Recently I was presented with a very extreme fishing situation. In August, I was fishing on Lake Vermillion, MN; a lake that has been overtaken with rusty crawfish. These things were everywhere; so much so that I would actually have them clamping onto my lures. When doing a quick swing through shallow water, countless craws could be spotted scurrying all directions! Just about the only thing the smallies would cough up were crawfish. All of these observations made it very clear that an All-Terrain Football jig was going to be one of my primary lure choices. It is one of the best crawfish imitators available to fishermen.
But not so fast, there is a snafu – the ancient, pre-cambrian rock. You see, the rocks of Lake Vermillion (and other Canadian Shield type lakes) grab and snag lures far worse than any other rock substrate that I have ever faced. Table Rock, MO is not even close. Nor is Lake Lanier, GA, Lake Travis, TX, Lake Cumberland, KY, or anywhere. The rocks in shield lakes, without any doubt, eat up more sinkers, jigheads, jigs, and crankbaits than anywhere else.
So can you see the challenge? I wanted to fish an All-Terrain Football jig on the bottom, because of its crawfish mimicry, in a lake that wanted to empty my tackle box of all jigs. But I was determined to make it work and found ways to get it done. Here is what worked:
- Bring bunches of jigs, skirts, and jig-trailers. There will be casualties. The crawfish live on the bottom and that is where the jig needs to be too. So unfortunately it will get snagged (but not as much) even when following my suggestions.
- Use lighter-weight sizes. As a general rule, choose a weight lighter than what you normally would choose for a given depth. I like using All-Terrain’s 3/8-ounce football jig in these rocks, it is the lightest one they make. Heavier jigs seem to find their way into more cracks and grooves amongst the rocks. All-Terrains ¼-ounce Finesse jig is also a good choice, especially for the super shallow rocks. It is not a football jig, but still can be fished like one. If I find myself searching depths of 15 feet or more, then I may switch to a ½ ounce only out of necessity.
- No dragging! Hop the jig instead. There are so many situations where I am a big fan of simply dragging a jig along the bottom. However, the rocks in Canadian Shield lakes will not allow it! Snags will increase by 10X if you drag. Instead, hop the jig to move it forward.
- Retrieve downhill. No matter what type of rock, positioning the boat deep and casting shallower results in less snags than doing the opposite.
- Keep the rod tip high. I’m not sure why, but maintaining the most vertical line angle possible helps. This leads us to the next one.
- Use short casts only. Again, because a more vertical line angle snags less. Also, if you do get snagged, it’s a shorter distance to maneuver the boat when trying to unsnag it.
- Learn to unsnag jigs. When a jig snags, reposition the boat such that the jig can be pulled from the opposite direction. Don’t merely reposition directly overhead. Save the forceful pulling only once you have acquired an opposite positioning with the boat. If you bear down on it from your initial casting position, the jig will only wedge tighter into the rocks (most of the time).
- Carry a lure retriever. This is a last ditch effort. If I can’t dislodge the jig with a strong pull from the opposite direction, then I position directly over the jig and use a lure retriever. Believe it or not, it does work about 25% of the time.
- Limit the jiggers in your boat. If you have multiple people fishing jigs on the bottom, the snags may become too frustrating and overwhelming, severely cutting into efficiency. When fishing with others in the boat, I suggest having only the person on the trolling motor using a jig on the bottom. The person on the trolling motor can best position the boat for jigging and unsnagging. Plus when a fish appears on the graph, that person has a lure to quickly drop down to it. Others in the boat will have to incorporate some other technique.
Using the All-Terrain Football jig at Lake Vermillion proved to work very well! I caught many smallmouth from rock reefs both in practice and in the tournament I fished, helping me place 2nd (I caught some using a different pattern as well). Sure, I did lose some jigs to the rocks, but far fewer thanks to the tips written here.