by Bob Jensen
In walleye country, it’s still summer during the day, but nights are starting to cool down. Cool early morning air temperatures remind anglers that autumn isn’t far off. Autumn means different things to different people. For some, autumn is a time for hunting: For others it’s football season. For walleye anglers, it’s maybe our favorite time of year to go fishing. The weather and scenery is generally wonderful, there are fewer anglers on the water so there’s plenty of room to move around, and, probably most importantly, walleyes like to get caught in the fall months. They’ll go for a variety of lure presentations, but if you just want to get bit, you can’t beat a jig. There might be better ways to catch bigger fish, but when it comes to catching numbers, jigs are the ticket. And, don’t misunderstand, big walleyes will eat jigs. Here’s how you can get in on the action.
Jigs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors. In the fall months, I would be very comfortable in most walleye situations with two different styles of jigs: I would want some Fire-ball jigs when minnows are being used, and I would want some Slurp! Jigs for those times when we’re using soft bait.
Fire-ball Jigs have a short shank/wide gap hook. In many areas, redtail chubs are the preferred walleye bait. Redtails are fish-catchers. We put the hook in the minnow’s mouth and out the back of its head. By doing so, we get outstanding hook-up percentages, and the minnow stays on the jig longer. The minnow’s lips are right up against the jig head. A three inch redtail is about as small as you’ll want to go.
More and more, walleye anglers are using soft bait behind their jigs. My fishing friend Joe Honer is a guide in South Dakota, and, when jigging, Gulp! and Gulp! Alive is about all he uses, and not very many anglers catch more walleyes than Joe. Soft bait really is a very legitimate walleye catcher, but a jig designed for soft bait is important. That’s where the Slurp! Jig comes in.
Slurp! Jigs have a large, long shank hook with a soft bait holder. We thread Gulp! Minnows or Minnow Grubs onto the jig. The large long hook results in a much better hooking percentage, and the soft bait holder keeps the bait on the jig much better. The more aggressive the walleyes are, the larger soft bait you should use.
Jig color can be an important consideration. Experiment with colors until a productive one is determined.
When using soft bait, use a jig of one color with a body of another color. By doing so, you’re showing the fish two different colors, which increases the odds of showing the fish the color they want.
Six or eight pound test Trilene Sensation is a great jigging line. Go with six for live bait jigging, eight for the soft bait jigging.
Set the hook as soon as you feel a strike. If the walleyes are hitting and spitting your jig, go to a lighter jig or try a different color or try something else. Usually, if they want to eat our bait, they’ll take it in.
There is still some summer left, but fall is definitely in the air. When it arrives, tie a jig onto your line and head for a walleye lake. Maybe I’ll see you there.