Jig Fishing Tips

February 23, 2009 by  

By Lindy Fishing Tackle


Chris Hustad with a Devils Lake spring walleye off a jig

Chris Hustad with a Devils Lake spring walleye off a jig

The leadhead jig is probably the most universal of artificial lures. Originally used for saltwater species, the jigging method became a freshwater angling “revolution” in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Anglers soon discovered that jigs take all inland sport fish, especially walleyes, crappies, and bass. Even with today’s assortment of baits and lures, most fishing pros acknowledge that if they were limited to one fishing lure, their choice would be a jig!

Jig fishing is a genuine sport. Jigs are light tackle baits and produce best when teamed with spinning or spincast equipment and light monofilament line. Jigging requires a special personal touch because a jig’s action depends largely on the angler’s style of working it. YOU provide a jig’s action by moving your rod tip to bounce, hop or swim a jig. Your retrieve can be fast or slow, smooth or erratic, near the surface or along the bottom.

For most fishing, you will work the jig along the bottom. When casting for walleyes, bass, or other fish near bottom, employ your own variations of the “lift and drop” retrieve. Begin by allowing the jig to settle to the bottom. Then lift your rod tip to pull the jig off bottom. As you wind in, alternately pull the jig off bottom and drop it back. Sometimes long sweeping strokes of the rod produce best. But more often, shorter jerks and small twitches entice the most fish. When this jigging action fails, try a straight retrieve.

Jigging lends itself well to slow drifting and trolling. Let out enough line so that the jig regularly hits bottom. To check for bottom, watch for slack line to develop when you quickly drop your rod tip toward the jig. The amount of line you pay out is determined by depth of the water, weight of the jig, and the speed of your boat. Work the jig as you would when casting, but without winding in.

Aside from the action you give it, a jig’s effectiveness depends on its design and appearance. Shape, weight, tail texture, color, eye placement, and even hook size and style make a difference in how the jig rides through the water and how it appeals to the fish.

More Jig Fishing Tips:

–> Size is an important consideration in selecting the right jig. The 1/4oz. jig size is a good all-around weight for walleyes and bass. Be flexible, however, and choose a jig size according to conditions. Brisk winds, deep water and long-distance casting require heavier jig sizes. Use the lighter jigs, 1/8oz. and lighter, when fish are shallow, and when they exhibit a “touchy” mood.

–> Jigs often work best on walleyes in spring and fall when these fish concentrate in water less than 12 feet deep. But, persistent jig fishermen catch walleyes all year, sometimes anchoring or slowly backtrolling over the deeper structure, and working the jigs in combination with minnows and nightcrawlers.

–> Fish consistently hit jigs on the drop. The alert angler can detect these hard-to-notice strikes by closely watching the line for the slightest change in behavior. You might detect a telltale twitch or “knock” on the line. Or, the line may move off to one side, or even stop, before the jig hits bottom. If you suspect that your jig has dropped into a fish’s mouth, set the hook immediately!

–> Heavy or stiff line retards a jig’s action. Use light and limp monofilament line tied directly to your jig, avoiding all “hardware” like swivels, snaps, and leaders. When more weight is needed, opt for a heavier jig instead of ruining your presentation with sinkers. A good practice is to vary line test with jig weights–the lighter the jig, the lighter the line. Here’s a line guide that’s pretty reliable:

Jig Size Line Size
1/16oz 4 lb
1/8 to 1/4 oz 6-8 lb
3/8 oz – larger 8-10 lb

–> Be flexible, however. Certain conditions such as thick cover require the use of heavier line. In other situations, you’ll find best results by going ultra-light, especially when fish are stubborn or spooky.

–> When tipping jigs, watch for differences in appetite between the larger game species and panfish. More often than not, panfish go for presentations which emphasize the jig, with only a tidbit of bait. On the other hand, larger fish like the “meat”: less jig, more bait. That might translate into a small piece of nightcrawler barely covering the tip of the hook for bluegills and crappies, but six inches of whole nightcrawler dwarfing the jig for bass and walleyes.

Eric Hustad releasing a nice spring walleye using a 1/8 oz. Max Gap Jig

Eric Hustad releasing a nice spring walleye using a 1/8 oz. Max Gap Jig

–> Strikes and obstructions frequently ruffle a jig’s tail. When this happens, the jig pulls clumsily through the water. Make sure your jig is “balanced” by arranging an equal amount of tail material on each side of the hook.

–> Snagging is costly in terms of fishing time and tackle. That’s why jigging over rocks demands special attention. The next time you or your jigging partner hollers “SNA–AA-AA-G” too darn often, remember this: Keep your jig active and moving over rocks. A jig that is lazily dragged along the bottom inevitably tumbles into a crevice.

–> Jigs are made to order for walleye fishing in rivers. Cast jigs into active water below dams, rock piles and other obstructions. Sand and gravel bars at the mouths of feeder streams are also good jigging bets. Some river specialists cast upstream and retrieve at cross angles to the current, letting the water carry the jig downstream during the retrieve. This “wind-in” covers lots of water while the jig simulates natural food being washed downstream.

–> Others cast downstream and slowly retrieve the jig back against the current. When current is strong enough, it’s possible to work the jig in one spot without retrieving line. This approach enables you to hound a hot spot. Your bait stays in the water more with less casting.

–> River walleye hug the borders between fast turbulent water and the more quiet eddies. Use heavy jigs to reach bottom in swift current. Corner night-feeding walleyes in 4 to 8 feet of water on rock reefs, sand bars, or in channels and you’ve got a ripe situation for 1/8oz. jig-and-minnows. Cast this jig-minnow combo and let it settle to the bottom. Follow up with a steady retrieve, holding the bait above the bottom. Experiment with retrieve speeds and jig color. Sometimes the darker colors like black or green pay off at night.

–> Jigs can be tremendous on schooling fish. One method is to cast individual 1/8 and 1/4oz. jigs into the school. For larger fish, toss a single 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2oz. jig beyond the school. Let it sink and then swim it back with little action, just underneath the main school where the larger fish feed on crippled bait 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. Along the way , stop at more than one bait shop for the latest word on where the bigger schools are located and for an idea of what presentations others are using. Ask questions at the ramp. 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. Jigging is one of the key fundamental presentations to master.

Article provided by Lindy.


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