Ten Tips for catching more walleyes with jigs
Jigs are the most versatile tools in any walleye angler’s tackle box. Like any technique, there are details and nuances that can make you successful or unsuccessful.
When the fish are biting, you can fish a jig in a lot of different ways and get bites. When conditions get tougher, however, we often see a particular stroke or jigging style produce fish, and catching fish is all about locking onto that specific mojo.
The best jig anglers can tap into that mojo. The cadences and strokes can vary dramatically, from sharp snaps and pops of the rod tip in varying windows, to subtle drags and shakes mixed with lifts and holds.
Here are 10 of our best jig-fishing tips to get you ready to catch walleyes.
1. Mono or braid? Some anglers mistakenly believe one is better than the other. Not so simple. We have found several situations in which the flexibility and stretch of mono trumped the sensitivity of braid.
On the flip side, we also have seen situations where the hooksets were much more effective with braid. If you’re missing fish or not getting bites, the answer is simple: switch. Keep a rod rigged with mono and a rod rigged with braid and switch back and forth until you start hooking up consistently.
2. Watch the line. Bites often get felt at the bottom of the stroke, or on the lift as a stroke is repeated. More bites often get seen anywhere on the descent, when fish punch a descending jig. If the line twitches or jumps, set the hook. Many avid jig anglers swear by high-visibility line so they can distinguish these bites more easily.
3. Colors and finishes. Anglers go gaga over colors and finishes on jigs. Some days, high-visibility colors like chartreuse are the ticket. The jig’s hook, however, trumps color. Always have a hook file in the boat and sharpen hooks throughout the day.
The best jig is a jig with a really sharp hook. It’s amazing how dinged up hook points get while fishing through rocks, clam beds, and riprap. A jig will keep pounding walleyes long after all the paint is chipped off as long as the hook point has an edge.
Match the hook size and gap to the bait you’re using. Use the biggest hook you can get away with to increase your batting average on hooksets and also to keep bigger fish pinned up.
4. Long shank or short shank. One of the most popular and effective jigs of all time has to be the Northland Tackle Fire-Ball Jig. It has a short shank. The advantage of the short-shank jig, in my opinion, is how the minnow or bait rolls on the jig as it’s moved across the bottom.
The minnow, in particular, seems to put off a lot more flash. Long-shank jigs, though, have a place. While the action might not be as good on the bait, you can sometimes increase your hookups with long-shank jigs because the hook can be threaded farther back into the bait.
5. Weight. Anglers often preach the importance of using as light a jig as possible. Just as often, however, we catch more fish by using the heaviest jigs possible. In rivers or currents, heavier jigs can be fished slower in faster current and can be kept close to the bottom.
For tough bites in still water, heavier jigs allow for more vertical up-and-down presentations, especially when conditions make boat control tougher. Working down the scale to lighter jigs is always an option, but don’t hesitate to work up the scale to heavier jig weights.
6. The count. The consensus among jig anglers is to set the hook when a bite is detected. But there are situations when feeding the fish some line, or pausing momentarily, can increase hook-ups. If you’re missing fish, experiment with the amount of time from when you feel the bite to when you pull the trigger. There are days when delaying your response a second or two can pay off.
7. Line angle. Assuming that both anglers in a boat are using the same jig weight, match the variables if one angler is catching fish and the other is not. The jig stroke is the first variable to duplicate. The second is the exact angle the line takes from the rod tip to the water.
8. Rod action. For many jig-fishing applications, you can’t go wrong with a medium-power, fast-action rod. But some situations require a stiffer or softer blank. Match your jigging formula to the optimum rod action. A rod that is too stiff and fast, or is too soft and too moderate in action, can cost you dearly. As a general rule of thumb, aggressive jig strokes, long casts, current, or heavier jigs require a stiffer blank.
9. Cast more. Many walleye anglers fish a jig below the boat. Make a point of casting more this season. When searching for fish and going through a spot, especially when fishing rivers, it’s amazing how much faster and more thoroughly you can work a spot by casting. You still hit below the boat on the end of a cast, but you touch a lot more water.
10. Versatility. Run through the variables until you get the mojo going. Monitor the cadence and stroke by using words in your mind so that you can experiment and then go back to something that works. A mistake I sometimes make, especially early in the year when the fish want a slow delivery, is that I get excited after catching a fish or two.