Versatile “ice lure” triggers open-water ‘eyes
Would you like to catch more walleyes throughout the open-water season, from the first idyllic days of spring right through the gales of November? Then think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to test tactics pigeonholed for other applications.
“Swimming jigs like the Northland Puppet Minnow and Rapala Jigging Rap are perfect examples,” says Scott Glorvigen, a longtime guide and decorated tournament champion who’s seen firsthand the rewards of pushing the tactical envelope. Other notable options include the Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow and Nils Master Jigger.
Widely considered ice-fishing lures, swimming jigs are deadly on walleyes in a variety of situations, and despite their success remain largely off the radar of many otherwise savvy anglers. “Al Lindner revived open-water Jigging Rap strategies on the main stage a few years ago, and anglers have been quietly using them as part of their walleye tournament tactics for decades,” says Glorvigen.
Indeed, at a recent AIM tournament on north-central Minnesota’s Winnibigoshish and Cutfoot Sioux lakes, Glorvigen noted widespread use of swimming jigs among anglers plying deep reefs and humps. “At one point or another, everyone around me was fishing them,” he says. “And they were absolutely crushing the fish. It was like watching old black-and-white footage of commercial fishermen jerking tuna.”
Swim-jig history dates farther back. In 2001, walleye ace Kim “Chief” Papineau of Escanaba, Michigan, scored second place in an In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail event on the Detroit River. His secret? You guessed it-Jigging Raps. While his success and methods gained press at the time, most walleye fans remained content to relegate swim jigs to winter duty.
Swimming jigs are versatile weapons that trigger strikes when fished with a variety of strokes. Shortly after the Motor City tournament, Papineau revealed that his pet presentation was a slow, vertically-oriented lift-drop affair. He would let the jig tick bottom, raise it an inch or two, and then shake the rodtip an inch or so in either direction. A single, skull-hooked minnow impaled on the rear-facing belly treble tine would pendulum when shaken, stirring up the ire of watching ‘eyes.
In contrast, Glorvigen and other swim jiggers typically employ more animated maneuvers. “I use two techniques,” he says. “When walleyes are clustered on structure directly beneath the boat, I use a snap-fall approach, popping the jig up 18 inches, and then letting it fall to bottom on a slack line. When you pick it up, a lot of times there’s a walleye on the line.”
In search mode, or when walleyes are spotted to the side or front of the boat with forward- and side-imaging sonar such as Lowrance Structure- and Spotlight Scan, Glorvigen takes a horizontal tack.
“Make a long cast toward the target and let the jig fall to bottom,” he begins. “Snap the rodtip from 10 o’clock to high noon above your head, and let the lure fall to bottom while reeling up slack and dropping the tip back to 10 o’clock.” With a snappy retrieve, the jig should touch down on the fall, unless the bottom is covered with sandgrass or other hook-fouling sources of frustration. In such cases, keep the jig just above the cover.
Glorvigen’s go-to swimming jig setup consists of a 7-foot medium-fast St. Croix spinning outfit spooled with 10-pound-test superbraid such as steel-gray Northland Bionic Walleye Braid or Berkley FireLine Crystal. The mainline ends in a small barrel swivel, which connects it to an 18-inch leader of 10-pound Berkley Professional Grade Fluorocarbon, which is tied directly to the jig.
Bait shops aren’t exactly awash in swimming jig options. Glorvigen’s all-time favorite is a #7 Rapala Jigging Rap, but he’s quick to sing the praises of Northland’s newly-revamped Puppet Minnow. Unlike Papineau, Glorvigen shuns tippings for swim-jig walleye applications, though he notes that jigs soaked in scents such as Berkley Gulp! Marinade have scored top finishes in major tournaments.
Even if you don’t make swim jigs your weapon of choice, Glorvigen suggests keeping one close at hand while fishing other presentations. “They’re great follow-up baits,” he says. “For example, if you’re marking walleyes but they’re not hitting your live-bait or spinner rigs, throw down a swimming jig and hang on.”
Given swimming jigs’ versatility, he recommends experimenting with a variety of vertical and horizontal moves to figure out what the fish want at any given moment.
Glorvigen is quick to point out that swimming jigs are just one example of lures pigeonholed for one presentation shining in other scenarios. “The opportunities are endless,” he says. “Next time you’re rummaging through your tackle, especially lures you haven’t used in awhile, ask yourself, ‘How many other baits can produce similar results?'”
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDAUfkBXVlA