Spring Walleye Jigging TechniquesBy Dale Helgeson - April 1, 2006
Spring time is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year to land a trophy walleye. Many trophy walleyes have been taken using the lead head jig tipped with a minnow or plastic or a three way rig with a floating jig head and minnow. Some people will troll them in the spring using lead core line or hand lining.
Jigging is still the number one used method for spring walleyes though.
There are many styles of jigs and picking the right one for the right situation can be difficult. One jig that seems to work in almost every situation is a Nuckleball jig by FinTech Tackle Company. These jigs offer a great versatility for almost any type of jigging you want to try. They can be rigged straight, weed less, live bait, or in a combination of plastic and live bait.
They have a unique design in that you can drag them on the bottom and they will standup with your hook upright off the bottom or hang horizontal jigged off the bottom at all times. They also have a wide hook gap for more hookups. Being that the jig is in a round shape they can also be used for rolling jigs in shallow current.
The most popular sizes of jigs are1/16-3/8 oz depending on river conditions. You will want to use the lightest jig possible to stay vertical. If casting a jig and letting it roll in the current.
When preparing to use a jig you should consider the structure you will be fishing.
In spring one of the best structures to fish is a wing dam. Anchor about 30-40 feet above the wing dam and cast the jig on top of the wing dam and reel if down the front face of the wing dam for the more aggressive fish. Most fish high on a wing dam and in the front wash out will be aggressive feeding fish. The fish on the back side of the wing dam may be less aggressive so concentrate of the front side(up river) of the wing dam.
When fishing a wing dam jig setup consist of a jig small enough to sink in the current yet allow you to jig it upstream with maintaining bottom contact. This will be dependant upon the current of the river. Usually a 3/8 is as high as needed for weight in this situation. Usually a 1/4 oz will work best. Then tip them with our favorite plastics or a minnow. Plastics like B Fish N Tackles ringworms, superdoos and pattletails are extremely effective baits for this presentation.
When fishing dams use your electric motor to vertical jig down the river, a good electric motor like MinnKota's Maxxum or Powerdrive are great bow mount options for vertical jig fishing.
Work the high sides of the breaks in the morning and evening and the deeper sides during mid day. Try to work areas that have some slack water as they will stack up in theses areas waiting for food to come to them. Look for a current break or an eddy when fishing near a dam. Walleyes will usually setup just outside the main current.
One highly overlooked place to find spring walleyes are in flooded timber or downed trees.
The preferred technique for fishing this situation is using a jig rigged weed less. This is a accomplished by rigging the plastic by hooking the end of the bait about ¼ inch from the end and piercing it all the way through and then poking the barb back through about an 1 ½ inches down and placing the barb back into the plastic.
Then just pitch the jig near the timber and jig it back toward the boat. Try to find timber bear deeper water and out of the fast current.
Another method is to use a 10 foot rod and just lower the bait inside the timber. Timber fishing is extremely effective when water levels are high and the fish move into the back waters.
Rock piles are another good place to find feeding walleyes. Vertical jig these areas. Staying vertical is very important when jigging. A good line with no stretch can be important for feeling bottom and sensing strikes. PowerPro is one of my first choices along with fluorocarbon like Berkley Vanish.
Most of the fish on the rocks will be tight to the bottom so stay close to the bottom also feeling the bottom is critical. Use a jig heavy enough to maintain bottom contact.
Shallow Sand Flats
Shallow sand flats are often times over looked by most anglers except for experienced trophy hunters. This may be one of the best ways to take trophy walleyes.
Usually a smaller jig is used and rigged with plastics. The sand flats to look for are usually on inside bends close to deep water channels. The large females will come up onto theses flats to feed and to often times spawn. They are out of the primary current but offer some current for them to feed in. They will look for a meal to come floating or tumbling down.
When fishing this area try to lighten your jigs because you will need them to tumble or roll down the flat. Usually just lifting the jig off the bottom 6 inches to 2-3 feet and letting the jig settle back down rolling on the bottom will work best. Once the jig stops make sure to pay attention in case a walleye picked it up. If no fish is present then lift it again letting it drift and tumble down farther.
Three way rigs are very popular ways to fish as well. Jigs can be used as your weight and also allow another bait in the water where legal. Use a jig that will maintain bottom contact and then run a leader up from the jig tipped with a Phelps Floater or even a small crank bait like Dave's Shiners or Sparx. These have a tight wobble and are great for cold water fishing. A heavier jig is usually used in this presentation because of the extra pull from the other bait.
Then just walk the jig usually up river along a current break.
Remember to take a kid fishing and be safe as the rivers can be extremely dangerous.