Jiggin The Reefs

By Scott Ehricke - May 1, 2009
Fishing the reefs on Lake Winnebago can be difficult if you do not know the proper method of doing it. I am going to explain to you a method that we use, that seems to do the trick. I hope this helps you put more fish in the live well, and also gives you a few answers as to why some people are catching fish on the reefs, and others are not.

I get a kick out of seeing 15-20 boats all sitting on the same reef or in the same area trying to catch the same fish. They think that just because there is a reef there, that the fish must be there or they think well look at all the boats over there, they must be catching fish. Well the truth of the matter is, that maybe one or two of those boats are catching fish, but the other 18 boats are all just watching them catch fish, here is why.

Reefs are basically sunken islands, and the fish do hold to them because of the structure and because there is a food source there. What you need to know is how to position your boat, so you can be where the fish are. When we get to a reef, we first find the top of it, and throw out a buoy marker to mark the top of the reef. This gives us a reference to always know where the top of the reef is, and where we should position the boat. Then we back away from the buoy, about a cast's length, and anchor so that we are casting with the wind and the waves, towards the buoy we tossed out. The fish are going to be on the side of the reef where the waves are crashing into it. You see, it works like this. The waves crash into the reef; this stirs up that side of the reef, and the baitfish then move in to eat all the small plankton, and larvae. Then the game fish move in to feed on the baitfish.

Fish will generally feed up, meaning, they will chase bait up a reef but not down it. So when you are casting those jigs to the top of the reef and then dragging it to you, you are actually putting the bait right in front of the fish, and this will result in more strikes and fish in your live well.

One of the key issues to using this method is boat placement. We place our boat so that the buoy is about in the middle of the boat, and then we cast on all sides of the buoys. If you are off to one side or the other, you need to reposition, so that the boat is set up properly. A few years ago, I was fishing with a buddy of mine, and we set up on a west shore reef, but we were not set up 100% correctly, and we were not catching fish. I then repositioned on that same reef, by using my buoy as a reference, and immediately we started to get on them, and we ended up catching almost 40 walleyes that evening. If we had not moved about 100 feet or less, we never would have caught any fish that night. That is why I mentioned before that when you see 15-20 boats on a reef, it is highly likely, that you will see one or two boats catching fish, and the others are watching them catch fish, and now you know why that is.

One other thing that plays into jigging the reefs is your jig knot. When you are casting your lines up on the reefs, make sure that your knot on your jig is placed on the top half of the jig. This will keep your jig running along the bottom in a horizontal fashion, and will keep your jig looking more natural to the fish. By simply just tying on a knot and casting out to the reefs, you may be missing a lot of fish, if you do not remember to turn your knot. Remember to check your line during the day for line fray as well. There are a lot of zebra mussels in the lake, and they really do tear up your line. I would hate to see you lose a big fish, because your line was all frayed. We generally check ours every 10-15 casts, and if needed, we break it off and retie it. I have lost too many fish to not do this regularly now.

Jigging the reefs can be a great way to spend a day out on the water, and can be very productive if done properly. I hope this helps you out, and I hope you do well on your next trip on the water. Send me an E-mail, and tell me if this helps, and feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns, you may have.

Author Scott Ehricke
Scott Ehricke
Scott "Axl" Ehricke owns and operates Winnebago Fishing Guide Service. He is a noted seminar speaker, radio show host, and has appeared in several TV segments and magazine articles across the country. He specializes in walleyes on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Sponsors include; Lakemaster Maps, Okuma Fishing, Vicious Fishing Line, Mercury Marine, Kopper's Live Target Lures and Truckin’ America. For more information, please visit www.winnebagofishing.com