Although the walleye season has just begun, I've been able to get away on a few outings, despite dozens of duties that come with the excitement of being a new dad. Fish that have hit my landing net have fallen victim to several presentations, but a jig and finesse minnow baits is proving a deadly combination.
I believe that when it comes to fishing tactics, there is a time and place for everything and what works is influenced by environmental conditions, time of year, fish mood, forage base, and a host of other factors. Right now, in the cold spring waters of Eastern Ontario, a jig and minnow is a perfect offering for getting lethargic 'eyes to eat.
Of course, a jig and minnow is a time-honored walleye tactic, but what can elevate its effectiveness at getting sluggish fish to chew is using specialized gear. One way to do this is matching the jig head to the conditions and the style of fishing. Here are a few examples.
When jigging a finesse minnow in fast river current, I reach for a compact jig-head with flat sides to quickly sink through the swift flow. This allows me to fish with as light a jig as possible for a slow fall to maximize the fluttering, kicking action of a finesse minnow. Going with a heavier jig will always get to the bottom faster, but an offering that drops like an anvil rarely garners a response from fickle fish.
A recent getaway with my good friend and guide, Rob Jackson, is another case in point. On this day the winning combination was a Nuckle Ball Jig teamed with a Jackall Clone Fry. These jigs work great as they'll stand up on bottom, minimizing snags while keeping the offering visible to prowling walleye. Better still the balanced head of these jigs pivots and teeter-totters on a hard bottom. These movements then translate into quivers, nervous shakes and other bite-inducing subtle motions from the finesse minnow.
Fish hook type is another important rigging consideration. When walleye are biting light, one set-up I rely on is a swimbait jig head with a long shank hook, which helps stick nibblers, and a compact finesse minnow. Recently on another outing, a 3/16-ounce jig and a 2.5-inch Lunker City Fin-S Fish or a 2.3/4-inch Zoom Tiny Fluke worked extremely well to cast to walleye relating to a 10-foot, sand-weed flat.
These are just a few examples of jig-and-finesse-minnow combinations. Remember, there are dozens of head styles and soft-bait profiles available to create the best presentation on any given day, so experiment until you find the winning combo of the day.