August 14, 2023
The two isolated humps rose to within 12 feet of the surface, a couple hard-bottomed structures associated with a much larger mid-lake complex of reefs.
While performing a quick scan of the two humps with side-imaging sonar, I marked what I suspected was a loose school of walleyes sitting near the crest of the eastern hump.
After dropping an icon to show the location of the fish, I positioned the boat within casting distance, roughly 50 feet away, and fired a glide jig—in this case an Acme Hyper Rattle—in their direction. It took only a few seconds for the dense bait to rocket to the bottom. I then imparted two quick, robust snaps of the rod to shoot the lure off the bottom, allowing it to sink back down on a slack line. As I attempted the next series of snaps, I encountered solid resistance. A nice walleye had pinned the lure to the bottom.
During the next 30 minutes, five more walleyes succumbed to the glide jig, along with a chunky channel cat. By day’s end, glide jig tactics had accounted for several more ’eyes, along with a couple dozen white bass, smallmouth bass and an assortment of panfish.
GLIDE JIGS 101
Categorically, glide jigs are dense, minnow-shaped jigs of the classic Rapala Jigging Rap vein. Most have a single hook molded into the nose of the bait, as well as the tail, with a treble hook hanging from the belly. A plastic fin molded into the tail gives the lure its gliding action. The line tie is located along the back of the lure where the dorsal fin would be.
To the best of my knowledge, the emergence of glide jigs began when anglers from the Upper Midwest’s “walleye belt” applied the Rapala Jigging Rap, an ice-fishing lure, to the open water. It was discovered that when worked erratically along the bottom, the lure oftentimes provoked strikes from both active and inactive walleyes. This success has fueled the development of many such lures, such as the Acme Hyper Rattle, Moonshine Shiver Minnow, Northland Puppet Minnow and Johnson Johnny Darter among others, with new versions continually trickling into the market.
While the baits are similar, individual models have different fall rates and gliding actions. Experimentation will determine which ones work best in your situation. When targeting walleyes and bass in summer, I prefer baits in the 3/8- to nearly 1-ounce range.
WORKING A GLIDE JIG
Bass hit a suspending jerkbait because it combines flash and movement with a vulnerability that is often irresistible. In a sense, a glide jig does the same thing but on or near bottom in depths ranging from the shallows out to 30-plus feet.
Since a glide jig is relatively heavy and compact, it sinks rapidly. Therefore, you can quickly put it in front of fish you spot on sonar. It’s efficient, as fish either hit it on the first couple casts or they ignore it; repeatedly working a lure in front of fish is rarely productive.
The essentials of working a glide jig include allowing it to fall on a slack line to the bottom, which doesn’t take long. Once there, engage the reel and take in the slack. Then, give the lure a sharp, upward snap that rockets it anywhere from a couple to several feet off bottom, depending on intensity and length of the snap. A quick sequence of two or three snaps will shoot it up even higher. The lure then falls on a slack line to the bottom.
As the jig sinks, it glides from side to side in an erratic manner. Suppress the urge to maintain a tight (or even semi-tight line) during the drop. Veteran jig fisherman might find this difficult to do, but the slack line is necessary to allow the jig to glide.
Different species seem to hit glide jigs in various ways. Walleyes commonly follow the lure to the bottom and pin it there. You likely won’t feel the strike, rather the fish will just “be there” when you attempt your next snap (or series of snaps).
Smallmouth and largemouth bass often hit the lure on the fall. As you work a glide bait, even on a slack line, you’ll develop a sense of timing as to when the lure crashes back on bottom. When something interrupts this cadence, it’s often because a bass has inhaled the lure.
White bass often hit the lure on the initial fall, especially when there’s an active school tearing into baitfish. Again, you notice the bite simply because the lure fails to hit bottom in the few seconds it normally does.
What I’ve learned about the glide jig over the past few years comes from targeting walleyes. The key isn’t so much in how you work the bait, but where. This often relates to the habitat as well as the dynamics of fish populations in the lake being fished.
The glide jig is not exactly a fisherman-friendly bait to work; it can be physically taxing. For that reason, it’s wise to use them in high-percentage areas, like where you’ve spotted fish on sonar. (While I have no doubt forward-facing sonar would increase the efficiency of targeting fish, I only use side, down and traditional 2D sonar.)
In water 15 feet or less, I lean toward side imaging set out to 70 to 80 feet. Walleyes roaming flats and humps will display on side scan, particularly
high-frequency units like my Garmin Ultra with UHD56GT transducer. Sometimes you’ll only see the shadows. When I mark fish, I’ll drop a waypoint on the spot (I use a blue pin) with the intention of circling back around, spot-locking the boat, then targeting those fish. Since it’s impossible to know how long fish will stay in an area, I don’t wait long to glide-jig them once I’ve found them. Don’t camp out on a spot, though. If you make contact with fish, keep at it until the action dies. If they don’t bite, keep looking.
In deeper water (roughly 15 to 35 feet), down-imaging and traditional sonar come into play. Deep humps, points and creek channel ledges are all places to search. I often scan deeper structures at around 2 mph with my outboard. When I spot fish, I slam the boat into reverse and toss a heavy glide jig back behind the boat.
BLACK BASS TACTICS
On clear-water lakes and reservoirs, which I often fish during the summer period, it’s common to find both black bass and walleyes out on deeper structure. The fish display similarly on sonar, so it’s often hard to know which is there until you catch one.
That said, there’s one situation that is black bass-specific: Larger fish holding off deep wood. When targeting deep-wood crappies—brush piles and submerged trees in 15 to 25 feet of water—I often notice bigger marks 10 to 20 feet off the cover. These are usually bass, and a glide bait dropped down into them will often trigger one or more fish to bite. Just don’t fish too close to the cover. Glide jigs and wood don’t go well together.
WHITE BASS AND PANFISH TACTICS
White bass are a gregarious species and like to feed in packs, often on suspended baitfish. When my 2D sonar shows baitfish being broken up by predators, which often displays like a paint ball splattered on the screen, it’s usually white bass at work. Glide jigs dropped down through the school will nearly always provoke a strike from these fish. When you hit things right, you can catch one after another—great fun when the whites are 12 to 15 inches long.
Bluegills, pumpkinseeds and crappies are bonus fish that commonly show up on a glide jig when targeting other species. It’s a versatile summertime bait.
- This article was featured in the East edition of June-July 2023’s Game & Fish Magazine. Learn how to subscribe.