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Talkin' Fishin' column: Use jigs for early-season walleyes

When it comes to catching walleyes early in the fishing season, it's really tough to beat a jig. Other presentations can provide success, but if you told many of the best walleye catchers in the Midwest they could only use one presentation for walleyes this time of year, most of them would reach for their jig box. Here's how you can catch more walleyes on jigs in the next few weeks.

There are a lot of jigs for an angler to choose from. Fire-Ball jigs are some of the best. They have a short-shank, wide-gap hook, and that's really important this time of year. Early season walleyes usually prefer a smaller bait. With the Fire-ball jig, you can put the hook in the minnow's mouth and out the back of the minnow's head. The minnow's mouth will be right up against the head of the jig, making the presentation appear smaller.

Just as walleyes often prefer a smaller presentation in the spring, they also usually like the bait moved fairly slow. This is where a stand-up Fire-Ball jig enters the picture. The stand-up version of the Fire-Ball is designed so the minnow or whatever bait being used is much more visible when the jig is sitting still on the bottom. A round head jig lays flat on the bottom at rest, and so does whatever bait has been added to the jig. The minnow is much more visible when the jig is sitting still on a stand-up head, so the odds of the fish seeing the bait are much better, and, if the fish can see the bait better, they are more likely to eat it.

A dragging retrieve is usually better early in the year. The water is cold, the fish don't want to chase, so a bait that is moving slowly across the bottom with plenty of pauses will get eaten more often.

Have fathead and shiner minnows with you. Sometimes the walleyes prefer one over the other. I separate both species of minnows in Frabill's 1404 Min-O-Life containers. These units have outstanding aeration that keeps the minnows very lively, and the aerators are quiet. The angler in the back of the boat gets one bait container, the angler in the front gets the other. If and when it is determined that the walleyes are preferring one minnow specie over the other, both anglers start using the productive specie.

As the water warms and the walleyes get more active, Gulp! and Power Bait bodies replace the minnows. We also go to a Mimic Minnow jig head. These heads are great with soft bait.

Gulp! and Power Bait are preferred because they offer lots of color and body shape options, they can be fished faster, you'll catch a lot more fish per bait, and because the walleyes really like them.

Six-pound test Trilene Sensation is used with the jig/minnow combination, eight pound test Trilene Sensation is used with the jig/soft bait combo. Sensation really aids in detecting soft walleye takes.

Right now is the time to use jigs for walleyes. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you're going to catch more walleyes.

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