The Leisure Outdoor Adventures Guide Team is gearing up for the 2019 Minnesota Walleye Opener. Our team of Leech Lake Fishing Guides will be out in full force next Saturday morning chasing down hungry Leech Lake walleyes. Although we may all run different boats and maybe have fishing different spots on Leech Lake, the one common thing each of us will have is a rod locker full of our favorite fishing rods tied up with jigs of all colors, profiles, and sizes. This is one of our favorite times of year to be on Leech Lake and other surrounding lakes such as Mille Lacs, Winnie, Cass, etc. because all of these lakes have walleyes that are ready to chow on a jig whether it is being snapped, dragged, popped, or swam along.
Why a jig?
For decades, anglers across the country have said if they could have only one lure in their tackle box, it would be the ever-versatile jig. What used to be the standard lead head jig that we all have thousands of in our tackle boxes or stashed away from Canadian trips, have since expanded into so many different shapes and colors of jigs that it can make a person’s head spin.
What they all have in common though is one simple thing and that is the fact that a jig has so many ways it can effectively be fished and yet continually produce results. This versatility, combined with the evolution of the fishing industry, has allowed the angler to have an array of choices in their tackle box. Jigs have diversity in sizes, shapes, and colors and we here at LOA, feel that the jig is something that has to be part of every angler’s arsenal.
With that arsenal of jigs at your fingertips, an angler needs to understand how to apply the concept and presentation of each individual jig to the situation he or she faces on the water. Ask yourself when you get to the landing or look at the weather report the night before you venture to the lake. What is the wind going to be doing? How deep do I think I will be fishing? What kind of minnows might I be using? As you dissect these questions and put together your vision for success, you can begin to identify which jigs will meet your needs for that day.
The Set Up
The first and most important thing is to match your jig with the proper rod, reel, and line. A common set up is a 6’-6’6” Medium Light action rod, partnered with a reel of your choice but something that isn’t big and bulky, one of my favorites is the Abu Garcia Revo Series and 6-8lb mono or braid. Both mono and braid will have advantages, and ultimately it comes down to preference. Mono shines early in the season because of the added stretch, with many anglers choosing to use a high vis line to detect bites when the jig is eaten during its descent, which is by the far the most common strike of a walleye. Braid can provide better hook sets and more sensitivity. Go with what you are comfortable with, but also be prepared to switch things up.
Picking Out the Right Jig
When picking out the “magical” jig, take into consideration the type of bait you will be using. Earlier in the season when shiners or rainbows are the bait of choice using a longer shank jig such as a Northland Long Shank Fireball jig is the ticket because it allows you to hook a larger shiner or rainbow minnow through the gill and back up through the belly and spine of the minnow. This helps your minnow last longer as you jig, fan cast, snap jig, and set the hook into walleye after walleye. Whereas a shorter shank will give your minnow a rolling or even tumbling action at times. One piece of advice if you find yourself using a shorter shank jig with a larger minnow is attaching a stinger hook to help your hooking percentage.
Many anglers are caught up in the rainbow of colors and finishes that jigs come with. Granted color can be a deciding factor, but initially pay closer attention to the profile and weight of the jig vs. the color. It is the fall and cadence of your jigging stroke or motion that is provoking those weary walleyes into biting. Instead, focus on using a lighter jig such as a 1/16th or 1/8th oz jig, which give you a slower descent with the jig, and swimming motion. If you are fishing in a river or current situation, you will adapt to using a heavier jig to keep in contact with the bottom, such as a 3/8ths, 1/2oz, or even 3/4oz.
Lastly, the profile of the jig can also play a role in your success. An intricate detail such as this can be the “golden ticket” on those days where other anglers are struggling and stuck in their comfort zones. It is important that you know your jigs and their motions inside and out because that will dictate your jigging cadence and stroke. Jigs with a vertical or stand up profile will depict a minnow feeding on the bottom as it dances and pops along the bottom. Jigs that have a round head, such as the Northland Fireball Jig or the Marabou Jig will give you more of swimming or leapfrogging action across the water column.
Effectively Using a Jig
Once you have your set up complete, begin utilizing various techniques and methods to your jigging madness, as this will help dictate what the walleyes want on that given day. If you are working a specific piece of structure pitching jigs may be what you need to focus on doing, if you are working large expansive flats such as on Leech Lake, snap jigging is going to be a very effective way to search out active fish. Once you have the fish located, begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together by changing up your jigging cadence to match the moods of the fish. It is important that you create a mental journal of the cadence that is working and continue to hone it in. A great jig angler is a thing of beauty because they have their different cadences dialed in and are willing to change them up at any given moment. If your partner is catching more fish, pay close attention to what jigging stroke he or she is using and then mimic it. If that does not work then look at their line angle, which can simply be adjusted by dropping or raising your rod tip. Also, pay close attention to the time in between your jigging strokes after the jig has made
contact with the bottom, sometimes that extra one, two, or even three seconds as it sits in the sand or weed pocket can be the difference between catching a just a few to put your limits in the live well.
Whenever you are jig fishing, you have to note that casting is going to outproduce the jig fisherman who is dangling the jig over the side of the boat, especially early in the season when fishing shallower structure. Use your casts to determine fish location and movement.
Remember when putting this jig puzzle together it is all about putting all the right ingredients together to create the ultimate recipe for success. So, as you stare at your jig box looking for the perfect jig for this upcoming opener, think about all these factors and begin to put your own puzzle together, because there is nothing more gratifying than that.
Good luck this 2019 Walleye Opener, Be Safe, and GET HOOKED!
A Helpful Tip from Leisure Outdoor Adventures
When cruising shallow flats, you will often times not mark fish on your sonar, instead turn on your side imaging. With Lowrance HDS Series, the sides can allow you to identify schools of fish that are off to the left or right of you giving you a distinct advantage and decreasing your time spent looking for fish.