronics. Then, simply move the rod tip slowly up and down to make it look like the jig is swimming at that depth. This technique works for fish that are not related tight to the bottom or that might be a little less aggressive.

Jig fishing is the most versatile technique available for hooking up on big ‘eyes. Remember two things, though, when jigging.

First, experiment. Color, size, jigging speed, rattles and aggressiveness are all factors to experiment with.

Second, natural presentation is extremely important. Make the presentation natural, as small as possible and tip the jig with natural, or natural looking forage. Keep these factors in mind and you’ll consistently boat more ‘eyes.

Good luck and good fishing.
Adam Johnson

Click here for Jigging Walleyes 103.

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