Joel Nelson with a walleye he caught fishing.

By: Joel Nelson

Part of being an effective angler is putting together a pattern. Knowing a bit about a specific species, its seasonal movements, and biology throughout the year. It also helps to have some locational information on where they like to spend their time. Rocks, weeds, mid-depths to shallow shoals, all can be fishy during certain months. That said, presentation, as in the types of baits we put in those places and how can really make a difference throughout all seasons. That classic Fish + Location + Presentation = Success formula that the Lindners devised those decades ago is still the basis for putting together a great day on the way.

Here are some jigs and rigs that have proven themselves to me again and again, year over year getting me a bite during the summer calendar period.

Panfish Jigs

  • Thumper Crappie King Jig – It’s really a crappie go-to during the summer for trolling. I can pull tube jigs and they work well. So do your average curly-tail or boot-tail plastics. The Crappie Thumper King adds some vibration and shine to the presentation that really draws crappies
    when jig-trolling. It’s like a finesse crankbait of sorts that fish just love.
  • Impulse Bloodworm – If you fish bluegills, call this a standard in your tackle box. In shallow, pitch it on a tight line as it swings down and gets popped by hungry fish. Out deeper, use it with a slip bobber to put it right on big bluegills’ doorstep. That could be an inside turn on a weedline or just off a shelf where they suspend.

A young fisherman holding up a bluegill he caught fishing.

Walleye/Bass Jigs

  • Fireball Jig – Probably the #1 selling jig of all time, this is just a staple again. For fishing vertically with livebait, I’ll pair a 1/16 oz. or 1/8 oz. fireball with a leech below a bobber. Or I’ll use heavy ones to bomb the depths on big water like Lake of the Woods or Winnie. Find fish on electronics and drop these on them, it can really be that simple for most of the summer.
  • Deep Vee Jig – This jig design could be one of the more revolutionary adaptations I’ve seen in some time. For a river guy, these baits track true when you’re dragging, and are setup for livebait and plastics both with the wire keeper. On lakes and reservoirs, they’re an incredible jig for pitching plastics. The keel keeps them running well, and great hooks paired with big walleyes and hard paint make them a quality jig that will last.
  • Mimic Minnow Limber Leech – My boys came back from the river a few weeks ago with some trout they caught exclusively on limber leeches, adding to the already growing list of species we’ve caught on these baits. Everything eats a leech and especially on river systems, this is a very life-like and effective mimic.
  • Mimic Minnow Critter Craw – For bass, both smallmouth and largemouth alike, I’m always happy to throw this bait. Especially in rocky environments, I like how it works across the bottom without getting hung up and have had fish in river systems and lakes alike really select for these things. Like leeches, crayfish are just such a large food source for so many fish species, and this is a great imitation.
  • Mimic Minnow Shad – Few baits are as throw and go as these. For my kids, it’s been nice to have them tie something on that’ll attract a variety of fish and do so well in so many conditions. That versatility makes them extremely popular and at times, hard to find on store shelves so I like to stock up when I find the colors and sizes I like.

Joel Nelson with a yellow perch he caught.


  • Butterfly Blades – It’s hard to beat a butterfly blade in all of its configurations to trick moderately neutral fish into eating. The Wingnut and standard varieties, with a smattering of crawlers on Super Death hooks, or simple leeches on a single hook are all good multiple looks to offer fish on finicky days. I love how I can really drop the boat speed and just hover over walleye with these, as the blades spin at speeds even slower than 0.5mph. What’s surprising to most people is that I pull these for panfish too. I use the smallest sizes with a chunk of crawler to catch mega bluegills and cover water near weed beds. That also tends to yield walleyes in the right lakes, and definitely plenty of bass. If you simply want to put a bend in the rod, these are great rigs to do it with.
  • Baitfish Series Spinner Rigs – There are times often in clear water where fish are more selective on color, yet still want the thump of a traditional metal blade. It’s on waters like Mille Lacs, Winnie, and Lake of the Woods that I’ll pull larger blades in the Baitfish series to put out some vibration, while allowing finesse color presentation both. These are very lifelike blades, and when imitating perch (firetiger, gold perch) or during a bug hatch (gold shiner, clown), I feel like I can dial in their preferences really well. Even in extremely clear water and on a down bite, these spinners coax fish.

Joel Nelson with a walleye he caught fishing a Baitfish Spinner Rig.

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