Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

By Glen Schmitt

Jig fishing is such a simple concept. Yet if forced to use one
presentation on opening day of the walleye season, most avid
walleye anglers would hit the lake with a tackle box full of jig
heads.

It doesn’t matter what end of the state you fish, how the
weather conditions shake out, or the type of structure you work,
jigs will produce more walleyes than anything else on opening
day.

Their effectiveness is only overshadowed by their simplicity.
Jig fishing is not rocket science, but even veteran walleye anglers
know that fishing the traditional jig head will turn more walleyes
than many of the more sophisticated presentations.

Keep it simple

Just about anyone can pitch a jig and minnow over the side of
the boat and catch a few walleyes in the spring. But with a few
twists, you’ll catch more walleyes, and you can do so by keeping
the presentation in its simplest form.

The key to jig fishing is to let the walleyes dictate how to
present it. The fish will choose proper color, style, and jigging
patterns. Experimentation is key to jig fishing and once you figure
out what and how the fish prefer the bait, the rest is easy.

Bigger isn’t better

As a general rule, start with the smallest jig possible. Wind
speed and water depth are contributing factors in choosing the
proper size jig head.

If it’s windy, you’ll need to work with something bigger to get
it down and keep it on the bottom. The same is true in current
situations. You just won’t be able to fish a small jig properly in
fast moving water. More times than not, opening day walleyes will
be tight to the bottom, so you’ll need to be heavy enough to keep
the bait in this strike zone. The key: Fish as heavy as
necessary.

On the rare occasion you find walleyes in deep water on opening
day, typically 20 feet or more, a heavier jig allows you to get
down to the bottom quicker, gives you a better feel for the bottom
and the lightest of bites.

The same is true with the monofilament you choose. Rarely do
jigs need to be fished with anything heavier than 6-pound-test
line. Implementing anything heavier takes away from the feel and
swimming action you’re trying to deliver with the jig.

Confident colors

Color selection probably offers the greatest area of debate when
it comes to jig fishing. The simple truth is that fishing a jig is
a confidence thing just like any other presentation. If you’re
confident pitching pink and white, then by all means start with
it.

While certain colors will be more effective under certain water
conditions, or whether the skies are clear or dark, start with what
you’re most confident with and adjust from there.

Don’t get hung up on it either. If the person in the seat next
to you is turning more fish on chartreuse, don’t be stubborn. Make
the switch, even if you’ve caught countless walleyes on the pink
and white jig during previous years.

Dress it up

Often times, you can have the right color combination and size
and still not get bit if you don’t dress the jig properly. While a
jig is a deadly opening day presentation, it doesn’t catch fish by
itself.

Add some life to it. This typically comes in two forms
artificial or live bait. Again, the fish will dictate what to use,
but both need consideration.

If you prefer live bait, match the lake’s natural forage base.
Certain fisheries are shiner lakes, while others offer smaller
minnows such as fatheads or rainbows. You can eliminate a lot of
the guess work by asking questions about a particular body of water
and figuring this out before you even hit the water.

Artificial baits, usually in the plastic- or scent-enhanced
forms, offer another option. Although it’s rare that they will turn
more fish than live bait, it happens. Also keep in mind that the
combination of both is often the way to go. For example, the
best-dressed jig might consist of a plastic skirt that’s tipped
with a minnow. This can be too much for even the most finicky
walleye to resist.

Rip or tickle

If there is one aspect of finesse fishing a jig, it revolves
around how much movement you give it. Keep in mind that you are in
complete control of what your jig is doing under the water, which
means the jigging action is what makes it look appealing.

This is the part where you really need to experiment. Early in
the season, start slow, ultimately tickling the bottom. Cast and
retrieve or drift as slow as possible literally drag your jig on
the bottom.

If that doesn’t trigger anything, add some bounce and hop to
your retrieve or drift. Start with a subtle bounce, but if it comes
right down to it, rip it quick and hard off the bottom. By doing
so, you almost force walleyes into chasing it. If they take the
time to chase, more times than not, they’ll eat.

Remember, these fish went through a rigorous spawn a few weeks
leading up to the opener. They now have recovered from it and are
programmed to eat. You just have to figure out what jigging pattern
will trip that feeding switch.

Most importantly, don’t complicate matters. Jig fishing is only
difficult if you make it that way. There is no easier way to put
walleyes in the boat on opening day than understanding how to
properly fish the simple jig presentation.

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