|Some lures like this Odd Ball jig are tailor made for walleye fishing.|
It’s hard to beat the subtle but distinctive feeling of a walleye slurping up a jig danced near bottom. Once an angler has mastered the art of casting jigs and detecting those not so obvious bites, most other fishing presentations pale by comparison.
To say I’ve had a little experience casting jigs for walleye would be an understatement. About 40 years ago I caught my first walleye on a jig and since that moment I’ve had a passion for refining a presentation that is my personal favorite way to catch fish. Casting jigs for walleye is appealing for a number of reasons, but mostly what makes this presentation special is it pits man against fish. The only way to win this match up consistently is to master the subtle, but critical skills associated with jig casting.
THE RIGHT MIND SET
When teaching others the finer points of jig casting, I start by helping them get the right mind set. Jig casting requires concentration and considerable practice to master. This is not a fishing presentation for those who are more interested in relaxing and drowning minnows than fishing!
I try to imagine where my jig is and what it is doing from the instant I cast until that jig is dangling a few inches from my rod tip ready for the next cast. This visualization helps keep my reaction time sharp and helps to avoid those surprise bites that ultimately end up in missed fish.
The whole process of casting jigs is about keeping the bait moving enticingly and near bottom. The way I accomplish this is by making a long cast and letting the jig sink to bottom on a slack line with the reel bail open. This simple start to the presentation insures that the jig covers the maximum amount of real estate. If the reel bail is closed when the jig hits the water, the jig will pendulum towards the boat as it sinks, cutting off precious water from every cast.
When the jig hits bottom, it’s easy to tell because the line will simply collapse on the surface. At this point I point my rod tip directly at the jig and with the rod at about the 10 o’clock position, I slowly reel up the slack line until I can feel the weight of the jig in the rod tip.
At this crucial instant, I raise the rod tip using my wrist from the 10 o’clock position to about the 11 o’clock position. In doing so the jig is popped off bottom and then allowed to pendulum towards me, eventually making contact with the bottom.
The second the jig hits bottom the line once again collapses on the surface. I then lower the rod tip back to the 10 o’clock position reel up the slack line and repeat raising the rod to the 11 o’clock position. This simple process moves the jig a few feet each time and is repeated over and over again until the jig has been completely retrieved back to the boat.
When I tell guests at seminars that this is how I cast jigs for walleye, many are amazed at how simple the process actually is. The mechanics of casting jigs is simple, what gets more complicated is understanding what’s going on while this whole process is being performed.
IT’S A SHALLOW GAME
Jig casting is a presentation that shines best when walleye are found in shallow water, usually 10 feet deep or less. This is precisely why it is important to cast the jig rather than to try and fish vertical below the boat or to drag jigs over top of fish. Casting reaches out and makes contact with fish before the fish can detect the presence of the angler and get spooked.
The jig casting game is almost always played in shallow water and sometimes very shallow water. In fisheries where there is some color to the water, it’s not uncommon for walleye to be found feeding in two feet of water or less. Stained water allows walleye to slip into the shallows undetected and forage at will on a variety of baitfish species.
Rods and reels suitable for jig casting need to be lightweight, highly sensitive and of suitable length to pick up slack line. In recent years I’ve been using the Okuma Dead Eye series of rods designed with walleye fishing in mind. The seven foot spinning, one piece medium/light action model is my favorite for pitching jigs from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce in size.
I prefer to match this rod with a 25 series Epixor or Dead Eye series spinning reel. On the reel I load 10 pound test Vicious Braid that has a two pound test diameter. To the braid I add a three foot leader of eight pound test Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon line that is tied directly to the jig.
I prefer not to tie the braid directly to the jig for a couple of reasons. First off, braid doesn’t hold common knots as well as fluorocarbon or monofilament.
Secondly, in order to thread braided line into the eye tie of the jig, the line must be first cut with a sharp scissors. It’s less time consuming to retie jigs on the fluorocarbon leader than a main line of super braid.
THE JIG IS ALSO CRITICAL
A jig ideally suited for casting applications must have some specific characteristics. The most important of these is a stand-up style head that keeps the hook point aligned upright when the jig comes to a rest on the bottom. Round head jigs and other jighead styles that allow the jig to tip over when it hits bottom are useless for casting applications.
About half of the bite when casting a jig come seconds after the jig has hit the bottom and stirred up a little puff of sediment. A walleye will rush in, flare it’s gills and literally suck the jig right up off the bottom. A jig that has fallen over will end up in the walleye’s mouth, but the hook point may or may not be pointed in the right direction to deliver a good hook set once the angler detects the bite and sets the hook.
Stand-up style jigs are superior because the hook point is always upright and in perfect position for a hook set in the roof of the fish’s mouth. Of the stand-up jig styles on the market, I favor a three models, all of which are produced by Bait Rigs Tackle.
My top choice for most jig casting applications is the Odd Ball. This modified round head style jig stands up at about a 45 degree angle when it hits the bottom every time. This style of jig can be fished with live bait, soft plastics or a combination of both.
|The author has been using and recommending|
Bait Rigs jigs for walleye fishing for over 20 years.
No one makes a better assortment of jigs designed
for fishing both live bait and soft plastics.
The third jig I often use for casting applications is a new version of the Slo-Poke called the Slo-Poke Long Shank. The semi stand-up head helps keep the hook point properly positioned and the long shank hook is ideal for fishing with larger soft plastics including action tail grubs, shad bodies and other minnow imitators.
SUMMING IT UP
Jig casting is about understanding the dynamics of the presentation and matching that up with gear suitable for the job. It takes concentration and focus to become a good jig caster, but the most important variable is desire. Any angler with the desire to master this presentation can do so assuming they are willing to put in some quality time on the water.