Have you ever gone fishing for walleyes when it seems someone sewed their mouths shut the night before? They are so sluggish on days like that, you can’t seem to get one to bite no matter what you do.
At first glance, a minnow, leech or nightcrawler on a Lindy rig or a NO-SNAGG rig might appear the best tactic. You would then go slow and be methodical.
It’s true that “tough bites” are times finesse strategies shine. But, there might be a better way that will catch more walleyes in a “snap” — snap jigging, that is. This method uses a Fuzz-E-Grub jig and minnow to move fast along breaklines to cover more water and provoke strikes from the most aggressive fish.
“I’ve seen days when a pack of boats were grouped over a school of lethargic walleyes using Lindy rigs to get just one or two. We’d come through snap jigging and put on a clinic catching fish right and left,” said Professional Walleye Trail pro John Campbell, a resident of Leech Lake, Minn.
Campbell used the technique for an 8th place finish at PWT qualifier on Leech in 1998. He credits its development to fishing guides on Winnibigoshish.
Rather than trying to lure a walleye to eat, snap jigging forces it to react in the span of a heartbeat as the jig moves quickly past. Nature tells it, “If you snooze, you loose.” There is no time for caution and no time for the fish to carefully examine the bait before deciding whether to eat it. With snap jigging, it’s strike or go hungry, no matter what their mood. As Campbell says, snap jigging forces them to “commit.”
“They think, ‘It’s small, it’s moving fast, I’d better take it.’ When the fish strikes, it’s an impulse thing.”
Another advantage with this technique is it’s easier to teach snap jigging to less-experienced anglers than either Lindy rigging or using NO-SNAGG rigs.
Fall Is A Good Time To Snap Jig
Fall is one of the best times to snap jig because fish are generally aggressive. However, there are days when they turn off. Walleyes tend to roam deeper at this time of the year, but many stay in shallower water to prowl rocky points 12-feet to 15 feet deep for food, especially on windy days. That’s a perfect scenario to “snap” a few into the boat. The tactic also can be used along outside weed edges in autumn and even emerging weed beds in spring.
Start with a stiff spinning rod: 6-feet to 6-1/2-feet. Use 8-pound line, which gives some protection against nicks and abrasions. Campbell likes clear blue Stren. Its color allows him to line-watch so he can be sure his bait is in the critical strike zone on the bottom.
Next, choose a one-quarter-ounce Fuzz-E-Grub. Remove the plastic body, and as with other styles of jigging, experiment with jig-head color.
Best baits to use in the fall are 4-inch to 5-inch chubs and shiners. (Use 3-inch to 4-inch ones in spring.)
Snap jigging requires the bait be secure on the hook. Start by putting the point into the minnow’s mouth, then bring it out through the gill and push the minnow all the way up until its mouth is at the jig head. Then insert the hook into its body making certain the minnow is straight. The minnow stays in place, moves straight through the water and many short strikes will not be missed.
Your speed is critical. The key is to convince the fish they’ve got one shot only. For power, use a bow-mounted trolling motor and maintain a course over breaklines at 1 mph. On really windy days, fire up a gasoline-powered kicker and use the trolling motor to steer.
Cast your jig out behind you. At that speed and jig weight, you’ll need a lot of line out to reach bottom, perhaps about 30-feet to 40 feet. The jigging motion should be sharp, almost violent. Snap forward, and then follow the bait back down to the bottom with your rod tip. Watch for line slack to let you know you have reached bottom once again. Then, snap, drop, snap, drop, snap drop.
Fish always take it on the drop. You may not even feel a walleye is on until you start to snap forward again. By that time, it’s hooked.
Cover lots of ground. You are looking for the most aggressive fish in the school. The key is to show bait to as many fish as possible.
Retie jigs every so often to prevent loss of a trophy due to damaged line.
True enough, some days walleyes can be hard to catch, but then again, there’s other days when walleye fishing is a “snap.”
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