Walleye Hair Jig Tactics: Hair Today, Tinsel Tomorrow

Northland Fishing Tackle’s refined & retuned blast from the past that boats tons of fish

Bemidji, MN (April 26, 2024): Although new walleye fishing techniques are being developed all the time, savvy anglers are keen on digging through the past, rediscovering effective baits and methods that may have fallen out of the limelight.

Like hair and tinsel jigs. Going back to World War II, a hair jig was included in most military survival kits. Why? They catch fish when you’d need it most, stranded and starving, waiting for rescue. That says a lot.

Hair – either bucktail, marabou, or other fluff – has been used for decades upon decades of walleye runs, too. Same thing for tinsel.

And guess what? They still catch fish today, something Northland Fishing Tackle wants to share with the walleye fishing public. Yes, everything old is new again – in the case of the Northland Deep-Vee Hair Jig and Deep-Vee Flashtail Jig – refined and retuned to catch even more fish than antique versions.

We talked with some serious walleye sticks, and here are their thoughts on hair and flash for spring walleyes.

Veteran Minnesota fishing guide, Brian “Bro” Brosdahl, offers: “Going way back, I've always been a fan of both hair and tinsel and have been catching a lot of fish in both clear and dirty water on the new Northland jigs. They have a slow fall and pull walleyes away from cover. Talking tinsel, I typically pitch the Deep-Vee Flashtail and work it on a slow retrieve with subtle twitches to create little flashes in different directions that look like minnows reflecting light.”

Bro: How To Work A Hair Jig

“The whole thing is the fall with hair and tinsel jigs,” says Bro. “There’s bulk to the bait so fish know it’s there, and the hairs and tinsel spread out in the water, and draw the fish in.”

On rivers, Bro says, you want to carry some 3/8, ½, and even heavier jigs to deal with the current.

“Cast out and hit the edge of a current seam and pull it in slowly. Upstream at 45 degrees gives you a great drop and drift down and then the swing around downstream is a lot of times where you get bit.”

Bro also likes to pitch shallower river rip-rap with lighter jigs, catching walleyes anywhere from right next to the bank to six feet of water.

“I really like fishing the Northland Deep-Vee Hair Jig and Deep-Vee Flashtail around wing dams, too,” says Bro. “A ¼- to 3/8-oz. is typical, and I’m focusing on odd structure where barges may have hit it or ice moved rock around. They’re walleye magnets. It’s not just the wing dam tip. You can catch them on top, the corners near shore, the tip, really all over. My Side Imaging and 360 really help dial them in.”

In terms of cadence around wing-dams, Bro lets the jig fall, then makes short reel handle cranks, moving the rod only slightly.

“After it hits bottom I give it a little pop, then reel and pause. Wing dam walleyes will hit it super hard. Works anytime walleyes are relating to wing dams.”

Bro also likes to work both river and lake shorelines with the new jigs, orienting his boat parallel to the shore, and pitching up and down with the shoreline edge, distancing the jig at different depths – from right up close to deeper water nearby.

“Again, I make an initial pop after the jig hits bottom, then work it upstream in the river. You can also slip the current instead of spot-locking or using Talons/Raptors. The deal there is to get the hairs swimming and pulsing. Walleyes love willowcats which are clumsy swimmers; they kind of move and flip side to side.”

Looking forward to fishing lakes this MN Fishing Opener on May 11, Bro doesn’t always fish a plain Tungsten Jig and minnow. “A Deep-Vee Hair Jig or Flashtail tipped with a fathead or rainbow can be really great for working flats and covering water around opener. Or an Eye-Candy Minnow or Paddle Shad. And you can pitch it right up on shore and around those spawn and shiner run areas with current and catch a ton of fish. Gravel and weed transitions, too, as those fish are dispersing toward the first breakline.”

Hair Jig Color

Does hair jig color matter? Some say yes, others say no. But know this: walleye vision is superb with their eyes containing retinal cells called tapedum lucidum that are optimized for telling them ‘is this something I want to eat?’ – even in low-light situations.

So, depending on how quickly you’re fishing a bait, color may indeed come into play. Obviously, matching predominant forage is always a good idea, but sometimes the silhouette created by a black, purple, or dark-colored hair jig is the ticket, too – not to mention darker colors can replicate willowcats, bullheads, and other bottom-dwellers walleyes eat. And combinations of colors, too, are always good which provide contrast, just like real minnows and young-of-the-year walleyes (yes, they’re cannibals), perch, etc.

“I like to try different colors to see what works,” says Brosdahl. “I've always been kind of a blue & white, green & white, and parrot kind of guy, but I'm loving purple, too. With zebra mussels we have a lot of clear lakes now – and for whatever reason, purple has been hot. Sunrise, too.”

BRO’S SET-UP

  • Croix AVID Walleye 7’ Medium Power, Extra Fast Action
  • 2500 Size SEVVIN Spinning Reel
  • 10-pound Sunline Braid
  • 10-pound Sunline FC Sniper Fluoro Leader

JASON MITCHELL: HAIR AND FLASH

“I'm a big fan of the Northland Deep-Vee Hair Jig, especially in spring,” says JMO Host and Northland Pro, Jason Mitchell. “Where a lot of people go wrong in cold water is fishing hair too fast. I use a slower retrieve.”

But he’s also been fishing the Northland Deep-Vee Flashtail Jig over the past year or so and says there are times when that produces really well, too.

“Don’t limit yourself to fishing bucktail or tinsel; switch ‘em up and let the walleyes tell you what they want. If you’re around fish, go from the Deep-Vee Hair Jig with an Eye-Candy Minnow or Paddle Shad trailer to soft plastic and tinsel. The fish will decide for you. That’s the best advice I can give anybody.”

Mitchell was just out on Green Bay filming TV and caught the biggest fish on a Northland Hair Jig tipped with an Eye Candy Paddle Shad.

“We tried everything out there and the hair jig and plastic out-fished everything by a range of 9 to 1. It was pretty incredible. We dialed it in, which doesn’t always happen when you’re filming,” laughs Mitchell.

“Green Bay can be a fickle, quickly-changing fishery. White works good out there, and purple, too. When you get in dirty water, especially in front of the river, you’ve got miles of water pushing dirty water in, which is often warmer. Seems like something with a little chartreuse works good in those conditions. But you have to keep trying different things. I mean, sometimes black is the best of everything.”

Mitchell—like Bro—says the magic is in how hair and tinsel pulses, as well as the combination in the hair jig reflecting light, too.

Mitchell continues: “On Devils Lake white can be good but you’ll get eaten up by pike. Purple is good, stuff with green, whatever. I’m not as particular about color in North Dakota.  A lot of times it’s about having confidence and just keeping your bait in the water. When I was guiding I’d have three people plus myself trying different colors and it was always a head-scratcher. Like the guy or gal catching way more fish on the only brown and orange bait we had in the boat. Nothing makes sense with walleyes. Just look at Wonderbread.”

And another key bit of wisdom with hair or tinsel jigs? If fish are short biting, add a stinger hook—the Northland kind with the red rubber tab. “A lot of times you’ll catch fish on that small treble hook that you wouldn’t have boated otherwise.”

As far as how he fishes the jigs, Mitchell gives the reel a couple cranks, lets it drop, then repeats. “It’s really simple to fish, also part of its appeal. Anybody can learn to fish a hair jig. And you know when they thump it, that’s for sure. Not much finesse involved.”

Again, not as big on color as Bro, Mitchell does pay attention to jig weight for certain depths, especially on rivers. “If there’s no current, I fish a ¼-ounce from 10 to 13 feet pretty comfortably. If there’s more current, I’ll switch to 3/8 oz. If the cadence requires a drop, crank, and a pop and twitch cadence I will lean on the heavier side for a lot of different depths, too. You need to find bottom; that’s where the walleyes are most of the time.”

In terms or rigging, Mitchell skips a tiny swivel and ties his braid direct to the fluoro leader with an Alberto Knot.

 

MITCHELL’S GEAR

  • Scheels Jason Mitchell 7’ Medium Power, Extra Fast Action Rod
  • Scheels 2500 Size Scheels Spinning Reel
  • 10-pound Braid
  • 10-pound Fluoro Leader

Wisconsin Hair Metal

Tyler and Sara Trampe of Wisconsin’s The Sportsman’s Journal TV and avid Northland Fishing Tackle users, are pretty excited about the bites they’ve experienced on hair and tinsel—and what’s to come soon during the rest of the open-water season.

“The Northland Deep-Vee Bucktail is a classic,” says Tyler. “It’s especially deadly for early-season walleyes from ice out up to 50-degree water temps. Hair has taken over Green Bay for monster walleyes when nothing else will produce. The darting action is perfect for trigging active fish and the subtle movement of the hair is key in getting stubborn walleyes to chew. Sara and I love using it tipped with a stinger hook when fishing Green Bay walleyes; helps get hooks in fish that pin it to the bottom! The hair also is great for holding scent attractants for dirty water situations like river fish during the spawning run. Love the color selections Northland offers along with the oversized eye on the Deep Vee jig head.”

As far as the Deep-Vee Flashtail Jig goes, Sara is a big fan, more for its fish-catching than Christmas-like bling.

“I absolutely love this jig for all species. We especially use it for walleyes and it produces all year ‘round. But when that water temp is a little warmer low 50s to 60s this this is our go-to. I fish it tipped with an Eye-Candy Minnow which helps slow the fall down and adds a little bulk to the profile in stained water.”

Tyler adds: “It’s perfect for snap jigging flats and we find it most effective fishing it around down wood for walleyes in clear water lakes. With the added plastic, we are able to slow the fall enough for bringing it over limbs and dropping it right in the zone! Plus, the extra flash this bait produces is perfect for calling fish in. I think the flash signals baitfish to walleyes. And, again, the Deep-Vee head is perfect for fish to key in on with the oversized eye. I can’t stress that enough in the Deep Vee series: Big walleyes do target the head of their prey so the eye is a deal maker.”

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