Walleye Jigging Techniques

Walleye charter
Walleye charter

Jigging is a technique that can be used on many fish, in this article we focus on walleye. The jig bite on Lake Erie in the Spring, early Summer, and Fall is like no other. Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, is renowned for its thriving walleye population, attracting fishermen from all over the country.

Among the various techniques for catching walleye, jigging has proven to be highly effective. Some walleye fishermen prefer to jig over any other fishing method. In this guide, we cover the techniques, tackle, and equipment utilized for walleye jigging on Lake Erie.

Understanding Walleye Behavior

Knowing how walleye behave in Lake Erie will help you become a better jig fisherman. Lake Erie walleye are migratory. Most walleye on the lake spawn in the Western basin on the reefs and in the rivers. Jig fishing on Lake Erie is done in the spring and early summer in the Western basin.

The most active time is March-April on the reef complex, around the Camp Perry firing range. This is the area where walleye spawn in the spring on Lake Erie

The reefs in the Western basin are so popular because that is where walleye thrive, near structure. Walleye can also be found in deep basins chasing bait, which can also be great for jig fishing schools of walleye. Walleye are known to be most active during dawn and dusk, making these prime times for jig fishing.

Vertical Jigging

Vertical jigging for walleye is one of the best ways to catch walleye on structure. Begin by dropping the jig straight down, ensuring it makes contact with the bottom. Jig the lure up and down, allowing it to bounce off the bottom each time. Bottom contact is crucial, as the combination of the sound it produces and the lure type can trigger a walleye bite. Vertical jigging is most effective when using a ripping lure or hair jig.

If you find yourself in an area with walleye but are not getting bites, consider tipping the jig with live bait. Sometimes, incorporating live bait with the jig is the only way to elicit a response. On Lake Erie, using emerald shiners or golden shiners is recommended.

Casting and Lifting a Jig

Lifting a jig refers to casting a jig away from the boat and jigging it back. Cast the jig out and wait for bottom contact while on a slack line. Reel the line tight and hop the jig, letting it fall back to the bottom. Repeat this until the jig is back at the boat. This technique works well during the spawn and early summer when the walleye are aggressive.

Popping a Jig

Popping a jig is an aggressive technique. However, this technique has been proven to be effective on Lake Erie. This technique can be used while vertical jigging or casting and lifting. Drop or cast your jig out, then let it hit the bottom on a slack line. Once on the bottom snap the rod up and let the jig fall on a slack line back to the bottom. This quick motion will trigger the walleye to bite in the toughest conditions. The best jig to use for popping is any heavy lead head jig, such as a bucktail jig. This will ensure the jig makes noise as it hits the bottom of the lake.

Swimming a Jig

Swimming a jig is exactly what it sounds like. Cast the jig out and let it sink to the bottom on a slack line. Reel the jig in slowly maintaining bottom contact. This is a great way to catch walleye when they are on the move. The best jigs to use for this technique are any swimbait in the 3-5 inch range on a ball jig head.

Walleye jig

Walleye Jig Types

Walleye jigs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Accordingly, Choosing the right jig can make or break a good fishing day. Lake Erie has many factors that play into what jig to pick on a trip. For example, use a heavy and dark jig in deep water that is stained. On a sunny calm day with little current pick a mild color lighter jig. Although purple and black seem to work in all conditions.

Bucktail Walleye Jigs

These jigs are made with hair that mimics fish movement, enticing a walleye bite. Bucktail walleye jigs are the most popular and readily available along the shores of Lake Erie and the Detroit River. Jigs come in a few different shapes, such as round heads and teardrop heads. Accordingly, bucktail jigs come with different types of eyes, with larger ones being preferable for Lake Erie.

Swimbait Walleye Jigs

Swimbait walleye jigs come with a lead or tungsten head and a bare hook that accepts any swimbait. These types of jig heads have a keeper that holds any soft plastic on the hook. Most use a 3-4″ swimbait on the hook end of the swimbait. Use different colors for the conditions as stated above. Brighter colors do well on a clear sunny day, darker colors do well during overcast conditions. Tip: If your swimbait plastic is slipping down the hook, add a small drop of superglue to the keeper on the jig. This will ensure the bait stays on the hook.

Walleye Jig Weight

Walleye jigs come in a variety of sizes. On Lake Erie, weights between and including 1/4, 3/8, 5/8, and 1/2 ounces are all common. The depth and current in the lake will determine what weight to use.

walleye jigging

If fishing deep, use a heavier jig; if fishing shallow, use a lighter jig. In heavy current a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce should work, on a river 3/4 ounce is sometimes used. Lastly, On any given day a fisherman should have all these sizes to choose from. On days when the lake is rough, 5/8 – 1/2 ounce weights will be required to maintain bottom contact.

Walleye Jigging Locations on Lake Erie

The Southern Shore and Western Basin of Lake Erie are great places to jig for walleye in the spring and early summer. Walleye spawn on shallow rocks in the spring. The best area to jig fish walleye in the Spring is in the reef complex outside Port Clinton, OH. This area is also known as the firing range, due to the marker buoys set out by Camp Perry. There are a series of cans in this area that mark the outer boundaries of the firing range. There are quite a few reefs this area that are great to jig fish walleye.

The Reef Complex

Reef Complex Lake Erie

Multiple reefs hold walleye in the springtime on Lake Erie in the Western Basin. Accordingly, The reef complex is located North of Port Clinton, OH, and extends East and West in both directions. The famous Lake Erie cans are located in this area. The cans mark the Camp Perry firing range. Moreover, be sure to check the shooting schedule and radio channel before boating in this area. In Sandusky Bay, there are multiple rock veins and pinch points that walleye will utilize to spawn. Before fishing in Sandusky Bay, it’s essential to remember to read the ODNR regulations.

Lake Erie Reef Locations – Not all-inclusive

Below are locations for the most popular Lake Erie reefs to jig fish. Also, while there are more unnamed reefs out there, this list will nonetheless guide you in the right direction. Just copy and paste the coordinates into Google Maps and it will show the location of the reef.

  • Airport Reef
    American Eagle Shoal
    Airport Reef
    American Eagle Shoal
    Clinton Reef
    East Sister Shoal
    Kelleys Island Shoal
    Gull Island Shoal
    Green Island Shoal
    North Bass Island Shoal
    Middle Bass Island East Shoal
    Middle Harbor Reef
    Mouse Island Reef
    Rock Shoal
    Starve Island Reef
    Suger Island Shoal
    Marblehead Reef
    Sandusky Bay Shoal
    Scott Point Shoal
    West Reef
    Big Pickerel Reef
    Cone Reef
    Crane Reef
    Crib Reef
    Flat Rock Reef
    Locust Point Reef
    Niagara Reef
    Middle Harbor Reef
    Round Reef
    Toussaint Reef
    Turtle Reef
    West Reef
    West Sister Reef
  • N 41 35.619, W 82 39.741
    N 41 35.964, W 82 45.996
    N 41 35.619, W 82 39.741
    N 41 35.964, W 82 45.996
    N 41 33.567, W 82 52.952
    N 41 49.394, W 82 50.277
    N 41 38.691, W 82 37.933
    N 41 39.782, W 82 40.941
    N 41 38.678, W 82 52.094
    N 41 34.60, W 82 52.30
    N 41 41.918, W 82 45.921
    N 41 34.159, W 82 47.491
    N 41 36.351, W 82 58.635
    N 41 36.30, W 82 44.86
    N 41 37.521, W 82 49.354
    N 41 41.893, W 82 49.114
    N 41 31.397, W 82 40.507
    N 41 30.18, W 82 41.50
    N 41 35.98, W 82 48.44
    N 41 42.714, W 82 50.904
    N 41 40.084, W 83 04.317
    N 41 40.000, W 83 02.697
    N 41 40.551, W 83 06.175
    N 41 38.788, W 82 00.038
    N 41 39.545, W 83 01.052
    N 41 38.718, W 83 04.046
    N 41 39.821, W 82 58.635
    N 41 34.159, W 82 47.491
    N 41 37.052, W 82 59.151
    N 41 38.127, W 82 00.661
    N 41 38.939, W 83 05.922
    N 41 42.714, W 82 50.904
    N 41 43.417, W 083 07.730

Walleye Jigging on the South Shore of Lake Erie

Jigging the South Shore of Lake Erie

Additionally, the South shore of Lake Erie is very rocky. Also, there are numerous reefs. Walleye will spawn on these reefs in 8-12 FOW in the spring. These are great places to jig up walleye. Some of the locations are right outside the Vermilion River, Ruggles Reef, and the Shoreline along Cleveland. Additionally, There are always resident walleye that live and spawn in these areas along the lake shore.

Moreover, we have a great article on Weather and Waves on Lake Erie | How to be safe before you go. Lastly, This article will help prepare you for Spring fishing on Lake Erie.