Lake Erie Walleye Online Magazine
The Complete Fishing Scene on Lake Erie      Shop Online for Spoons, Maps,
and ...more

Walleye Magazine | Fishing Reports & Message Boards | Charters  | Lodging | Marinas | Boats for Sale
 Walleye Braggin' Board   Current  Lake Conditions    Advertising                 

Boats For Sale!
Sell Your Boat


               Spring 2005 Issue

Scorpion Stinger Spoons

Lake Erie Fishing Maps

The Official
Lake Erie Walleye
Fishing Hat



The Jig Is Up
by Mark Martin

If you want to improve or expand your jigging capabilities, try these tricks from maestro Mark Martin.

Jigging, I'm afraid, is one of the least understood methods for catching walleyes. Certainly it's the topic I'm asked about most at seminars and at the launch ramp. In spring and early summer, though, it's perhaps the most effective technique for catching walleyes in rivers and lakes anywhere in the walleye belt. That's why it's time for a refresher course in vertical jigging and for a quick course in Walleye Fishing 201 (that is, fishing with soft plastics). Whether you're trying to refine technique or to take it to a new level, stay in the vertical plane and experiment with plastics to go places you've never gone before.

 I want to learn how to vertical jig better on rivers? Help! Don't worry, you will get better. That happens when you pay attention to details of tackle, jigs and boat control. Altogether, the three ingredients unite with a recipe for success.

For starters, you want a short rod for vertical jigging, nothing longer than a six-footer. The reason is that a short rod gives you control over the jig and helps keep the jigging motion to a minimum. (Go longer, say a 6-foot, 6-inch or 7-foot rod, and you're going to lift and drop the jig with way too much oomph.) The most common mistake I see from other river anglers is jigging the jig far too much. I try to keep my jigging motion less than six inches, better yet if the jig is dead still or moving less than two to three inches from bottom. That's far easier with a six-foot Berkley Series One spinning rod, which is light and sensitive to help detect light strikes. It's also easier if you concentrate, a key component to vertical jigging. Concentrate hard enough instead of jawing with your buddy, and you will no longer snap a jig a foot off the bottom you'll keep it close to bottom and in the zone. Berkley FireLine also is going to help you maintain contact with the jig. There's no stretch in FireLine, which provides excellent sensitivity. But be sure to use light FireLine; and try it, too, Flame (bright yellow). Don't go over 8-pound FireLine, which has the same diameter as 3-pound monofilament. My favorite is 6-pound. The thin diameter helps cut current and improve your connection with the jig. The Flame line, meanwhile, lets you easily see the angle of the jig and direction of the line.

For the jigs themselves, start with the heaviest, not the lightest, jig you can get away with. That idea runs counter to prevailing wisdom, but when you're learning, you don't want to go too light. Otherwise, you're line will go off at an angle and you'll no longer be fishing vertically, the whole idea in the first place. With a heavy jig, maybe as big as 1/2- to 3/4-ounce, you're going to stay vertical. Pick up a selection of Northland FireBalls in a variety of sizes, including the monstrous ones if you're fishing serious current. They're just what you need for fishing a jig and minnow on the river. Often, I soften the package with a piece of Berkley PowerBait, which also provides bulk and visibility in the dark water common to rivers.

Now comes the final ingredient your boat control. Vertical means vertical. When you're on the bowmount trolling motor in a river, you want to chase your line to keep it vertical. That means when your line starts getting off on an angle and away from vertical, you want to give the motor a burst in that direction to return the line to vertical. With a burst of power, you can now chase after the line with the boat. Of course the current is going to be moving downriver, but the wind is another factor to consider. Whichever way it's blowing, put the bow of the boat into the wind to let you control the boat and push it in whatever direction is necessary to keep the jig vertical.

What about a bite? Well, it goes back to the concentration. Sometimes river walleyes will pop a bait, and you'll feel the "tick." Other times they'll just hang on and you'll feel the slightest weight. Or they'll even rise up with it and your line will go slack. Whichever it is, set the hook. Beyond all that, don't forget to practice vertical jigging just another great excuse to go fishing.

Do soft plastics really work for catching walleyes on jigs? I'm doubtful. Walleyes love bait, don't they? You bet walleyes love live bait. They also love plastics under the right conditions, which I'm finding is more often than not.

One situation is in rivers, where walleyes scoop up whatever seems edible that is drifting down their way. A favorite offering I learned about on the Detroit River is strange but true. On a long-shank jighead, I thread a Berkley Power Minnow up the hook. Then I tip the jig with an inch or two of plastic work, such as a Power Crawler, as if it were live bait. You jig it as you would bait, working it vertically, keeping it within a few inches of bottom. But in current, the twin tails flap every which way. I also like the way the tails provide size and bulk, it's like fishing a crankbait-sized profile, only much slower. The rig also excels on lakes when the wind is ripping and boat control is difficult.

Over the last few years, I've started snap-jigging plastic worms and Power Minnows where I might otherwise have fished bait. One excellent worm is a four-inch Power Worm in pumpkin and chartreuse. It's pretty much a bass bait, but it really catches walleyes. Another favorite is a three-inch Power Minnow. If I'd normally fish a spot with bait and a 1/8th-ounce jighead, I'd probably use a 1/4-ounce with plastic.

Here's how I do it: I cast out, let the jig sink to bottom and tighten up the line. Then I snap the jig from 9 o'clock to 11 o'clock and let fall on a semi-slack line. (Again, FireLine helps for sensitivity.) When it hits bottom, repeat. Work the jig all the way back to the boat, and when it's under the boat, jig it a few more times to attract a walleye that might have been following.

The most important lesson I can give is to make sure the jig hits bottom after every time you snap it. Too many people will have the jig reach the boat six inches under the surface. That's nowhere near bottom. You have to have the patience and timing to let the jig hit bottom between aggressive snaps. When you do, you'll either feel the walleye inhale the jig on the drop or set the hook when you go to snap it again.

Plastic is not an easy aversion to overcome. It's far easier to depend on crawlers, leeches and minnows on a jig. And there's nothing wrong with that. Plastics, however, are a great way to search more quickly for fish and to trigger neutral walleyes that aren't quite in the mood. When plastic bursts past them, that's often the trick to get them to go. Try it. I guarantee you'll like it.