Fisherman holding a jig and soft plastic combo

There is nothing like pulling up on your rod and feeling that infamous weight. It’s the sluggish weight of a walleye that causes us to quickly set the hook. The drag spins slightly with the affirmation of an aggressive head shake. The fun begins as you compose yourself to pull out another river walleye. The feeling never gets old.

Walleyes may well rank as the most popular species among anglers. The concept of vertical jigging for walleye seems simple, but; it’s not always that easy. Without some insight, fishermen have struggled to refine this strategy.

The most important aspect of vertical jigging in a river is keeping the jig vertical. This is much harder than you realize but it is the most important aspect of catching walleye. If you can’t keep a vertical presentation your success rate will plummet. Get someone with some experience to drive the boat and keep it straight. It’s far more important to keep the boat straight than anything else. If you don’t stay straight you’ll lose everything from fishing gear to vertical presentation. What’s most difficult is managing both the current and wind on the river.

The best trolling motor set-up is a foot-controlled trolling motor. Keep the bow of your boat pointing into the wind. Adjust the trolling motor thrust until your fishing line is perfectly vertical. Also when there is a gust of wind make sure to use a burst mode to push the boat forward to keep everything perfectly vertical during higher winds. If the front fisherman can’t stay vertical other fishermen on the boat will have a much harder time. If you can’t keep the lure vertical then fish shallower water. This is easier for a fisherman to keep the lure vertical because there are fewer factors in shallow water.

Walleye can be finicky fish, which is why so many fishermen tend to try to finesse fish them. However, during the spring walleye run it’s time to fish the heaviest jig you can get away with instead of a lighter jig. It’s so important to keep the jig vertical and maintain the bottom six inches. In a river, with substantial current start with a heavy one-ounce Sink’n Jig tipped with an Impulse Smelt Minnow. A heavy jig teaches a fisherman how to keep the lure vertical and keep constant contact with the bottom. After ensuring that you’re staying in constant contact with the bottom then you can begin to lighten up slightly and move onto a ¾ ounce Sink’n Jig.

Most often in places like the Detroit River, we’re fishing with a ¾ to 1-ounce Sink’n Jig. Only when they move into shallow water does he lighten up to a 1/2 ounce Sink’n Jig. The larger profile heads provide larger-sized bait for the walleye.

Learning the art of vertical jigging will put more walleye in the boat. The most important aspects are boat control and heavy jigs. Combine these two items together and you’ll have more walleye success.

To learn more about the fishing river with Brian Miller check out his techniques at

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