July 25, 2012
Winter river fishing means cold water, often fussy walleyes, and short strikes. Time and again, your jig and minnow comes back to the boat with the minnow's tail skin peeled like a grape. Gummy 'eye. The fish don't eat it; only grasp and hold the minnow lightly by the tail. When you set the hook, that momentary hint of resistance was the minnow popping back through walleye lips.
In tough conditions, 9 out of 10 gummy 'eyes might be converted to lip-hooks by adding a stinger to the jig. In most cases, that's a small #8 or #10 treble attached via a short section of monofilament or braided wire. Used to be, you had to tie your own, connecting the end opposite the hook to either the bend in the jig hook or to the eye of the jig. The main challenge was tying it short enough to be just forward of the minnow's tail, in perfect position to nab a short striker.
Today, most companies catering to walleye anglers offer some form of quick add-on stinger for tough conditions. Many feature a fast snap clip that clicks into an additional eye on the jighead. Some looped connectors still slip over the hook bend or eye, requiring you to pull the mono tight to form the knot. In
some cases, a neoprene stop or crimpable sleeve seals the deal.
Lindy-Little Joe rubber coats their connectors; slip 'em over the hook point, and the rubber grips the hook shaft. (Available in Stinger Snell treble and slip-over Stinger Hook single-hook versions, plus Fast Snap treble Stinger Snells.) Northland Tackle also offers rubber-coated snelled Slip-On Stinger Hooks, plus snelled fast-snap treble and single Sting'r Hook versions.
Either let the stinger flop free, which does not restrict minnow action, letting it flow up and down with each jigging motion -- which is perhaps most prone to snagging. Or insert one tine of a treble into the minnow's tail, just ahead of the tail fin, to reduce snags and perhaps enhance hooking. This likely restricts minnow action a bit, however. Blue Fox's Stinging Hook Clip attaches firmly to the minnow's tail. P/K Tackle's FireLine stinger features a reversed barb on one hook tine to grip the minnow but pop out easier on the hookset, allegedly improving hooking.
A few jigs feature stingers permanently attached to the jighead. Most, however, incorporate removable stingers for times when you don't need 'em (aggressive fish), or when snags are too prevalent to permit stinger use (weeds, wood, or snaggy rocks). In most jigging conditions throughout the year, you probably won't need a stinger hook. But for gummy 'eyes in cold water, stingers reach out and stick lips, converting bumps and hesitations into 'eyes on the line.