Walleye, Bass Jigging Tips & Techniques
By Larry Smith
I love to catch fish. Any fish. I will use the many fishing techniques learned through my years as a fishing guide to catch fish wherever I go. However, there is one technique that I hold most dear: Jigging for walleye and bass. It’s the best hands-on fishing experience there is!
There is nothing like feeling a fish strike, feeling the weight, and the fish fight. Jigging, is one of the best methods but it's a fishing technique that requires a little attention to detail...
Whether snap-jigging soft plastics or slowly gliding a night crawler through current, the size of the jig is very, very important. The key to successful jigging is having the bait fall correctly to make a fish bite. While snap jigging, I typically adjust the fall rate depending on the weather and mood of the fish, a faster fall and snap for aggressive fish, while a lighter jig and fall rate for cold front lethargic fish.
Jigging in river current is a little different. In current, you want to have the jig glide through the water. Cast at a 45-degree angle into the current, use a jig just heavy enough to periodically bounce bottom as it glides naturally into the mouth of a hungry walleye. Too heavy of a jig, it will fall too fast and most likely snag into rocks or submerged timber, If too light of a jig, it's difficult to control the bait, feel the bite and also will be swept down the river current too fast without contacting the bottom where most hungry walleye are holding.
Experiment with different size jigs and colors in various weather conditions. When you get the combination right and start feeling the bite, the fight, and the happiness of a big fish; you will see why I love to jig more than anything else!
Forgotten Trophy Potential: Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages
By Larry Smith
When it comes to walleye fishing in Wisconsin, everyone knows about Green Bay on Lake Michigan and the Lake Winnebago system, indeed, these are great walleye fisheries. there comes a time when you want to get away from the crowd and STILL have the chance to catch trophy-caliber fish: Enter the forgotten Wisconsin River impoundments of Petenwell and Castle Rock.
Petenwell and Castle Rock were created in the 1950’s by impounding sections of the Wisconsin River for power production; creating the 2nd and 5th largest bodies of water in the state respectively. Before the damns were built, the areas to be flooded were not cleared of trees, so this left a multitude of cover and structure.
These Wisconsin River impoundments are not some newly discovered secret. About 10-12 years ago the word was out on the trophy potential of these waters for walleyes, crappies, muskies, plus the incredible numbers of white bass and catfish. However, in the past these fish were not very good table fare. The Wisconsin River is probably one of the most industrialized rivers in the country and had many paper mills operating along it’s shores which gave the fish a sulphurous taste. Many of these mills are now gone, and the ones that remain are operating under cleaner regulations thus returning quality table fare status to the fishery. There are many campgrounds around Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages; located in Adams and Juneau counties, along with plenty of bait shops that can provide you with fishing tips, techniques and everything else you need for a successful fishing trip.
So what fishing techniques work on these Wisconsin River impoundments? If you’re thinking about trolling, you might want to reconsider. As many of you know, trolling is probably about the last thing I want to do to catch fish, which makes Castle Rock and Petenwell exactly the kind of lakes for my style of fishing. They’re absolutely a hands-on fisherman’s paradise. Three-way rigs, Lindy rigs, weedless jigs, all tipped with fatheads (or a big sucker for trophies) will produce all year on these waters. This is something that is kind of unique in comparison with other walleye fisheries across the state. When other systems turn to a crawler or leech bite later in the season, minnows will produce all year on the Wisconsin River impoundments. I typically use 8-10 pound line (mono or superline) on spinning reels, but will also use bait-casting gear for a large sucker rig, which provides a little more backbone when hauling a huge walleye out of the wood cover. Petenwell and Castle Rock are stained bodies of water, so I find that darker colors (or even glow varieties) of jigs work best. Because of its stained water, sun is crucial to the best bite. I’ve probably said this a million times: It’s a banker’s bite, meaning the hours of 8am-4pm are the most productive. It is also important to remember to use shorter leader lengths (16-18”) and light wire hooks on your jigs and bait rigs. Longer leaders will just have your bait swimming in and around all the wood, which will have you snagged most of the time instead of catching fish. Light wire hooks will also bend out of the snags, allowing you to not lose your entire rig. Another handy tip is to use about a 6” leader of 6lb test on the sinker drop line on three-way rigs. The lighter line will break off and leave the rest of the rig intact if it becomes snagged. Also, when using jigs, keep movement to a minimum, almost like a dead sticking presentation, the fish just don’t like a lot of movement in the presentation. Perhaps they need to study the bait when they come up and out of the cover before they commit to biting…
These impoundments are definitely a “spot on the spot” type of fishery, so boat control is crucial to staying on fish. I use electronics with a good mapping chip to locate bends in the river channels with ample wood cover within the flowage. Once located, the trick is staying on top of them. Years ago, before the advent of spot-lock technology on trolling motors, you had to anchor to stay on fish. With all the wood on the bottom of these waters, I bet I’ve lost many anchors to their snaggy depths over the years. Just be aware that if you don’t have spot-lock technology, you might not want to bring your best anchor when fishing Petenwell and Castle Rock. In fact, you might want to bring a spare...
The walleyes of the Wisconsin River impoundments are protected by a 5 fish, 15-20” and 1 over 28” slot limit. I always say how much I love fishing bodies of water with protective slots; you catch lots of fish and always have a shot at trophy fish every time you’re out on the water. There’s plenty of fish available for a nice meal, and there’s plenty of fish to get excited about as well. Petenwell and Castle Rock are great destinations for a summer fishing trip adventure! And when you’re out in the summer sun hauling in that 30” walleye with plenty of elbowroom, you’ll definitely say, “It’s a great day to be alive!”
To see the techniques explained in this article, watch “Summer Petenwell Walleyes get Suckered!” episode.