Vertical Jigging Rivers Part One and Two
By Turk Gierke
Jigs have caught more walleye and sauger than any other lure, hook, or plug – you name it, any presentation – river walleyes are caught on jigs. Jigging is best when walleye are in tight concentrations especially walleye that are relating to specific areas. Jigs produce either cast or vertically jigged.
How to. A jig can cover ground in ways no other lure can, either fast through the water or in a barely moving snail fashion – and can be cheap on the pocket book.
River jigging for walleyes is best accomplished with one rule in mind; walleye in rivers stay tighter to the bottom as the current increases. Hard to believe, a friction is created between the flowing water and the river bottom, and a plane of reduced flow is created. Reduced flow translates into energy conservation for the fish. Jigging much higher than 9 inches off the bottom in moderate or faster current is not a good idea.
Touch is one way to tell if the jig is on the bottom, as the lure touches and then rests on the bottom the rod tip becomes lighter as less weight is being held, but sight may be used as well. If there is a bow or sag in the line, the jig is resting on the bottom and not keeping the line tight. Naturally a cast jig will fall through the water until reaching bottom, as the lure is falling the line moves with the lure, when the line stops moving the lure is on the bottom.
Knowing where the bottom is, is key, but while vertical jigging dragging the jig on the bottom is not wanted, usually a jig “hover” followed by a lift and a drop back to the hover zone excels at catching fish. Cast jigs are often reeled slowly just above the bottom, or can be dragged when fishing a shallow sand area.
After detecting a perceived bite on the jig, there is no guessing game on how long to feed line, unlike rigging live bait, when jigging immediately set the hook on any tap, bump, or hard hit. While vertical jig fishing the pole tip should be held near the water, but once the hook is set (moderately fast) the rod should be pointing towards the two o’ clock position.
Another rule when jigging is to employ as light a jig as possible to stay near the bottom. Anglers commonly use a range in weights from 1/16th to 5/8th ounces with 1/8th and 3/8ths ounce weights being the most common.
Slowly hop or hover a jig just a few inches off of the bottom, right past that walleye nose – deadly. Sounds easy on paper, newcomers will likely lose many jigs before catching a fish, many veterans claim to never lose equipment and that just means they aren’t pushing it. It has been said that when a skier stops falling they aren’t pushing it anymore and simply staying in their comfort zone. At times you need to say I don’t care about this lure and fish it aggressively. An angler should question and chose whether they would rather waist time and money retying lures or play it safe but catch less fish, a tough choice.
To cast or drift, depends on the walleye location, usually a shallow holding eye needs a cast presentation and a deep holding fish is best angled for vertically.
Locations. Naturally the biggest factor in catching any specie of fish is putting the lure near its snout. An angler can be fishing a sharp hooked, yellow eyed black colored 1/4 ounce jig, tipped with a lively quivering fathead minnow and ever so lightly hover it down the face of a rock shoreline, but if there are no fish home, naturally there will not be a finned friend on the hook.
River walleye relate to current breaks – rocks, points, sand dunes, sunken wood, pilings, bottom depth changes. Walleye then essentially “draft” behind these current obstructions as participants draft in racing events. A current break does not have to be visible like a bridge pillar, the best current breaks are more difficult to detect.
One such break is created where the natural flow of the river leaves the shoreline and moves into midstream, creating a point. These points have a shallow flat area between the midstream faster moving water and the shoreline. The depth change, or breakline of the point from the faster moving water area (which is deeper) to the shallow flats finds reduced flow, and this breakline is key eye hangout.
Another solid current break is a fast water and slow water interface or “seam”. All fish use this type of area, and the walleye can get good gas mileage while feeding near the fast moving water or on baitfish that are also feeding in the edges of the slack water.
Jigging’s trick. “When you find one, you’ll find more!” Knowing where a caught fish came from and being able to duplicate the same boat approach or cast is jigging’s trick. Often times fish are caught from small patches, and can be easily missed by being ten feet right or left of the spot. Understanding the rivers composition of bottom depth, bottom content – sand, gravel, muck, rock, – and overall flow in certain areas are the ingredients to the recipe.
Year after year, during any season, especially early spring and times when the water level rises, there just lying behind a rock, tucked near a breakline, are walleyes feeding and growing fat. Jigging is a time-honored presentation to catch those fish. Keep cathcin’