Tips for catching walleyes on jigs early in the fishing season

Bob Jensen

The recent warm weather has anglers excited, and some of the most excited anglers are those who like to chase and catch walleyes.

All across Walleye Country, anglers who enjoy catching walleyes are getting ready to get in or on the water. In rivers that are home to walleyes, anglers are already after them. Regardless of whether a lake or river is being fished, many of the anglers chasing walleyes will have a jig tied onto their line. There are a few things that we need to consider if we’re going to consistently catch walleyes on jigs early in the open water fishing season.

In smaller rivers, many anglers like to get in the water to catch walleyes. A wading approach can be very productive, and, in fact, it might be the only way to get after walleyes. Across much of the Midwest, the smaller rivers that are home to walleyes are too shallow for a boat. A wading approach is the only way to fish for them.

When wading and casting, a jig with a piece of plastic is often good. You’ll be casting and slowly retrieving the jig. In many small rivers, there are so many rocks that a dragging retrieve just isn’t practical because you’ll get snagged too much. Go with a 1/8th-ounce Crater Jig tipped with one of the smaller Rage Swimmer plastics and swim it just above the bottom. You’ll still get snagged every now and then but not as much as you would if dragging a jig and minnow. A minnow imitating color is good, but a brighter color will be better if the water is stained. Experiment with colors until you hit the right one.

In many states, it’s legal to use two lines for fishing. Some states even allow three lines. If you’re fishing from an anchored boat or a dock, it’s very productive to use multiple lines. Because the walleyes are usually shallow shortly after ice-out, fishing from an anchored position will be good. You can cast to an area and effectively work it over without spooking the fish. Put a slip-bobber with a small jig and a minnow out there while you cast a jig/plastic or jig/minnow combination.

Fathead minnows are preferred in some areas, shiners are better in others. You’ll want to be sure to have plenty of the preferred minnow on hand. If the bite is as good as it often is this time of year, or if you’re fishing around rocks or casting the jig/minnow combo, you’ll use a lot of minnows. Again, plastics can do an outstanding job. They’re available in a lot of colors, shapes, and sizes, they stay on the jig longer than a minnow, and they require no care. Sometimes though, the walleyes want the real deal. In the spring, if you’re fishing from a boat, have some minnows with.

In the cold waters of spring, the take will often be light. You’ll feel just a bit of weight. This is when a softer action, super-sensitive rod really is appreciated. Lew’s has several spinning rods in various models that do an outstanding job. A 6-foot, 6-inch or 7-foot, medium-light rod is preferred by many who cast jigs for shallow walleyes. Six-pound test line is preferred in areas where snags aren’t much of an issue, but 8-pound test will be better if a good number of snags are present.

When fishing a river, remember that as much as possible, you’ll want your jig to be moving downstream. Fish that are willing to feed will usually be facing upstream, so if your jig is moving downstream like an injured minnow or bug, the fish that are facing upstream will be able to easier see the jig approaching.

For the next several weeks, a jig will be the go-to bait for walleye anglers almost anywhere that walleyes swim. Tie a jig onto your line, put it in front of a walleye, and chances are good you’ll get bit.

To see Fishing the Midwest television, fishing videos and fishing articles, visit www.fishingthemidwest.com.