Jigs are Best Walleye Weapon

By Ted Peck - March 1, 2012
You seldom see a snowplow attached to the front end of a Corvette. Such a rig could probably do the job. But flying the 'Vette down the road to a shed where the plow truck waits is a more ergonomic use of both these "tools".

Some anglers have a sports car with a snowplow attitude when it comes to selecting the most deadly walleye weapon yet created: the jig.

The basic quarter ounce ballhead jig may put marble-eyes in the boat when you land on top of a hungry pod of fish. But walleyes are in a neutral to negative feeding mood most of the time. Tweaking your jig selection and presentation usually spells the difference between catching fish and catching lots of fish.

On any given day walleyes may respond to pitching, pulling, sliding ,dragging, pumping, hovering or vertical jigging. The 21st century angler has the option of selecting jigs of different designs and weights for optimum presentation-once fish have been located.

A six-foot GLoomis SJR721 GLX spinning rod is my favorite weapon for some jig presentations. For other presentations a more limber seven-foot St. Croix Avid series rod is the stick of choice.

Line options are either 8 lb. Berkley Nanofil superbraid or 6 lb. test Vanish fluorocarbon. Superbraid has less stretch, transmits sensation better and is considerably stronger. Fluorocarbon has lower visibility and rides higher in the water column-an essential trait in a precision dragging presentation with a very light jig.

Dragging soft plastics such as ringworms is a killer tactic at Red Wing, Mn. and other pools of the upper Mississippi river. Speed control, exact depth contour and rod position are critical components of successful presentation. The way the ringworm is threaded on the jig, ringworm color and even the way you hold the rod are all building blocks for success in this extreme precision fishing method.

The tip of this spear is the jig. A 3/32 oz B-Fish-N Tackle Precision jighead is the gold standard for this kind of fishing. These jigheads are designed for fishing plastics. They are available in a rainbow of colors, and unusual sizes like 3/32, 3/16 and 5/16. When fishing is tough there are many times when just a whisper's change in jig weight can spell a world of difference.

Early and late in the open water period walleyes can hold in deep water where vertical jigging or hovering work well. In rivers like the Mississippi and Wisconsin this can mean probing water in excess of 30 feet. By far the best tool for this presentation is Taylor Tackle's Killer Jig.

Taylor jigs are natural bucktail with a treble stinger hook in each individual package. Jig weight and color selection are driven to a great extent by water clarity and current velocity.

Cold water walleyes and saugers have predictable location behaviors which are fairly constant regardless of the river they call home. As a general rule saugers will usually locate twice as deep as walleyes in as much as twice the current.

The exact depth you're likely to find fish holding may change from day to day. It also changes throughout a 24 hour period but if you find fish holding at 19 feet in one location, odds are they will also be holding at 19 feet downriver where similar habitat parameters exist.

I seldom use minnows for spring walleyes. Plastics and hair catch just as many fish with half the trouble-most of the time. But sometimes fish simply want meat. If a minnow is called for in a vertical presentation with that Taylor tackle jig I like to thread the minnow on to the hook, through the mouth and out in front of the dorsal fin and remove the treble "stinger" hook.

Sometimes hooking the minnow through the lips is more productive. If this is the case I like to leave the stinger hook attached-but free swimming and not impaled in the minnow.

During low light periods and when water warms to the low 40's pitching jigs at rocks, wood and sandbar flats is often the shortest route to a stretched string. If this method calls for meat, Northland's short shank Fireball jig is the gold standard.

Weedless jigs can be less aggravating when pitching heavy cover. But wires or similar devices for protecting the hook's point from rocks and wood is a throwback to the snowplow on a Corvette analogy.

The exception is Tom's Timber Jig which employs a little plastic "vee" at the point where the hook comes out of the jighead. My jig box may weigh enough to anchor the Goodyear blimp. But somewhere inside is the perfect weapon to educate any dual-dorsaled devil which swims in flowing waters.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.