How to Jig for Walleye
Arguably one of the most popular techniques jigging for walleye is also one of the most versatile.
Walleye jigging can be done year round even in the summer heat when walleyes retreat to deeper waters.
But the term jigging is so much more than just vertical jigging as this is what most anglers will think off once you mention a jig.
- Vertical – the most basic technique, drop your jig to the right depth and start jigging.
- Dragging – dragging a jig involves pulling it along a specific structure from a moving boat when walleye are holding right on the bottom, works quite well in large rivers.
- Drifting – from a moving boat lower the jig to the correct depth and allow the boat to move either with the wind or occasionally with the help of a trolling motor.
- Bottom Hopping – cast your jig out allow it to hit bottom and then jig it up off of the bottom allowing it to fall back down, repeat until it is back in close to you.
Of course when winter comes and the ice has formed a safe enough thickness ice fishing with a jig really comes into it’s own.
In this scenario a jig head topped with some kind of bait light a worm, leech or minnow and fished very slowly really produces big fish as walleye will be less prone to chasing a fast moving jig.
Jigging for Walleye
Jigging for walleye involves lowering a jig head with either a soft plastic body or tipped with bait down to the depth where walleye are holding and then adding some life into the jig by twitching the rod tip.
There is a huge selection of walleye jigs available and each jig head will have a specific use.
Sounds extremely simple but it’s easy to get wrong!
The first step is to locate the fish at the right depth. Local knowledge trumps all so if you are fishing a new water try to ask around and see where they are likely to be holding depending on the time of year and where about they are in their spawning season.
A fish finder is one of the most important piece of walleye tackle that you can have on any boat.
And learning how to read it is crucial to both find the fish and understanding the types of structures and bottom below you.
1. Vertical Walleye Jigging
Vertical jigging for walleye is probably the most simplest form of fishing that you can do.
Locate the fish and their depth and then lower your jig down to them.
Life is added to the jig by twitching your rod tip vertically.
The classic round head jig is the go to choice for this presentation as it usually has a 90 degree tie in point that allows it to hang horizontally in the water.
It’s usually all too tempting to just drop your jig directly down onto them.
I’ve found better hook up rates by making short casts to about a yard beyond the edge of the pod and either dragging or bottom hopping the jig back towards the boat and the pod of walleyes if they are holding on or near the bottom.
This gives the jig a more natural horizontal element to it’s movement instead of just straight up straight down.
If they are holding at a mid-height depth then you just jig back into the pod allowing your jig to fall in a very controlled manner.
Never allow your line to go slack by dropping your rod tip too quickly.
Instead jerk it upwards quickly while then slowly and in a controlled manner lowering the jig back down.
Keeping some tension in your line allows you to sense a bite, you will more often than not get that bite as the jig is falling so it is important to have feedback coming through the rod tip from the line at all times.
Dragging a jig for walleye involves casting out your jig and allowing it to sink to the bottom.
Then using a slow lift of the rod tip pull the jig vertically and then allow it to fall back down.
The action is much slower than bottom bouncing which is described below.
Dragging a jig means not allowing too much vertical height to be gained, rather more horizontal distance with each jig.
Dragging has one major drawback in that you will get snagged up a lot more often as the hook is being constantly pulled across the bottom.
It is very good however when walleye are holding just off of the bottom and are not keen to chase a normal walleye lure or fast moving jig.
The above is how to drag on a lake where you are targeting walleye in a very specific area.
On a river you can drag by drifting it slowly downstream which is essentially back trolling with a jig in fast moving currents or to troll up stream at a very slow speed in very light currents.
The jig is normally at least 30 feet out behind the boat and you need to maintain a speed and jig head weight that allows the jigs to slowly move across the bottom or no more than a foot off of the bottom.
You can do this allow gravel lines and specific contours that run in the direction of the flow of the river.
3. Bottom Hopping
Bottom hopping a jig involves casting the jig out and allowing it to touch the bottom. You will know it has touches as your line will start to bow.
Once on the bottom use a short sharp lift of the rod tip and then allow the jig to hit bottom. After it falls you will have to reel in a small bit of line as the jig will start to move towards you with every lift of the rod.
When bottom hopping there are usually two mistakes that are commonly made.
The first is to lift your rod way to high up to an almost vertical position. This high a lift will result in the jig rising as much as 6 feet upwards and then dropping down from this height again.
The second is to lift your rod too slowly so that you basically end up dragging the jig along the bottom.
The solution to both of these issues is to use a shorter snappier lift of only one or two feet.
This shorter lift keeps the jig no more than a foot or so off of the bottom allowing the walleye to really home in on it.
Minnows and leeches work great as a bait when bottom hopping.
Walleye Jigging Tackle
Jigging is most definitely a light line technique and it requires the correct gear to really excel at it.
A good walleye jig setup will need a light spinning rod and reel and a low stretch line such as braid or fluorocarbon for the main line.
Monofilament is not a good choice as it has a certain amount of in built stretch to it. You do not want any stretch in your system as you will loose feedback and sensitivity and you will also slow down your hook-set.
Both braid and fluoro have a lot less stretch in them than mono. If you are using braid as a main line then use a six foot length of fluoro as your leader, jigging is a light presentation technique and braid is just too visible to run straight to the jig head.
A 6 ‘ or 6’6″ spinning rod with a medium/light power rating and a fast action is the correct choice as a walleye jigging rod.
If is crucial that you have a rod with a fast action.
A moderate action rod starts to bend in the middle portion of the rod blank making it less sensitive at the tip.
A fast action rod will start to form it’s natural bend in the top one third of the rod towards the tip.
This makes for much better feedback from the rod and allows you to put a lot more precise jigging action into your jigs.
A fast action will also allow you to set the hook much quicker than a moderate action.
A size 2500 walleye reel is just right to balance out the rod above. A high quality reel should be seen as an investment and if looked after will last many years of service, rods on the other hand can and do break more easily.