August 26, 2008

The Rise and Fall of No Hassle Jigging

By Mike Jackson Daily Herald Outdoors Writer

I presume many anglers are ready for spring fishing action.

The experts tell us the magic water temperature for walleyes to do their spring spawning dance is between 42 and 48 degrees.

There are exceptions to the rule, though, with a few rivers turning on a bit sooner.

The larger female walleyes move into holes or deeper depressions in slower current areas and hold there while signaling their intentions to males that they are almost ready to spawn.

Old-time anglers tell of their successful exploits under these conditions with a small hook and a minnow. It works well at times, they say, if the angler pays special attention to the way that rig bounces across rocks and sunken trees.

But I've learned an easier way to catch these fish, especially when a river is loaded with underwater obstacles.

Greg Bohn spent a lot of time developing and improving vertical jigging with specially made weedless jigs and hooks. Greg knew that a jig was a perfect tool to get a minnow down to the bottom, and when he came up with the No-Snagg rig, he solved the dilemma of losing terminal tackle.

Still, vertical jigging is not always easy to master, especially when you're either anchored on a stretch of fast water or trying to hold your position with the gas or electric motor.

I'll paint a picture for you.

Many anglers wind up "dragging" a jig behind them while trying to maintain the boat's position. In this case, your jig will usually ride above a target zone, while walleyes generally suspend quite close to the bottom. The trick is to have your line perpendicular to the water so you can feel both the bottom and strikes.

Another problem some fisherman experience is they use a jig too light for fast current. Some people operate under the theory that walleyes will avoid big, heavy jigs. That's the situation on a river like the Fox, with mega-amounts of spring run-off coming through the McHenry dam, a common misconception is that fish will be all over the water column. Forget it. Pre-spawn walleyes will be very close to the bottom.

The weedless, No-Snagg jigs and hooks tipped with a fathead minnow is exactly what works for me, as well as Bohn and co- developer Ron Lindner.

Because I've painstakingly learned boat control, I've been able to use the gas motor to hold my position instead of anchoring. Dropping an anchor into a rock-strewn area can be a pain in the neck as well as extremely hazardous if the current is heavy.

When you keep your line perpendicular (straight up and down), you greatly improve your chances of feeling a strike.

Bohn suggests you lift the jig off the bottom and then allow it to drop back down, hence the rise-and-fall handle I've attached to this method.

The technique will work on many rivers for walleyes, crappie, catfish and pike. But it does take practice and concentration, two things I'm sure you cabin-fever blokes are loaded with to the max.

Hurting over hammerhead: Fritz Van Der Grift is probably still massaging his muscles this week.

The South Florida angler was fishing in fairly shallow water in Palm Beach County, right off Singer Island, when a big fish grabbed his bait.

The fish turned out to be a hammerhead shark that weighed over a thousand pounds and measured over 13 feet long.

The current Florida record is just over 1,200 pounds.

Marine biologists now plan to conduct a host of tests to learn about that species' habits.

Fantasy ... fishing? Irwin Jacobs said the initial results were amazing as people flocked to the Web page of the latest interest in fishing.

The Minneapolis-based entrepreneur recently unveiled his latest venture, the FLW Fantasy Fishing Tournament. Like fantasy football and baseball, Jacobs gives entrants a chance to win big dollars by picking the right professional bass anglers in the various FLW contests.

Jacobs is also CEO of most of the major U.S. boat companies.

Fishing report: The ice is thick and the fishing is red hot.

Fox Chain: Both Petite and Pistakee Lakes seem to be "on fire" right now with excellent catches of crappie, walleye and big bluegills coming in. Nighttime hours and just before sunrise are the prime times for the walleyes, while the shallow-water crappie action is an on-going episode. Lake Marie channel catfish are doing well on cheese baits or minnows.

Shabbona Lake: Good crappie fishing in 6 feet of water. Safe ice on this lake.

Bangs Lake: Just before sunrise you can experience a good crappie bite in 8 feet of water near the northwest corner of the lake.

- Mike Jackson can be reached via e-mail at [email protected], and you can catch his radio program 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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