Understanding Walleye Jigs
One of the things I like about jig fishing is the simplicity of using a simple piece of lead and a hook to trigger walleye into biting. The thing that makes jigging a little more frustrating is the fact that becoming an efficient jig fisherman isn’t as easy as simply tying on any ole jig and dropping it to bottom. Sometimes subtle design features often make all the difference in catching walleye on jigs.
Rob Jones is a master walleye jig fisherman who has refined his craft by spending countless days on the water and by also understanding how jig design impacts on jig fishing success.
One of the problems with jigs is they come in every size, shape and hook configuration imaginable. Sorting through the options can seem a daunting process, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Many of these jig designs are built to solve specific problems or challenges such as jigging in submerged wood or weed cover, vertical jigging, pitching jigs to shallow water fish etc., etc. This is precisely why a good jig fisherman would never depend on just one or two jig designs, but rather owns and uses a bunch of different jigs for different fishing presentations.
Jigs are fishing tools and it is important to use the right tool for the job at hand.
BALL HEAD, DARTER HEAD, BULLET HEAD
Some of the most common jigs feature a round ball head or the somewhat more elongated darter or bullet shaped head. This jig design functions very well for vertical jigging applications in rivers or deep water jigging in natural lakes. The strengths of these jig designs are the way the jig rests horizontal (the way a minnow would naturally appear to a walleye) in the water and also the long shank hook incorporated into these jigs which allows live bait, soft plastics or both to be fished at the same time.
Most ball or darter style jigs also feature a long shank hook that does a great job of paring up with bait or soft plastics. Long shank hooks also have the subtle advantage of presenting the hook a little deeper in the fish’s mouth, which in turn leads to those fish being hooked deeper and more securely.
Not all jigs are created equal or for the same purpose. In this case the author has selected a horizontal hanging jig design ideal for vertical jigging in rivers.
Any jig that features the eye tie coming out the nose of the jighead can be described as a swimming design. The hooks used for jigheads are normally produced featuring a 90 degree bend that positions the eye tie directly out the top of the jighead. This allows the jig to hang horizontal in the water. The second most common hook style features a 60 degree bend that allows the eye tie to protrude out the nose of the jighead, making these jigs more suitable for casting and swimming presentations.
STAND UP HEADS
Jig designs that function by using the head shape to keep the hook positioned upright are generally known as “stand-up” style jigs. Countless different head designs are used to accomplish this simple, but important goal. A stand-up jig is essential when the jig must be paused often and allowed to sit on bottom. Most jigs simply lay over on the bottom, but stand-up style jigs are unique in that the hook is positioned upright and ready for action.
Positioning the hook upright and ready for action is important because it makes live bait or soft plastic lures more visible to the fish. Another equally important feature of stand-up style jigs is they tend to hook fish in the upper jaw. A fish stuck in the upper jaw is much more likely to be landed than fish hooked in other parts of the mouth.
Unlocking the mystery of jig fishing starts by understanding jig designs and how best to apply them to different walleye fishing situations.
HOOK SIZE MATTERS
One of the more interesting aspects of jigs are the hooks and more specifically hook sizes used in manufacturing. Historically walleye anglers have demanded jigs with rather modest hook sizes ranging from about a No. 4 to a No. 2 in size. A growing number of jig fishermen these days are pushing for larger and larger hooks on their jigs. A larger hook in the No. 1/0, 2/0 and even 3/0 sizes provides a wider hook gap that enables fishermen to use larger plastic baits and also to double up by using both soft plastic and live bait at the same time.
Look at any jig designed to catch bass and it will have a much larger hook than is typically used for walleye jigs. This is because bass anglers routinely use a lot of different soft plastic lures in association with jigging.
Larger hooks do a better job of sticking and holding onto a struggling fish than smaller hooks. Gradually the manufacturers of walleye jigs are coming to this conclusion and including bigger hooks on their jig designs.