To be a successful walleye angler, you must master a wide array of presentation tricks and tactics. Finding the fish is critical, of course, but that’s only half the battle. You also need to coax them into biting. And when the bite turns tight, it’s time to show the fish something they might not have seen before. Like snap jigging.
Snap jigging can be accomplished with a variety of baits and lure styles, including standard lead-head jigs, hard-bodied gliding jigs and metal blade baits. The details of presentation vary with each, but generally speaking, snap jigging involves imparting a lively action to the bait, interrupted with short pauses during which times the fish typically strike.
SNAP TO IT
Start with a round-head or “walleye head” jig dressed with an action-tail body, such as a Berkley PowerBait Grub or a classic deer hair body. The traditional way of fishing this set-up is to allow it to fall to the bottom on a fairly tight line as you wait for the tell-tale tap of a strike.
When snap jigging, however, the same bait is aggressively snapped upward, well off the bottom, then allowed to fall on a slack line. After a short pause, the jig is again ripped upward two to three feet off the bottom. The upward rip gets the walleye’s attention while the pause on the bottom provides it with the opportunity to eat the vulnerable bait. This is much like teasing a cat with a ball of string, where the cat pounces on the string when movement is delayed.
When snap jigging lead heads, it’s wise to up the weight a size or two. If you commonly use a ¼-ounce jig in a given situation, consider going to a 3/8- or ½-ounce jig instead. The additional weight results in a faster fall and creates more noise when it hits bottom, both of which can trigger strikes. It also allows you to fish the bait faster, thus covering more water more quickly.
GLIDE ON BY
Hard-body gliding jigs, such as Rapala’s Jigging Rap and Flat Jig, Moonshine’s Shiver Minnow and Acme’s Hyper Rattle, have garnered much attention from walleye anglers in recent years. These minnow-shaped chunks of lead have traditionally been used as ice-fishing baits; however, savvy anglers have come to realize how open-water walleyes respond to the gliding action when snap jigged. Walleye pro Dylan Nussbaum is one such angler.
When working expansive areas for walleyes, Nussbaum uses a Rapala Flat Jig or Jigging Rap as a search bait, typically opting for the former as he feels it has a farther-reaching gliding action. Nussbaum uses a 9:30 to 12 o’clock upward rip of two tothree feet to snap the bait into action, then follows it down with the rod tip. Hits typically occur on the way down or while the bait is on the bottom, as walleyes will try to pin it to the lake’s floor. Nussbaum makes sure to pause it on the bottom for one to two seconds.
“You know the bite is on when you feel them hit it on the fall,” he says. When searching larger structure, Nussbaum fishes the hard-bodied jig mostly vertical so that it’s within the cone of his sonar beam. When targeting specific smaller structure, he locks the boat in position and switches to casting.
Due to their gliding nature, hard-bodied jigs tend to foul around the line. To counter this, Nussbaum ties a 2- to 3-foot section of 12- to 15-pound-test fluorocarbon leader material to his Suffix braid. The stiffer leader helps minimize fouling.
Because of the lure’s heavy, compact profile, losing hooked walleyes is an issue with hard-bodied jigs. Have the landing net handy, as any surface thrashing will increase the likelihood of a lost fish.
BREAK OUT THE BLADE
As a full-time guide, I rely on Silver Buddy metal blade baits to dupe walleyes throughout the year. Blades are often thought of as vertical baits to fish when the water’s cold, but they shine when snap jigged horizontally, too.
To maintain control, I like to make short casts in the 40-foot range. Once the bait hits bottom, I give it a sharp lift ofsix inches to a foot—just enough to feel the vibrating action of the lure—then let it fall back on a semi-slack line. After a second or two on the bottom, I take in line and repeat. As with the previously described lures, most hits will just “be there” when I make the subsequent snap.
Once the bait is under the boat but still near the bottom, I’ll hold it there and employ a few more snap jigs before winding in for the next cast. Half-ounce blade baits excel with this tactic.
When walleyes turn up their collective noses to delicately presented ‘crawlers and leeches this spring, get snappy to get their attention.
BERKLEY SNAP JIG
As its name implies, Berkley’s Snap Jig ($5.99/2 pack; berkley-fishing.com) is made specifically for snap jigging. According to walleye pro Gary Parsons, the Snap Jig gives walleyes a very different look compared to a standard round-head jig.
“The key to fishing the Snap Jig is to not overwork it,” says Parsons. Unlike a round-head jig, the Snap Jig, due to its metal fins, glides to the side with much less movement. Often, Parsons employs two or three successive short strokes on each lift. He performs another lift as soon as the lure hits bottom, then maintains a tight line on the fall. Bites come on the fall, or the fish is there when he makes the next upward lift.
Parsons dresses the Snap Jig with fluke-style profiles, like a Gulp! Minnow. He says the stiffness of the bait adds to the jig’s gliding action.