Anglers use Ice Fishing Jigs to Win Open Water Walleye Tourneys

When Al Lindner spilled the beans on a hush-hush tactic for boating open-water walleyes with an ice-fishing lure, the Rapala Jigging Rap, he noted that a Canadian walleye pro had already won two tournaments with it.

Two years later, the hardwater hardbait brought tournament hardware to an American open-water angler, Rapala pro Chris Gilman. In September, Gilman hoisted a Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Championship trophy after enjoying an epic Jigging Rap bite on North Dakota’s Devils Lake.

2124173“It was almost magical,” says Gilman, an FLW Walleye Championship winner and FLW Walleye Angler of the Year. “As fast as my partner and I could get the Jigging Raps down, we had one on.”

Sounds like the success Lindner predicted for the open-water Jigging Rap pattern in 2011.

“You land a fish, you get it off, you drop that bait down again and you can go bam, bam, bam! – Get two, three, four fish as fast as you can drop it,” Lindner says in this “Angling Edge” TV episode, [] in which he and Gary “Mac” McEnelly demonstrate how to effectively fish the pattern. “You can’t do that with a live-bait rig.”

So fast and furious were big walleyes crushing Gilman’s Jigging Raps on the final day of the NWT championship, he and his partner fished for less than 20 minutes on their magic spot before heading back to the dock with a 22.26-pound limit that would win the tournament.

“We got there around 8:00 and had a limit by about 8:20,” Gilman recalls.

He found the winning school of fish in about 16 feet of water in a channel in East Devils lake. “We dropped right onto of a school of big ones,” he says.

On the first day of the tournament, Gilman caught most of his fish casting Rapala Glass Shad Raps. “But when the wind slowed down and my shallow fish turned finicky, the Jigging Raps were the answer,” he says.

A Masters Walleye Circuit tournament was won on Jigging Raps at Devils Lake about a month before the NWT, and “most guys heard the news and came prepared to try Jigging raps,” Gilman says. “I have had a lot of success with them in the past, but this is really the first time I fished a tournament with them.”

He started the third and final day of the tournament in second place, after catching a 16.10-pound limit on Day 2, mostly on Jigging Raps that he vertically jigged around a rock hump that topped out at about 25 feet.

“I could troll around the hump and pick off the active fish,” Gilman explains. He snaps the Jigging Rap off the bottom “pretty aggressively,” about a foot and a half up and down, he says. “It draws the fishes’ attention and they are triggered to bite.”

Gilman favors bigger Jigging Raps, which are available in four sizes. As he does most often, he was fishing 7/8th oz. No. 9’s in the NWT championship.

“The fish are not afraid of the size and the heavier weight allowed me to move around while still staying relatively vertical,” he says. He could troll as quickly as half a mile an hour “without much of a problem,” he says.

In Gilman’s experience, a Jigging Rap’s weight and action is more important than its color pattern. “Color does not seem to matter as much with the Jigging Raps, as with crankbaits,” he says. “It is the action that triggers the strike, not the color.”

Gilman throws Jigging Raps on 20-pound-test Sufix 832 braid attached by a barrel swivel to a 12-inch, 20-pound-test Sufix fluorocarbon leader. He uses a 6-foot, 3-inch medium-action spinning rod with an extra-fast tip.

Gilman weighed 55.91 pounds of walleye to win the NWT championship by a 0.05-pound margin over an angler fishing a similar pattern – his roommate, Josh Vanderweide.

“He was also fishing Jigging’ Raps, but his spot was 25 miles from mine,” Gilman says.

Open-Water Jigging Rap How-To’s
In the 2011 open-water Jigging Rap demonstration, Lindner positions his boat on the deep edge of a contour line and followed it. Using a foot-operated bow-mounted electric motor, he trolls forward at 7/10 to 1 mph, casting from the bow to a deep weed edge in about 15 to 16 feet and worked his bait over a gravel-sand bottom to about 21 to 22 feet. In the back of the boat, McEnelly drags his bait a short distance behind the boat, the line descending at a 60-degree angle to the water surface.

“We’re covering a lot of depth patterns at one time,” Lindner explains. “You cover so much water so fast with this bait, way more than you could ever, ever do with a live-bait rig.”

When fished through the ice as they were designed, Jigging Raps require a vertical pump-and-swim motion. An open-water presentation, however, requires a horizontal triggering action.

“You sweep the rod tip, and the heavy lure shoots forward like a panicked baitfish before plunging back to the bottom,” McEnelly explains. The action elicits an aggressive reaction from walleyes.

“They see it jump off the bottom, dart to the side, fall in front of their face, and they go ‘Gulp!’ They eat it!” Lindner says. “Whether you’re casting, vertical Jigging, or dragging, it is a triggering bite.”

Do not let the Jigging Rap pause very long on the bottom, McEnelly says. “As soon as you feel that bait hit the bottom, pick up again and keep it moving.”

When And Where?
On the spring day Lindner and McEnelly demonstrate the Jigging Rap bite in the video, water temps are about 63 degrees and the bite is fantastic for both size and numbers. The bite is effective all summer as well and into the late fall. “There’s a large window of time when this technique is very effective,” McEnelly says

It’s not effective, though, over soft, silty bottoms or big boulders fields. Fished over sand and gravel bottoms, however, 40- to 60-fish days can be expected, even “in the middle of summer when everyone else is dragging live-bait rigs with leeches and night crawlers and red-tailed chubs and sitting on schools of fish and catching two, three four fish,” Lindner says. “And you come through the exact same school and catch 12, 15, 20.

“It’s an amazing thing when that bite is on – how effective this bait is. …” Lindner says. “Jigging Raps in open water – it isn’t only for ice fishing.”

New Converts?
Although it was two years ago that Lindner said “the secret is out” about the open-water Jigging Rap walleye bite, not much about it was mentioned in the media until Gilman’s NWT win this fall. But as word of the win spreads – and word of the Jigging Rap bite behind it – perhaps Al’s 2011 assessment of his fishing partner, McEnelly, will soon extend to the larger walleye world: “I have a new convert to the Jigging’ Rap Brigade!” Count Chris Gilman among the converted.

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