By: Josh Sheldon
The sun is setting earlier and the fishing season transitioning into the late summer and early fall patterns. It’s that time of year when heavy metal rules the water! I don’t mean Guns N Roses in a Ranger boat or Metalica playing Unforgiven while casting for Walleye. As awesome as that would be, I am talking about fishing jigging spoons, glide baits and blade baits. Late summer and early fall is when fish are stacked in big schools and are actively feeding on the year’s abundant new forage. This pattern will persist on most western waters until ice up OR whenever your state closes the lake to boating because they can’t afford to pay zebra mussel inspectors. Either way this type of fishing will be very effective for the next several months and it is a weapon you should have at your disposal. In this article I will highlight the SIMPLE and give you all the information you need to get started.
You may hear this technique referred to as spooning or slabbing. Simply put, this technique is when you use a spoon, glide bait or blade bait either vertically beneath your boat/kayak/float tube or you cast this type of presentation and you jig it back to you. As always, let’s briefly discuss equipment. If you have read our other articles you will see a pattern. Just like golf, fishing has a certain rod (club) to match certain situations. Slabbing is easy because if you have bought the correct equipment for jigging or bottom bouncing, you already own the correct equipment needed to slab. The medium action/fast tip jigging rod referred to in our podcast conversation(alleyesonfishing.podbean.com) works perfect for this type of presentation. If you purchased the bait casting reel/rod combination referred to in “Bottom Bouncers 101”, this combination also works well when vertically jigging your presentations. This type of presentation really does come down to feel and how you wish to present your baits. The good news is; you can give that credit card a rest…right after you buy some of these baits. The only word of caution when it comes to this presentation is, be mindful when selecting the right line to use. Fireline or braid is awesome for this type or presentation. The no stretch and extra sensitive feel of the line helps prevent snags and allows you to feel even the slightest pick up by fish. If you choose one of these lines it is a must you use either a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader tied to your main line with a very very small barrel swivel. This will negate line twist from the bait falling to the bottom after each snap of the rod and it will also help negate the presentation (which usually has many treble hooks) from catching your line and fouling the correct action of the bait. I suggest a heavy pound test such at 12lb or more and the leader should be approximately 24 inches long at its longest and 6 inches at its shortest. Some recommend a monofilament main line for this type of presentation because of the stretch in the line and the forgiveness that gives the fish as they routinely strike these baits very aggressively. The choice is yours and what you are comfortable with.
Where to use this technique can be tricky. In general you can use a jigging spoon presentation anywhere on the lake, except for heavy weeds or timber. Ideal areas include main lake humps, points or sandy/gravel shore lines. Fishing this presentation vertically allows you to fish rocky bottoms, but be warned; that can get costly in a hurry. Small round river rock is usually ok, but I wouldn’t try this in boulders or rip rap. Fishing vertically or casting back to fish, all rely heavily on having good electronics. As you can see in the attached pictures of sonar/side and bottom scan images, finding fish and having a good idea of what’s below you will make all the difference in your catch rate. I typically drive around looking at the contour map on my Lowrance and I will look for those areas that look like main lake structure such as submerged islands, sharp breaks, reefs, old road beds, bottom changes (rocks to sand) and flats. What I mean by “main lake” structure, is any structure that holds fish and it is in the main part of the lake. It’s not back in a narrow cove or an area that requires lifting my big motor to get into. The initial areas for this type of presentation are main lake points where fish are schooled up feeding on bait. Will this work in some of those other areas? Yes, but I check main lake areas first because of the existence of a possible thermo cline and Walleyes in particular use main lake structure during the summer months. If I don’t see fish, I don’t fish there. I know that sounds simple but too many fishermen fish memories and they will beat empty water into submission and waste too much time. Locate fish and use this technique to cause a REACTION STRIKE. Just like we discussed in our last podcast “Reaction Strike”, these well fed late summer and early fall fish will react to the erratic action of a Jiggin Rap, spoon and blade or glide baits.
Now the how! Experiment with this portion of the presentation. The how for this type of presentation can change daily and sometimes hourly. The two main techniques that consistently put fish in the boat is a vertical presentation and casting to fish holding on structure and working it back. If you choose to fish vertically, you position your boat over an area holding fish and you drop your bait straight down to the bottom. You don’t give it a little cast or flip it out, straight down! Once your bait hits the bottom, I like to keep my rod tip about 12 to 18 inches above the surface of the water and I start working the bait. I keep my rod tip low because often times the fish will absolutely slam the bait as you jerk it up from the bottom. If your rod is too high it leaves no room to set the hook. Aggressively rip the rod tip up and drop it straight down toward the surface. This allows that bait to dart or glide without any infringement from you and the line. Your lift of the bait does not need to be gigantic. Most often a short aggressive upward jerking motion will cause plenty of action to the bait below. The importance of an unimpeded drop cannot be over stated. Let the bait sit on the bottom for a few seconds and repeat. This presentation can also be used to fish suspended fish or fish that are focusing on a thermo cline several feet off the bottom. The same rules apply.
Casting back to fish on structure can be a lot of fun and very productive. It can also be expensive because this is when you are in constant contact with the bottom and as you can see in the pictures, there are a lot of hooks on these baits. Using your Lowrance you slowly move around looking at structure and once you find what appears to be a fish or two, stop and cast back to the area you just passed over. Work the bait back to the boat with the same type of sharp upward jigging motions and allow the bait to fall unimpeded to the bottom after each jerk. You can also use your electric motor and turn the boat around, drop your bait to the bottom and slowly move back over where you marked the fish and jig your bait as the boat moves forward. This allows you to cover more area and to closely control where and how you present that bait to the fish you just went past.
Learning how to fish Jiggin Raps, blade baits, glide baits and spoons will increase your ability to catch fish all year. The erratic action of these baits forces fish into a REACTION STRIKE and they can’t help themselves. As always be flexible and don’t give up. Some days this type of presentation is too much like work and it will wear you out. I promise you, knowing how to fish this type of presentation will put more fish in your boat and help you to fish your next level!