Why long-shanked and short-shanked jigs tipped with live bait remain a go-to option for every self-respecting north-country walleye fisherman!
Jig fishing is a fun, productive way to catch walleyes, especially early in the season. Properly working jigs all comes down to this: Finding the lightest weight jig possible while remaining in contact with the bottom. Wind, current, other boating traffic, etc., are all factors in selecting the right jig, so I generally start light, say 1/32-ounce or lighter. If you encounter a really aggressive bite and you need it to drop down faster, then go heavier.
Stick with short-shanked jigs for live bait only. Long-shanked jigs are preferable for a dressing combined with live bait. And not all dressings are created equal! You need to experiment with that. Dressings provide bulk, color, flash, and movement in the water column. All those factors can vary from day-to-day, even hour-to-hour.
If I’m missing fish on a short-shanked jig, I’ll often switch to a long-shanked for those short biters.
When fishing with jigs, you should feel a legitimate thump, and then set the hook fast. If fish are just nipping at it, then bring your jig up 2- to 4 inches and hold it. See if you entice that fish into biting.
If fish are not taking my jig, I’ll also drop the rod tip down on semi-slack line, let them chew on it, then set my hook. This works. It’s not so heavy now that the walleyes feels the jig and thinks it’s unnatural. If the latter happens, they’ll blow it out.
Then there’s the topic of color – one of my pet peeves – as an ingredient. I never recommend a specific color, because I carry a lot of colors, and I always fine tune with weight first. All colors work under certain conditions. Is there a starting point? Not really. My best advice is to pre-rig and have two to three colors, and then work others to see what’s most productive.
Sheen is every bit as important as the actual color. Some lures have a clear coat on them, and stick with shiny for aggressive fish in darker water. Gold, chrome and silver fall into those categories, too. Regular jigs have a gloss finish coat, so they’re less shiny for clear water and neutral fish applications. Matted jigs have no shine whatsoever, and perform in clear water. Lots of guides in Canada use matted jigs. It all depends on water clarity and the mood of the fish.
Bring an assortment of jigs and minnows on the water for your early walleye angling. I certainly will!
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