Try using these 10 steps to master your jigging technique for walleyes. This can mean the difference between catching fish or not!
Step 1: Stay On The Bottom
Lake, river or reservoir, walleyes relating to structure and current spend most of their time on or near the bottom. Choose the right-sized jig to keep your bait down amongst them. Walleyes eat by inhaling the water around their target. A light jig may make it easier to engulf it, but be prepared to adapt. Jigs too light may keep you out of the strike zone entirely. Increase the weight of your jig as depth, wind or current increase. When in doubt, go heavier.
Step 2: Consider The Forage
Although a light jig will often accomplish the primary goal of bottom contact, jigs with a bigger profile might still be the answer if walleyes are keying on larger forage.
Step 3: Use The Right Tool
Jig heads come in several shapes for a reason. Use the right one for the job. Ball-style jigs are the most common. They work well in current or still water for casting and vertical jigging. Jigs where they are aerodynamically shaped are best for pitching in weeds or other snaggy areas. Some even have weed guards, which will deflect debris and keep your jig from hanging up.
Step 4: Change Colors
Jig heads and plastics come in a thousand hues. Yet, we insist on using the same old favorites. Just because something worked yesterday or even this morning doesn’t mean it will work now. Water clarity and light conditions change constantly. Use trial and error until you find a combination that triggers strikes. Keep switching jigs even when you start catching fish. If chartreuse or orange seem to work, try different shades of those colors to fine-tune the presentation and see if a slight variation will entice the biggest fish. If the action stops, change up again. For starters, try brighter colors in stained or dirty water and darker colors for clear water.
Step 5: Vary Live Bait, Too
Minnows are the best choice in the cold water of spring and fall, while leeches are the favored bait in warmer water. Night crawlers work well across the calendar, but don’t be afraid to adjust. There’s been many times during spring floods when walleyes inhale worms and ignore minnows. See what works.
Step 6: Alter Jigging Action
Walleyes will absolutely destroy a jig at times, and at other times, they don’t seem interested at all. Perhaps a cold front has passed through or the wind direction changed. Attract the most-aggressive fish by popping your jig up, then letting it fall back to the bottom. Follow the jig down with the rod tip to keep your line taut in order to maintain control of the jig. Next, try a slow “lift-drop, lift-drop” sequence. Then, try dragging it on the bottom or quiver it slightly.
Step 7: Concentrate
Visualize where your jig is and what it is doing. Use your jig as a tool to gather information. For example, try to feel subtle changes in the bottom. Spots where it changes from hard to soft can be a key area. Intense focus also helps when bites are so light that nothing at all is telegraphed up your line through your rod. A slight movement or “heavy” feel may be all the notice you get. Set the hook at the slightest change.
Step 8: See The Bites
Line watching is critical to detecting subtle bites and determining if your jig is on the bottom. If your line twitches, jumps, or stops before hitting the bottom, set the hook. Try using as light of pound test line as you can get by with. TUF-Line XP braided line works great for rocks and snaggy areas or jigging deep water.
Step 9: Practice Boat Control
Boat control is essential to good jigging. In current, point your bow upstream or into the wind and use short bursts from your electric trolling motor to match your boat speed with the water flow. Keep your line vertical below the boat and watch your rod tip for a slight bow to signal bottom contact. Keep your jig on the critical “spot on a spot.”
Step 10: Fish Fish
The best jigging mechanics won’t do any good if you aren’t fishing where the fish are. Study the map of lake or river section you are targeting to find likely spots using what you know about walleye movements in the calendar period. Once on the water, move from spot to spot using your electronics to find forage fish and likely walleyes before you start to fish. These tips are sure to make you a better walleye angler!
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