Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The jig -- world's most versatile lure

jigging for walleyesNo other lure has the ability to be fished in so many ways as the leadhead jig also simply called "the jig" since many of these are made of more environmentally friendly materials than lead these days.
This lure will catch every species of fish in Red Lake, Ontario, and perhaps, the world.
It is inexpensive and effective and its simplicity allows its user to add his or her individual touch.
Walleye anglers love it because by its very nature it allows you to stay in contact with the bottom and that is exactly where the walleyes are.
When walleye fishing with jigs you want to tie your line directly to the jig. Steel leaders "spook" walleyes except in really weedy conditions where you can do fine using an ultrathin 5-6-inch 12-pound leader such as those sold by South Bend and RedWolf. This leader prevents most "bite-offs" by northern pike with their mouths of diamond-shaped teeth. Walleyes, of course, have sharp teeth too but they're like ice-picks, not razors like pike and they cannot cut your line.
For walleyes the 1/8 and the 1/4-ounce jigs are perfect. Use the smaller jig in very calm and shallow conditions, the heavier one in wind and water 8 feet or deeper.
Most people skewer a single-tail plastic twister tail on the jigs. The tail allows you to easily vary the color to the conditions and gives the jig a lot of attention-notice as it flutters and wiggles. The 1/8-ounce jig works well with a 2-2.5 inch tail and the 1/4-ouncer works best with a 3-3.5-inch tail. These tails come in infinite colors and some with metal flakes and hologram designs. For walleyes some of the favorite colors are: white, yellow, orange, black, blue and green.
Most walleye anglers also put a leech or a piece of worm on the jig hook as well. You can also use a minnow.
In weedy conditions, you can do very well without live bait. It would seem the walleyes just can't see the jig clearly in these areas. They detect the movement of it and attack where out in the open their incredible eyes seem to determine the jig is not really something to eat at all, unless there is actually something to eat on the hook.
There are two main ways to fish with the jig. The first is to cast out, let the jig sink to the bottom and slowly "hop" the jig back to the boat by alternately moving your rod at right angles to the line to move the jig, moving the rod back to create slack while simultaneously reeling up the slack, then repeating. There is a knack to this. You want to move the jig with the rod, not the reel. This prevents you from becoming snagged. In other words, you want to abruptly lift the jig where it is resting on the bottom rather than dragging it across the bottom. The speed with which you do this is determined by watching the slack in your line. It works like this: 1. You swing your rod at right angles to the direction of the line (sideways) a couple of feet 2. You move your rod back toward the jig allowing it to fall to the bottom at the same time reeling up the slack 3. As soon as you notice your line is not moving backward because the jig has hit bottom you move your rod forward again.
It's important to keep your rod at right angles to the line direction because this allows you to feel the fish on the jig the instant you start to sweep your rod forward on the jig. Fish invariably don't strike the jig but rather just pick it up as it is falling. When you sweep forward the sensation is that there is just some extra weight to the line. That's your opportunity to set the hook.
When fishing without bait walleyes will pick up and drop the jig in about half a second. You need to be lightning fast on the hook set or they're gone. They hold on longer when using bait.
You can do the same rhythmic rising and falling of the jig by letting the wind move your boat rather than your reeling in the line. In this instance you move your rod making the jig rise, move the rod back letting it fall and the boat's drift tightens the line again ready for you to start the process all over.
You can also jig straight up and down in what is known as vertical jigging.
A downside to jigging is it can twist your line. Each time you let the jig fall to the bottom it does a loop which eventually causes your line to develop twists up at the rod. To prevent this tie a small swivel a foot or two ahead of your jig.
When walleyes are not aggressive such as when a major cold front has just passed, you might find the best way to fish with the jig is just to let it rest on the bottom. Watch your slack line to signal when a fish has picked up the jig and its live bait.
Northern pike also love jigs. The same 1/4-ounce jig used for walleyes will catch pike but they seem to prefer a slightly longer twister tail 3.5-4 inches. Pike will also hit double-tailed twisters and shad bodies (they look like plastic fish).
When pike fishing the jig is generally just reeled back to the boat, not jigged across the bottom.
Because the jig will sink so fast it allows you to do things like cast it up into shallow water, quickly reeling to prevent it from dragging bottom but then slowing down the retrieve as it moves away from the shore and allowing the jig to "dive'' down near the bottom as the water gets deeper. And that's right where the largest pike live.
It's important to use a steel leader when pike fishing. A 6-inch 30-pound leader is sufficient. I prefer the black ones but silver works as well. There is no need to use the above-mentioned swivel when using a leader.
Pike will also hit the heavier 3/8-ounce jig with a 4-4.5-inch tail. Long-shanked jigs are especially good. You can find these in the saltwater section of places like Cabelas and Bass Pro. Pike like really gaudy colors such as pink as well as red, orange and white. And sometimes, they like plain old black.
A real advantage in using jigs for northern pike is that the jigs have only one hook to get out of their mouths.
An angler with a jig might catch three pike while another angler is extracting one crankbait with its multiple trebles out of a pike.
A very unusual way to fish a jig is a technique I like to use for whitefish, lake trout and tulibee.
It is used in very deep water in relatively calm conditions. I cast the jig as far out as possible and then turn the crank on my reel and hold my rod at right angles to the line and just let the jig fall on a tight line. It falls in an arc and will be picked up by suspended fish on the way down. The trick here is in detecting the bite with so much line out. Your line must be tight to feel the fish and this means you also need to take into account the boat's motion. You don't want the boat's drift to create slack in the line and you don't want the boat to be pulling your line either or your jig won't fall. So you always cast at right angles to the wind (and boat) direction.
When the jig finally hits the bottom I just reel it slowly back in. The usual fish pattern in deep water is this: tulibee hit it on the way down, whitefish hit it on the bottom and lake trout hit it on the way to the boat.
There is no need to use any bait when fishing in deep water and in fact, it is illegal to do so for lake trout on Red Lake. Fishing regulations for lake trout stipulate that only lures with single barbless hooks can be used and without live or dead bait. So just use the twister tail or shad body and use your pliers to pinch down the barb on your hook.
If you need any help trying these techniques, just ask when you're at camp. We're here to help.
Good fishing!
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Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.

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