Mike Frisch: Different jig strokes for different folks
Different jig and minnow approaches to get a bunch of walleyes in the boat this spring.
Spring is here and open water is starting to appear all across the Midwest. For many anglers, that means it’s time to break open the jig box and head to their favorite walleye waters.
Jigs tipped with minnows as well as those dressed with a variety of soft baits are often what catch the most walleyes during this time frame. Here’s a look at different ways to fish jigs right now from a couple of very adept jig fishermen. Fishermen who also happen to be related and fish the same water productively, albeit using different methods.
My buddy Artie Arndt from Ortonville has won a bunch of money in walleye tournaments on his home waters of Big Stone Lake fishing jigs and minnows. Artie is what I’d call a meat and potatoes angler using traditional methods to catch fish. His keys are that he uses those techniques in good spots and that he’s really good at them.
Arndt loves to target Big Stone’s shallow rocks looking for irregularities that serve as ambush points for walleyes waiting for unsuspecting minnows to wander by. When he pitches his light, 1/16-ounce jig/minnow combos, he lets them sink in momentarily, but not letting them rest on bottom, before sweeping slowly forward and allowing them to sink again. Artie’s key is to keep the bait very near bottom without letting it fall in between, and wedge among, the rocks.
Another “Arti-ism” is that he sets the hook often. What I mean is that when he feels something different that might, or might not, be a fish, he sets the hook.
As a guide, I often watch clients trying to feel to determine if that sensation on the line’s end is a bite or something else, maybe a weed, rock, or another obstruction. Often, during this process, the fish senses resistance and drops the bait, leaving a disappointed angler.
Artie, on the other hand, quickly gets his line tight when he suspects a bite and sets the hook. This method sometimes means jigs caught in weeds or rocks, but also often leads to a solid hookset and a walleye in the boat.
Artie’s son, Tanner, is a bit of a Renaissance man than his dad more apt to trying new lures and techniques to catch walleyes. While father and son often engage in good-natured banter about the other’s fishing techniques, Tanner claimed “top dog” honors (at least for now) last spring when he and his partners won the Big Stone Walleye League, beating a talented field of in-the-know local hotshots.
Like his dad, Tanner spends lots of time casting jigs to rocks. The difference is that Tanner has spent considerable time experimenting with a variety of soft plastic baits as dressings on his jigs. Often, Tanner prefers swimbait-style plastics like Rage Swimmers and also experiments with retrieve methods and speeds when fishing them.
When the fish are on shallow shoreline rocks, Tanner likes to slow roll a swimbait on a 1/8-ounce jig using a steady retrieve. Deeper fish, like those holding in 6-to-10 feet on rock to sand transitions, often are susceptible to the same plastics but fished on heavier (1/4-ounce) jigs using sharp snap and fall presentations to trigger bites.
So which is the better early season walleye bait, Artie’s jig and minnow or Tanner’s jig and plastic? Good question. The answer might be to have both a jig/minnow and jig/swimbait combination tied on your lines this spring, experiment with ways to fish them, and let the walleyes provide the answer.
Whatever the case, it’s time to get the jig box out and head for your favorite walleye waters where seasons are open.
As always, remember to include a youngster in your fishing adventures this spring!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.