Just like a couple of weeks ago, still swamped in the shop gearing up for the 2013 season. Regardless of that, down on Lake Erie the catching has started to take place. People are trolling and catching slobs and jigging will soon be in full swing. Here are a couple of quick tips when it comes to using hair jigs on the lake.
Size, as is well-known, does matter! When it comes to fishing Erie there are three sizes that will get the job done in all conditions. Depending on the wind, waves and the speed they can produce walleye anglers should have a variety of 1/2, 5/8, and 3/4 ounce jigs in their kits to get the job done. One ounce jigs can be used, but I haven’t found them to be as effective as the others.
On calmer days, when the winds are light the 1 oz jig works well down below the surface. Without going crazy small for the species of fish, I have found that there is such a thing as smaller can be better. Course this doesn’t apply when the water is really dirty, then a bigger profile bait works best. On such days though, it seems that the blade baits like Captain Jay’s out perform hair jigs.
In two to three-foot waves, after testing this theory for a couple of years, going a little bit bigger works best. Now its time to bust out the 5/8ths oz jigs. Of the three sizes I mentioned, this tweener bait can work in all conditions, but it does perform best in moderate conditions.
I would say in three to five foot waves it is time to bust out a selection of 3/4 oz jigs, but for safety sake, let’s top it off at four-foot waves. There are some boats that should just not be out in five foot waves and 4 foot seems manageable for most types of craft. When the whitecaps start cresting though, it is definitely time to break out the heavy hardware. That kind of sounds amazing though because in most places you will be fishing in 9 to 12 foot of water, and in some cases as deep as eighteen foot.
A couple of years ago somebody asked me that when bouncing hair jigs out on the lake, if it was important to keep the jigs as vertical as possible? Their thought was that the lake does not present as many snags as will be found on the Detroit River. My response was that it is all about the hook set, and the more vertical you can keep your bait, the smaller percentage of short strikes and misses you will have. Even though the Erie hair jig bite is a drift approach to catching walleye vs. trying to remain stationary in a river, angles are important.
If you are bouncing along, doing your thing, with your line 20 feet behind the boat, you will have more than your share of misses. Think about it, when you have a strike with the line so far back, you tend to pull the jig out of the fish’s mouth. If you stay fairly vertical, what will happen on the bite is that you drive the hook practically straight up into the roof of the walleye’s mouth.
It is a drift bite, so staying completely vertical is practically impossible. When you have a variety of jig sizes though, it will make the job easier. I mentioned angles in the last paragraph, everybody likes to be able to visualize something when learning and when you put a number on it, the process becomes even easier to understand. Just like drifting with a bottom bouncer, I would not exceed a 45′ angle, from your rod tip, to where the line enters the water. I would even say that a 20 to 30′ angle works best. When you have a selection of sizes to choose from, then those become very workable numbers to make your presentation work.