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Gettin’ Jiggy with it
By John Kolinski

EDITOR’S NOTE: John Kolinski is an eight-time championship qualifier during
his seven years of professional fishing on the Professional Walleye Trail and
the Masters Walleye Circuit.

Any angler worth his lead counts jig-fishing among the top tactics in his or
her walleye fishing arsenal. Few methods provide more versatility in presentation. Jigs can be cast, flipped, pitched, bounced, twitched, dragged and even trolled. They can be lightweight, heavyweight, bulky, streamlined and even baited. It’s a time-tested way to catch springtime walleyes when water temperatures are still in the 40s and 50s, and the fish are ganged up in predictable locations. Whether it’s a prespawn situation or a postspawn condition, jigs offer an angler the ultimate in finesse and control.
There’s also something special about taking an object as innate as a piece of
lead with a hook in it, and bringing it to life in your own special way. It’s
as interactive as fishing gets, and few sensations in the sport can compare
to the excitement of a “tunk-tunk-tunk” followed by a solid hookset.
At the same time, spring walleyes can be a stubborn lot. Constantly shifting
weather patterns, along with sudden changes in water quality, clarity, depth
and flow, all come into play. The same fish that were whacking a jig with
abandon one day can develop a severe case of lockjaw the next.
On the tournament trail, those who find ways to deal with these extreme
situations take home the paychecks. Desperate times, as the saying goes, call
for desperate measures.
John Kolinski with an early spring walleye caught while jiggin Sometimes, success means modifying traditional presentation methods to deal with the situation at hand, or even creating new ways to coax neutral or negative walleyes to bite. If there’s one constant in the angler’s favor, it’s a walleye’s need to eat. Even when water temps are cold and walleyes seem a little sluggish, they still need to eat as they build reserves for the rigors of the spawning ritual or attempt to regain their strength afterward. It’s not in a walleye’s nature to work any harder for its dinner than absolutely necessary. That knowledge helps us reduce the plethora of potential places a walleye might hide to a handful that offer plenty of forage and ambush locations. It’s one of those times when presentation becomes at least as important as location.
The term jigging implies an action imparted by the angler. Sometimes, that’s
as simple as bouncing jigs vertically along current breaks or proven structure while drifting with the current or the wind. Sometimes, it’s not. For those situations, I fall back on three offbeat approaches that have helped me cope with some of these unusual situations. These methods are most effective when dealing with the adverse conditions that come with spring, but they can also be deadly later on in the season when other factors put walleyes in a neutral or negative mood.
Wiggle-jigging is a technique tournament buddies Doug Newhoff and Neil
Hammargren of Iowa came upon while trying to coax some reluctant walleyes to bite on the Mississippi River. We’d found the fish along a small gravel bar
in the current the previous couple of days, but the action was slow, at best,
using traditional jigging approaches. While Newhoff was tying a new jig on one rod, he put the other in a rod holder so the minnow-tipped, quarter-ounce Lindy Little Joe fuzzy Grubs come in a wide asst of colorsLindy Fuzzy Grub was suspended just a few inches off the bottom. He didn’t even get the new jig tied on when the rod tip jumped once, then loaded up with the weight of a fish that turned out to be a 3-pound walleye.
When Newhoff resumed fishing with both rods, he took the same approach,
letting his jigs find the bottom, reeling them up a couple of inches and
holding them steady with no more than an occasional wiggle. After he put his
third fish in the boat in a matter of 30 minutes, Hammargren asked what he
was doing. “Nothing,” Newhoff replied. “And I mean nothing.” In a couple of hours those two had a five-fish limit in the 15-pound range that few other anglers could match. It has worked for me, as well, and since then, it’s one of the first directions I turn when traditional jigging methods aren’t getting it done.
Dragging jigs goes against all the basic principles of jigging, but it works.
I’ve heard dozens of stories from anglers whose spouses or children have
tired of bouncing jigs. While the old pro diligently works two jigging sticks
from the front of the boat, their guests for the day simply put their rods
down or let their jigs drag along with no action. The next thing you know,
they’ve got a fish on. It’s a technique I’ve used with success in dirty-water situations. A thunderstorm, for example, doesn’t always drive fish to the deepest water they can find, but it will likely drive them belly to the bottom. They won’t feed actively and they won’t chase lures like crankbaits or bouncing jigs., A jig churning up the bottom in front of their faces, however, looks too much like an easy meal for them to pass up. For years, a favorite early season presentation on the tournament scene consists of a three-way rig with a jointed or floating Rapala the lures of choice in the F9-F13
size range. In states where two hooks on a line are legal, try a Lindy Jumbo
Jig tipped with a minnow as a dropper rather than a standard sinker. It’s a proven combination, and I’ve caught as many walleyes on the Jumbo Jig
dropper over the years as I have on the Rapala. Perhaps the most extreme adaptation I’ve had to make over the years is feeding jigs. Many anglers insist that short strikes and light bites come from small fish that lack the strength to inhale a jig like the larger members of their family. Experience tells me that’s not always true. Active walleyes eat by opening their mouths and creating a vaccuum of moving water that sucks their prey into their mouths. It’s logical to assume that when a jig and minnow combination comes back to the boat or to shore with the\ skin stripped off the minnow, that simply means the angler, the wind or the current was moving the jig too fast for the fish to engulf it.
That may not be the case. Trial and error have taught me that there are times
when you absolutely have to let a walleye take a jig like you let a catfish
take a nightcrawler. Otherwise, you’ll be just another frustrated, and
fishless, angler.
We’ve all seen it happen. We’re casting jigs or fishing them vertically when
we feel the slightest resistance or weight on the end of the line. You set
the hook and there is nothing there, and when you retrieve the jig, the
minnow is either mangled or missing. The next time this happens to you, try holding the rod tip in place for a couple of seconds. If you feel a second “thump,” set the hook. Usually, you’ll be in business, but not always. Sometimes, you have to wait even longer. The walleye has the minnow clamped between its teeth, but for whatever reason it wants to take it to deeper water before eating it. So, let it go. Often, you can get a good hookset while the fish is swimming directly away from you. Other times, it’s more effective to wait until the fish stops swimming. Then, you will usually feel that second “thump” that
tells you the walleye has finished what it started. Hopefully, most of your jigging days include aggressive walleyes that liketheir jigs presented in traditional manners. If not, be quick to trysomething different.
And sometimes, aggressive jigging will take the active fish from an area, but
the bite will suddenly die. That doesn’t mean the walleyes have left. Let the
walleyes tell you what they want.
Pop your jigs aggressively. Try lifting them and lowering them slowly. Drag
‘em, wiggle ‘em or feed ‘em. Mix it up until you’ve tried a little of
everything, and chances are you’ll come across a presentation that works.

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