By Jeremy Smith
OK, look: Live minnows on jigs will never go out of style for walleyes. They work great, especially in water almost cold enough to be ice. But even then, jigs with soft-plastic trailers and hair jigs can get reaction strikes that minnows don’t, and provide fast fun for springtime anglers.
We’re talking about casting and snap-jigging these baits, a technique that works whenever walleyes are hanging in less than 15-foot depths, and especially when they’re in 4- to 12-foot depths.
Take your 6-foot, 8-inch, medium-power, fast-action spinning rod, cast, let the jig settle to the bottom, then snap it up to shoot the jig a foot or two. Immediately lower your rod tip to let the jig fall on a slack line. Repeat. Walleyes usually grab your lure when it’s on its way down.
Unlike a more subtle approach with a live minnow and the lightest jig possible, you want a jig with some weight so you can work it fast and get reaction strikes. I use a 1⁄4-ounce VMC Moon Eye jig most often with soft plastics or the VMC Moon Tail Jig, which is a Moon Eye with just the right amount of bucktail fur tied on for a tail. It’s a stand-alone standout that needs no additional trailer. Both of these jig styles in the 1⁄4-ounce size sink fast and trigger bites.
If the water is stained or muddy, a boot-tail swimbait is a great option for a trailer on the Moon Eye. This swimbait creates a lot of vibration that, picked up by a walleye’s lateral line, feels like a swimming baitfish. The boot tail also allows this combo to fall more slowly, providing a sustained target for walleyes when visibility is low. It’s available in a lot of popular walleye color patterns, too.
The other soft plastic I use a lot is one with a minnow profile, such as the new 4-inch Slim Shad from Big Bite. This has a slimmer shape with a split tail that offers little water resistance. The combo falls quickly after you snap it.
Finally, let’s talk about a blast from the past. A bucktail tied on a jig was catching walleyes before Mr. Twister invented soft-plastic Twister Tails. Baby, the bucktail is back! During the past few years it has come on strong in the walleye world for snap-jigging.
The VMC Moon Tail offers a fishy profile and fast fall on a slack line. We’ve worked with VMC to create it, with its flashy eyes and thin head. It comes in some great walleye colors. A key design factor is that it has just enough bucktail to look meaty to a walleye, but not too much of this buoyant fur to make the jig “parachute” down instead of free-fall. For snap-jigging, it is just plain deadly.
One last note about line selection. While high-visibility braided line with a fluorocarbon leader works great, there are times, especially in shallow water, when monofilament works better. I like high-vis Sufix Advance mono in 6-pound test, with about an 8-foot leader of fluorocarbon. Seeing that bright line jump as your jig falls and setting the hook into a spring walleye … well, it just doesn’t get any better than that!