W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Going Vertical on Current Breaks
By Sam Anderson
Jigging, still fishing with live bait and casting are the three most popular methods used to fish current breaks. Vertical jigging is the most popular of the three.
Veteran jig fisherman develop a "milk run" of the best current breaks along a stretch of river. From experience they know which areas on each break are most likely to hold fish. Concentrating on these key points, the experts move quickly from site to site, taking the most active fish from each area.
Current is the number one factor when it comes to determining fish location on the river. During most of the spring the water will be high enough to greatly restrict the areas walleyes will inhabit. By June, water levels will have stabilized somewhat, but savvy anglers continue to focus their attention on areas where the current is diverted.
Some types of current breaks are obvious, even to the beginning angler. Bridge pilings, fallen trees, the ever popular wingdams, protruding points and riprap lined shorelines are readily detected by the observant angler. Other types of obstructions are not quite as noticeable. A depthfinder is an invaluable aide in locating these hidden walleye magnets. Submerged timber, rock piles, boulders, subtle drop-offs and the series of furrows found on many sand bottoms are seen only through the use of the depthfinder.
By noting the precise location from which the first couple of fish are taken, current break anglers can accurately predict the mood of the fish on a given day. If the fish comes from the dead or slack water directly below the obstruction, chances are good they are resting and inactive. A limit will not come easily under these conditions. If the fish come from above the obstruction, on the very edge of the current or from the eddy below the break, it is an indication the fish are active.
Methodically checking out every foot of suspended fish holding water near a current break will pay the highest dividends. First check out the upstream lip and the downstream edge where current and slack water meet. These are the areas that will hold active fish. If there is nothing doing at the these locations, give the dead water directly behind the obstruction a quick going over to entice any inactive fish which might be present. Donít waste a lot of time on one site just because it looks good. Move on and come back later to check it out again. If there is a secret to this style of fishing, it is finding active fish.
Vertical fishing also makes it easier to fish a small area, such as a brushpile, hump or other structure. You can often cast to within 5 feet of such an area and not get hit, but put your lure in it and you immediately come up with a fish.
My favorite technique is to use my MotorGuide trolling motor to stay in a specific place. Finding a good spot, Iíll mark it with a buoy. Then, using my trolling motor and depthfinder Iíll slowly work my way around the area. I will also use my MotorGuide trolling motor and my depthfinder to locate fish vertically along an edge such as an old creek or river channel.
Fish are unusually spooky along wingdams and noisy gas engines will spook the fish. I prefer to use quieter electric motors, like my bow mount MotorGuide. The key element here is presentation, to keep the bait in front of the fish. Point the bow into the current and "slip" down at about current speed. Keep baits in the strike zone longer by sweeping the baits across the structure allowing the bait to fall at a slow rate to naturally present the bait to the fish. It is essential, to slow down your drift with the electric motor as you go over the structure and watch your depth finder for "breaks and barriers". You might have to run your big motor or a kicker motor in reverse to slow the presentation down even more if the current is increased. If the fish are shallow, you might want to anchor and use your bow mount motor to swing your bait and change your position on the face of the wingdam.
In most situations you should be able to get by with four jig sizes, usually fewer than that. On most lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, you should almost always be able to get by with a selection of 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 ounce jigs. True, in some rivers you will need heavier jigs and below a slip bobber a lighter one might work best, but day in and day out, on most waters, these four sizes will be completely adequate. I use more 1/8-ounce size than any other, and lately I have been using more of the 1/16-ounce size.
Use plastic bodies to slow the fall of the jig, to add bulk and visibility in stained and dirty water, and to add color. I like to use a plastic body of one color with a jighead of another color. That provides contrast and also increases the chance of showing the fish the color they want. Pink/ white and orange/ chartreuse are favorite color combinations.
Keep in mind that the walleye's vision will be impaired in the darker environment. Fluorescent colors will often be more productive in this condition. In the spring and summer I like to use plastic bodied jigs like the Fuzzy Grub jig. The reason that I prefer this type of jig is that it adds bulk, making it easier for the fish to see. Sometimes it works well to use a larger than ordinary jig in dirty water, especially if snags arenít a problem. The larger jig is more visible, and also makes more noise as it moves across the bottom. The combination of those two factors can mean a few more fish from time to time.
Next time you are out on a lake or river go vertical and if you are on
one of those hot bites cast me a line at: www.samanderson.com and we
can talk about your success.
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Since August 1, 1998