Six Steps to Better Jigging
by fishing guide Jeff (Cubby) Skelly
Most anglers believe that they know all about jigs just because jigs have been around ever since man first pinched a lead shot onto a hook. But that's just not so. Jigging basics may seem simple enough, but mastering the fundamentals of jigging can mean the difference between catching fish and not. Try this six-step approach to better jigging.
- Step 1: Stay on the bottom of the lake, river or reservoir. Walleyes relating to structure and current spend most of their time on or near the bottom. Choose the right sized jig to keep your minnow, leech or nightcrawler down amongst them. Walleyes eat by inhaling the water around their target. A light jig may make it easier to engulf. But, be prepared to adapt. Jigs that are too small for the conditions may keep you out of the strike zone entirely.
- Step 2: Consider the forage. Although a light jig will often accomplish the primary goal of bottom contact, jigs with a bigger profile might still be the answer if Walleyes are keying on larger forage. Don't assume. Let the fish tell you what they want.
- Step 3: Alter jig action. Walleyes will absolutely destroy bait at times. At others, they don't seem interested at all. Perhaps a cold front has passed through or the wind direction changed. Keep testing their mood. Attract the most aggressive fish by popping your jig up, then letting it fall back to the bottom. Follow the jig down with the rod tip to keep your jig taut in order to maintain control of your jig. Next, try a slow lift-drop. Then, drag it on the bottom or quiver it slightly. Again, let the fish tell you what they want.
- Step 4: Concentrate. Visualize your jig. Imagine where it is in the water and what it looks like to the fish. I have found most people often "over- jig". Use your jig as a tool to gather information. For example, try to feel subtle changes in the bottom. Spots where it changes from hard to soft bottom can be key. Intense focus also helps when bites are so light that nothing at all is telegraphed up your line through your rod. A slight movement or heavy feel may be all the notice you get. Set the hook at the slightest change.
- Step 5: Vary live bait. Since jigs are one of the oldest, most effective live-bait delivery systems we have, we've developed "rules" over the years on when minnows, nightcrawlers, or leeches should work best. Minnows are the choice in the cold water of spring and fall. Leeches are the favored bait in warm water. Nightcrawlers seem good across the calendar. But, don't be afraid to break the rules. See what works. The fish will let you know.
- Step 6: Fish Fish!!! The best jigging mechanics wont do any good if you aren't fishing where the fish are. Study the lake map section you are targeting to find the likely spots using what you know about walleye movements in the calendar period. Along the way to your lake choice, stop at more then one bait shop for the latest word on where the bigger schools have been located. Once on the water, move from spot to spot using your electronics to find forage fish and likely walleyes before you start to fish.
I hope these six tips will help to make you a better Walleye angler. Jigging is one of the key fundamental presentations to master. As always, have a safe and successful opener.
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Charlie Worrath on Jason Mitchell Outdoors talking early season walleyes
Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
Jason Boser appears with Jason Mitchell on Jason Mitchell Outdoors
(l - r) Jason Boser and Jason Mitchell pose with a Lake Winnie walleye
Jason Boser appearing on an episode for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
MN Fishing Pros Jason Boser and Bill Broberg take The Perennial Plate
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