I have to be honest I spend most of my spring days trolling, but I really do love casting or jigging for walleyes. One thing that this “quarantine” of this apocalypse has allowed is some solo boat time and not having to produce every day. Instead, I’ve been able to just spend time on the water experimenting with new water and techniques. It’s these rare moments in today’s hectic world that really let an angler learn. I say learn because it takes a lot of water time to know what factors really matter and aren’t just a broken clock technique. That’s those that are only right twice a day!
No different than any other sport, jigging is a technique where small details matter and equipment plays a major role. I was reminded of this several times this spring when I just threw a few rods in a buddy’s boat and went fishing. It didn’t end well. I didn’t have what I needed, at least in the boat. Let me explain.
When fishing shallow (let’s say less than 16’) a stiff rod and braided line seem to drastically reduce the number of strikes and certainly your landing percentage. The lack of stretch is obvious, but I believe it also is because we both get on fish too quickly, much like fishing a top water frog for my bass friends and also because we move the lure move in the water column more than we know.
Here are some tips for shallow and deep casting or jigging in cold water
Rod—G Loomis CBR843 IMX Pro
This 7’ moderate action rod has extra give that cuts down on erratic lure movement and keeps fish buttoned up better than a faster action rod. If you spend most of your time casting out or working the lure back the 7’6’’ (903) model might be a better choice. In typical G Loomis form, both rods are light as a feather.
Reel—Shimano Curado DC
This compact bait caster is easy to cast thanks to an internal computer chip that makes it very difficult to backlash. This can be very important when throwing light lures into the wind. Gear ratio is an important factor and depends a little on personal preference. I have several friends who always get the fastest gear ratio they can with the philosophy that they can always slow down, but not speed it up. Personally I find it hard to slow down and maintain that, so I prefer a slower ratio. The 7:4.1 ratio is a good all-around place to start, with faster and slower ratios available.
Line- Sunline Crank FC 16lb
Flurocarbon has less stretch than monofilament, but a lot more than braided fishing line. The Crank model is specifically designed for moving baits where extra give is needed. Don’t be fooled by the 16lb tag, it is only .013 diameter and is listed at its IGFA breaking strength. The larger diameter compared to braid allows for a slower fall rate, which can be critical in cold water. The little larger diameter also helps to reduce breakoffs from rocks, zebra mussels and other abrasions.
Rod—G Loomis WJR752S GLX
This extremely versatile rod is light as a feather and has incredible sensitivity, which is important since the deeper we fish, the harder it is to feel. The 6’3’’ length makes it a good choice for fishing vertical or short to medium distance casting. While the rod is rated to 3/8 oz, experience has taught me that it easily handles larger lures.
Reel– Shimano Stradic 2500 ci4
One thing that will overshadow a super light and sensitive rod is a heavy reel that throws off the balance of the combo. The carbon fiber reinforced graphite frame significantly lightens up the reel, increasing feel and decreasing fatigue. It is one of the most used reels on the bass tour for a reason.
Line– Sunline Xplasma Asegai Braid
Newer to the market, plasma braid is durable and seems to hold its color better than other braids I have used. The 12lb test is incredibly small, yet very strong. Look to use a bright color such as the light green (lime) to watch your line angle to detect both bottom, current and strikes much easier. A short 18’’ leader of regular fluorocarbon attached via a small spro power swivel helps reduce twist and increases abrasion resistance.
Shallow & Deep Lures
Blade baits and hair jigs are an excellent 1-2 punch in cold water. On any given day one tends to drastically outperform the other for whatever reason. While color can absolutely make a big difference, make sure to stock your box with several different weight sizes of both lure types. Having the right size to create the preferred fall rate, some heavy enough to fish deep and some light enough to not hang-up to frequently in shallower water will make more of a difference than the right color.
The Golden Key—Boat Control
Having good boat control typically means more fish caught and less jigs lost. Today technology has make it as easy as ever to make sure you boat control is on point. Below are a few options to do this. A caveat is to not be afraid to combine more than one form of boat control at the same time.
Talon- A not so shallow, shallow water anchor. I say that because the model on my boat will hold my boat in place in 15’ of water. In layman’s term a fiberglass pole telescopes down and pins your boat to the bottom. A much simpler and quieter alternative to anchoring.
Spot Lock- – Think of this as digitally anchoring your boat. Minn Kota trolling motors such as the Ulterra, Terrova, and Ultrex hold in place by taking a waypoint and working hands free to keep you on that spot.
Drift Socks—The oldest and most cost effective way to slow down your boat while drifting. Carry a few different sizes to fine tune the drift speed as wind and currents change.
No one setup will do it all, but both of the above mentioned combos are perfect for these techniques, yet versatile enough to be used throughout the year for other applications and not just gather dust in the garage.
Capt. Ross Robertson