It’s that time of year again where walleye anglers are biting at the bit to get their boats back on the water and get hooked up with some walleyes.
The most typical approach this time of year is to target walleyes in the river systems, as the rivers are usually first to thaw and provide the warmer water and provide great conditions for spawning walleye.
In many cases, warm water discharges generated by power plants, such as Gavin’s point Dam in Yankton, South Dakota or Fort Randal Dam near Picks Town, South Dakota, will hold lots of walleye very early in the year. The fish have moved upriver to spawn and once they reach the dam they are confined to that area as their up-river path has come to an end. Most of these tailrace area's provide great rip rap habitat for spawning walleye.
To most anglers, vertical jigging sounds very easy, and it can be once you have mastered a few things. However, there can be a big difference in your success rate based on a few minor adjustments you can make. Here are few tips on how you can improve your vertical jigging skills to help you increase your hookups.
1. Use a shorter rod than your normal jigging rod. I prefer a 6'3" (Medium power Xtra fast) St.Croix Legend Tournament Series vertical jigging rod. The shorter rod minimizes the distance between the bite and my ability to feel it. Making for a quicker hookset and an enhanced ability to feel everything my jig touches.
2. No stretch line. Any type of super line such as Berkley Fireline will enable you to feel the slightest touch on your bait. Many times early in the season the walleye bite can be very subtle and being able to feel the slightest little tick on your line will help you put more fish in the boat.
3. Plastics work great in cold water, especially Berkley Gulp or heavily scented products. I personally feel that with the thicker water viscosity the scent creates a plume around the bait holding that scent in the strike zone. Have you ever really smelled a live minnow? But I'm sure you can smell the bag of plastics when you open it up.
4. Go slow! With water temps just above freezing the fishes metabolism isn't in high speed nor are they. Work your jigging motion very slow and even drag it at times. Pay attention to what you were doing when you got a bite and let the fish tell you what they want. A couple things you can do to help with this is to use a plastic that has a ribbed body such as a Northland Tackle Impulse Core Swim Bait. The ribs in the bait will slow its fall rate allowing the fish more time to react to it. And if you're able to switch out spools from a super line, try to use monofilament when things really need to be changed up. The monofilament line floats so the fall rate will be considerably slower than that of a super line.
5. Increase the size of your jig. I know everyone says to go as small as possible so the walleye can inhale the jig with little resistance. However, if you’re a beginner at this method go with a heavier jig until you get a good feel for the bottom. A bigger jig will also displace more water creating more noise which can be very effective in murky water. A jig and a minnow is a very typical approach for this presentation and it works very well.
6. Boat control will be your biggest factor, so ensure you're communicating with
each other in the boat. If one of you have your line dragging 50 feet behind the boat and the other vertical, you are going to have some problems. Make sure you are both using the same size of jig (1/4oz or 1/2 oz) this will keep you both vertical with and out of each other lines.
These are just a few of several tips to think about this spring as you get the boat out of storage and head off to your favorite spring fishing hole. The first outing of the year all way's through you a few curve balls as you get back into the swing of things so allow yourself some additional time and check over all your gear twice. Have patience and minimize your expectations and just enjoy being back out on the water. It won't be long and your walleye game will be on point and you will be the envy of all your angling friends.