Nuances of Jigging Lake of the Woods
If I ask you about jigging, what comes to your mind? Do you picture a certain jig in a certain size? What kind of line are you using? Are you picturing live bait, dead bait or plastics? Every body of water can be very different. Consequently, the walleyes often react or prefer different methods of presentation. In the case of jig fishing on Lake of the Woods, it certainly has it’s nuances.
No man’s land. The big open water of Big Traverse Bay which is the main body of water in this watershed. Although there are some reefs scattered throughout, much of the area is flat mud bottom. It is like one huge aquarium loaded with literally millions of walleyes, saugers a variety of other fish and one key component, bait.
Normally, and early on in my Lake of the Woods jig fishing days, I would slowly cover water with a jig and minnow in search of roaming schools of walleyes and saugers. Over time, I have learned there is a better way to put fish in the boat. Believe it or not, the walleyes in “no man’s land” actually prefer the jig fished straight up and down vertically and less horizontal. That means anchored up and not moving among miles of nothing but flat mud. For reasons we can guess on, but only the walleyes truly know, a jig offered this way will catch more fish.
There are some thoughts on why this is. The water on this prolific fishery is stained, meaning the water that enters the watershed from the south where there is a lot of bogs staining the water with tannins. Tannins are natural organic matter that can result from nature’s fermentation process as water passes through the ground in peaty areas or through levels of decaying vegetation. This stain is a good thing in many ways. It actually allows anglers to have consistent fishing during daylight hours. This might also be a clue as to the walleyes honing in on smell, much like a shark can smell blood in the water for miles away.
Is it no surprise then that on LOW, you don’t go by the rule, “use the lightest jig possible under the conditions”. In many cases, the fish allow an angler, and in many cases prefer, a larger jig. This makes it nice to have control of the jig in wind and waves, allows you to pound the bottom causing vibration and stirring up the mud, much as forage does.
Many anglers also tie their jig directly to their favorite superline vs mono. On clear bodies of water, this isn’t always a good idea.
Minnows are often the go to in tipping a jig. Live minnows work great. Many anglers prefer frozen emerald shiners. This dead bait, as long as you hook it right so it stays on the jig, puts off scent and scales in huge proportion. Charter boat captains will often comment fishing gets better after they have been anchored up 30 minutes. The thought is the fish gravitate under the boat due to smell, bait, fish activity, etc. It is almost like creating your own ecosystem right under your boat. Might sound crazy, but it just works.
A couple more ideas. Don’t be afraid to put two shiners on your jig, really load it up. The walleyes here are not fashion conscious, they simple want to gorge. You may also consider, at times, creating the “full meal deal”. This is what guides call the process of a frozen shiner, leech and piece of crawler on the jig at the same time. Normally, unless there is a specific leech bite happening, I use combo of shiners and crawlers.
Also consider using a stinger hook. It amazes me the size of walleyes that little treble will get. I load my jig with bait and then actually add a small piece of shiner and a small piece of crawler to the stinger. It won’t win you style points, but it will put more walleyes in the boat!