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Walleye Jigs A to Z

by Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz

In the game of walleye fishing, two of the most time tested techniques for catching fish are live bait rigging and jigging. Many anglers see these two presentations as being almost interchangeable. It's true, both presentations share a few key aspects like: each incorporates a weight, a hook and bait, each demands a great deal of "feel" to be successful and both methods are great ways to catch fish. However, as you read this description of the use of rigging and jigging in the "real" walleye world, it will become obvious why these two set ups are best utilized under quite different fishing situations.

Rigging Eyes Rigging:
In it's most basic form, the live bait rig involves a sliding sinker on the "main" line, a swivel connected to a leader and a hook baited with a minnow, leech or lively night crawler. It's a presentation that puts the bait in front of a walleye's nose and lets the bait's natural action entice the fish into biting.

This is not a technique for covering water. You must pinpoint the fish in a tight area and hold the bait in position so it can do it's job. Rigging is best used when walleyes become finicky due to a drop in water temperature, or fishing pressure. Under these conditions the fish don't move around much...neither should you...that's why a rig is a good choice for these situations.

Fishing a rig correctly is important too. Spinning tackle is typically the gear of choice. The rig is best fished fairly vertical below the boat with the bail open and the index finger of your "rod" hand holding the line. When you feel a bite, allow a few feet of slack in the line by releasing it from your finger (this lets the fish take the bait without feeling resistance). Move the boat over the fish and start reeling up the slack until you feel the fish on the line and continue reeling to set the hook. The continuous pressure will drive the hooks home, especially when using a no-stretch line such as FireLine. Light line is advantageous in such a "stealth" approach with 4# to 6# test being the most popular sizes.

Leader length can be critical for successful rigging. Typically, the more finicky the fish, the longer you want the leader to be (up to 12 feet in extreme cases). Adjustable leader rigs like Northland Fishing Tackle's Roach Rig are popular among most professional walleye anglers. It utilizes a "slip-knot and bead" sinker stop that's threaded on your line (above the swivel) and allows you to adjust your leader appropriately.

Jigging Eyes Jigging:
Jigging uses a jig tipped with bait or some other attractor. Unlike rigging where natural bait movement provides almost all of the action; jigging requires the angler to impart the action to trigger fish. You can modify the action, add plastic or rattles to the jig--change a lot of things to make jigging more productive.

Jigging is more of a search method that works any time fish are little more active. Cast jigs to probe likely shallow areas, vertically jig in rivers as the current sweeps you along or slow-troll a jig, covering deeper water contours in a lake or reservoir.

Unlike rigging, as soon as you feel a bite when jigging, set the hook immediately. If using no-stretch line such as FireLine, make sure the reel's drag gives a little on the hook set to avoid tearing the jig from the fish's mouth.

Since you're imparting the action to the jig, live bait isn't necessary in many instances. Using artificial trailers, such as a Berkley Power Jig Worm, will add not only action but also scent to the presentation. Artificials stay on the hook better in snaggy areas or when using an aggressive jigging motion.

Gear up for Rigging and Jigging:
As stated earlier, both rigging and jigging demand a good deal of "feel" in the presentation. The better you can identify what's happening on the business end of your line, the more fish you'll catch. Sensitive rods are critical. Most walleye fishermen opt for spinning tackle for both rigging and jigging applications.

For rigging, a 6 1/2 to 7 foot rod with medium light action is preferred. The softer action lets the rod give a little bit when a fish first gets the bait in his mouth, and aids in fighting the fish on the typically light line used for rigging. A high quality, sensitive rod also lets you feel the walking sinker bouncing along the bottom and detect bites immediately.

For jigging, a 5 1/2 to 6 foot spinning rod with a medium action gets the nod. Its slightly heavier action adds sensitivity, but again keep in mind, if you use no-stretch line, a rod with a softer tip section will help act as a shock absorber in hook setting and fighting fish.

Use the Right Equipment:
Bass Pro Shops and the Walleye Angler catalogs are great sources for all the gear you'll need to be a successful Rigger and Jigger.

Check out the Walleye Angler Signature Series Rods designed by Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz. For live bait rigging, the top choice would have to be the model #WS66RS, a sensitive 6 1/2 foot spinning rod made of IM-6 graphite. It's a good rod at a very attractive price.

For jigging, you won't find a better rod than the model #WS60MLJS. It's 6', IM-8 blank rivals rods costing twice as much, and the medium light action is actually perfect for fishing with no-stretch lines, yet it has great backbone for fighting and landing fish.

Light line is critical to walleye rigging and jigging presentations. Whether you like the no-stretch sensitivity of FireLine, or the time tested dependability of a mono like Berkley Trilene Premium Strength, 4# to 6# test are, hands down, the choice of the pros to get the job done.

Northland Tackle's Roach Rig is the industries most versatile slip-sinker live bait rig. Coupled with a dependable Mustad Utra Point, Ultra Grip bait hook, it's an unbeatable combination.

Northland offers the best in jig choices too, with the Buck-Shot Rattle Jig heading the list. Don't overlook the other Northland jigs however. The FireBall and the Whistler Jig are both lures you don't want to be caught on the water without.

Summary:
Rigging and jigging share many similarities in theory, but each has it's own best situation when it comes to catching walleyes. Understand that we have only scratched the surface in explaining these techniques, but as you learn when to rig and when to jig, you'll soon see why both are top walleye presentations in their own right.

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