Tips for jigging early season walleyes from walleye guru Brian ‘Bro’ Brosdahl.
Jigs are an excellent delivery system to give walleyes the minnows they hunt when actively feeding. Anglers just have to pay more attention to what they are doing when fishing jigs. Vigilance is important.
Early in the season, I mostly use lightweight jigs, but if the wind blows up or the fish move into deeper water, I need heavier jigs to stay with the fish and keep in the right zone near the bottom.
Spottail shiners and perch are usually the key forage species for walleyes in most lakes in northern Minnesota. Find the right forage and you find walleyes.
Conventional sonar requires anglers to drive over the fish to see them, which often spooks fish in clear water lakes. This is why so many anglers in my area like to fish walleyes in stained water, which allows anglers to get over walleyes without spooking them.
Clear water lakes have walleyes that want to eat, too, though. The side-imaging feature on my Humminbird Helix 10 is critical to my guiding success in clear lakes. The unit, with Mega Imaging and Chirp, allows me to see fish, weeds, and rocks off to the side of my boat without driving over the walleyes and spooking them.
When cover is at a premium early in the season, I usually fish rocks or emergent weeds. I must adjust my presentations and type of jigs based on the conditions I face.
I usually have two types of rods rigged for walleyes in the spring. My light rig is a 6-foot, 3-inch St. Croix Elite, light-action rod rigged with clear, 6-pound-test Sunline fluorocarbon. I use my lighter rod with 1/16- to 3/16-ounce jigs in various styles. My preferred jigs are either Northland Fire-Ball Jigs with short shanks or the Northland RZ Jigs with a long shank.
My preferred jigs in stained water include Northland Whistler Jig®, Gypsi Jig®, or Thumper® Jig. I also use a Bro Bling Jig, which I designed for ice fishing, but that also catches fish in open water.
My second rod is a slightly heavier 6-foot, 3-inch, medium-light action St. Croix Elite, rigged with 10-pound braided Sunline and a 7- or 8-pound fluorocarbon leader. Since jig fishing means the occasional snag, I like a fluorocarbon leader that’s lighter than my braided line. The leader is the weakest link and breaks first.
I can pull almost any jig through the emerging weeds, but I really like the Stand-up Fire-Ball Jig when fishing in rocks. The other option for shallow rocks is to use super light jigs and avoid making contact with the bottom.
Walleyes eventually work their way out of the shallows to deeper structures towards the end of May. As long as the spottail shiners are spawning in the shallows, a good portion of the walleye population will be in the skinny water targeting them.
Once the insect hatches begin in the mud basin, more walleyes move away from the shoreline-connected structures and into summer patterns on mid-lake structures farther from shore.
Match the hatch on your favorite body of water. Some lakes might not have shiners, so be ready to adjust accordingly to the baitfish your lake holds. One thing is for sure, walleyes love jigs along the bottom.
If you want to learn about walleyes, check out the May issue of MidWest Outdoors magazine, available the first full week of May at the newsstand or by subscribing on our website.