Jigging For Walleye
Jigging for walleyes can mean many different things depending on who you talk to. There are many different presentations that we fit under this umbrella. The types of jigging I intend to cover with this article will pertain to Lake Erie. Most of the jigging is done in the Westen basin from Port Clinton to Toledo.
This type of jigging isn't the typical jigging that most anglers think of when we talk about jigging. You will be fishing deeper flats just outside spawning areas, targeting fish that are staging and waiting on the spawn to get underway. The easiest way to explain this is to imagine ice fishing from a boat. The boat will be anchored and you will drop a bait down to the fish. Usually dropping it to the bottom then lift slowly 6 to 18 in. up and slowly let it back down, never really letting the bait free fall just a slow up and down motion. Let the fish tell you what they want. Sometimes its 4-6 inches of vertical movement and other times it's 1-3 ft. Then move the bait up a few feet in the water column and repeat. They are not always on the bottom. The depth of the fish can change by the hour, usually any decent sonar can let you know once the fish start suspending.
Similar to ice fishing, jigging spoons with several shiners on the hook or a jigging rap with or without shiners are the baits of choice for this type of fishing. These fish are not usually actively feeding, but they are not going to pass up on an easy target.
Jigging the spawn
Jigging during the spawn usually takes place on the reefs and on shallow flats surrounding them. The males, like most men are anxious to get the spawn underway, and will start showing up in the shallow spawning areas usually around mid to late March they will stay there for the next 8+ weeks. The females, however, will only move in to drop their eggs and then return to deeper waters, only spending a short time in the spawning grounds. Leaving the males to fertilize the eggs and guard them against predators.
For this type of jigging the hair jig is king. 5/8ths and 3/4 ounce hair jigs with a stinger hook are hard to beat. As far as color goes, you can use any color you want as long as it's purple or black. As always, in fishing there is much debate on what lines, rods, reels, etc. are best. I like a little more of a firm rod, (6'6" medium heavy fast action) for this and braided line 10 to 15 lb. test with a mono leader.
Set up upwind of the area you want to cover and drift over it. Keep in mind the fish you're targeting are fairly shallow, therefore running the boat right over them can be counterproductive. For more info on drifting and boat control refer to our casting article. There is an entire paragraph there that is worth a read.
The actual retrieve is going to be dependent on the conditions you find yourself in. Wind and water clarity are going to decide for you how you want to work your jig.