Jiggin' River Walleyes
July 25, 2012
Jigs are top choices for both vertical jigging and casting into shallow locations. Vertical jigging allows you to hug the edges of deeper current breaks, drift perimeters of eddies or through areas of reduced current, hover near wing dams or bridge pilings, and even slip downriver in mild current, with your jig near bottom.
Select the proper combination of jig weight and line length to match current conditions in order to position your bait in high-percentage spots. Depending on water depth and current, 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jigs do the job in most midwinter scenarios. To prevent frequent snags, avoid letting the jig drag on bottom as you drift downstream.
Tip jigs with a 2 1/2- to 3-inch minnow to provide an attractive combination of size, color, profile, scent, and taste; hook 'em up through the lower jaw and out the top of the head. Use a simple lift-drop of a few inches, on and off bottom. Drift slowly along in the subtle current, paying attention to visible edges where subtle current meets calm water. Inside the calm water of eddies or within general large areas of slack water, you may need to use your electric trolling motor to cover likely areas; without it, you might sit in one place, motionless, almost like being anchored.
Deeper holes are obvious and traditional spots to look for fish, but other prime locations like wingdams, shoreline points, and the tips of islands can produce. Basically, any current-breaking formations within the main flow may concentrate river walleyes, even in as little as 6 to 15 feet of water, and perhaps even shallower at night. In slower current, river walleyes may use the tops, sides, and even the front (upstream side) of reefs, rock piles, and wing dams. River bends or holes below bridges also are worth investigating.
Use your electric motor to reduce drift speed as you slip downstream. As you move downcurrent, concentrate on keeping your jig in contact with the bottom by adjusting line length. In calm water of eddies, or within general large areas of slack water, you may need to use your electric trolling motor to cover all the potential spots.
Riprap, current breaks, eddies, sand shelves on the edge of channels, shallow eddy, edges of wing dams, any spot where fish move shallow are key casting spots. Position the boat within casting distance of potential locations to make your presentation without spooking the fish.
Casting or pitching soft plastics works well for catching walleyes that have moved shallow to feed. Due to their baitfish swimming action and larger profile, soft plastics may even work better than livebait for attracting and triggering fish in shallow water.
Curlytail grubs are top baits for casting in shallow spots. Even on a straight retrieve, curlytail grubs create lots of vibration and flash, mimicking a baitfish well enough to fool walleyes looking for a meal. Tails that move easily with the slightest water resistance trigger more strikes. In cold water, using scent-impregnated plastics, like a 3- or 4-inch Berkley Power Grub, or adding a liquid scent to the plastic, seems to increase strikes.