Jig Techniques for Saugeye 

Jigs are probably the most versatile lure out there. With so many different shapes, sizes, styles, and ways to rig them, they can be used in almost every situation. They can be retrieved fast, or painstakingly slow. Actually, you can move them through the water just about any way you want. This makes them very useful for times when fish are finicky. They can even be trolled if that’s your style of fishing. 
When I refer to jigs, I’m referring to a hook with a ball of lead attached for weight, and some kind of plastic body or live bait on the hook. One of the most common plastic bodies used is the curly tail grub. This design has been around for a long time, and still catches lots of fish. 3 inch baits seem to be most common. However, other sizes produce as well, sometimes better. A smaller offering can sometimes be the ticket to success. Larger baits are sometimes preferred and can even produce bigger fish. 

Swimbaits are another great option. The enticing wobble of these baits is out of this world. I’ve been using these baits for a long time now, but to this day I still take time to work them close to shore just to watch the incredible realistic action of these baits. I think the fish feel the same when they see them, but it definitely gives me a boost in confidence. Swimbaits also come in many sizes. I tend to use 2 and 3 inch swimbaits, but I also use them in 4 and 5 inch sizes, especially if I’m confident that trophy fish are in the area.

Another choice is plastic jerkbaits. Plastic jerkbaits tend to be minnow shaped with a forked tail but also come in other shapes and sizes. At one particular location I know of, this is the go-to bait that alot of people use. When I use these baits, I retrieve them with sharp or subtle twitches to make the bait dart. Often, I allow them to fall to the bottom. There are many other types of jig bodies out there, far too many to cover, but these are some of the most common and the ones I’ve been successful with.

Directly after Ice-out, I tend to use a lift and drop method. Slow lifts followed by dropping the rod downward while reeling in slack just enough to keep a tight line. I often pause at the end of the lift. The reason being that most times this is when the fish bite for me. Sometimes I even allow the bait to sit still on the bottom for a few seconds. Keeping bottom contact seems to be more important this time of year. Try different things and let the fish tell you what they want. Sometimes in cold water, the fish can be extremely finicky and the most subtle change in presentation can make all the difference. I’ll also do a slow steady retrieve this time of year. Just fast enough to give the bait some action.

As the water warms, I use a steady retrieve more often, bumping bottom occasionally, but keeping the bait above the bottom. As the spring progresses, sometimes I burn them in with a fast steady retrieve with no bottom contact at all. This is one of my favorite ways to fish and I usually try this around late April to May. 

Trolling is another way to use jigs dressed with swimbaits or curly tail baits. Choosing the correct weight and speed to keep the bait near bottom has been the key for me. Try different sizes and speeds to find out what speed the fish prefer. Snagging is inevitable, but a small price to pay for the effectiveness of this tactic.

When fall arrives and the water cools, I tend to go back to the slower presentations I use during ice-out, but not as soon as one would think. Agressive tactics still work for me during the fall at times and I always start out agressive first. As ice on gets closer, slower presentations become more common for me.

Live bait is another option and sometimes it’s the best option. Tipping is the addition of live bait to a jig that already has a body on it. I use this technique for tougher bites. For me, using minnows is the best choice early and late in the year while nightcrawlers seem to work better for me during the warmer months. Live bait can also be used alone and sometimes this is what the fish prefers. 

Did I mention weight? In my opinion, weight is the most important factor of all. Keep a variety of sizes, from 1/32 to even 1/2 ounce. I myself have fished beside someone using a 1/16th ounce jig while I was using an 1/8th ounce jig. I couldn’t get a single bite while I watched this guy reel in four in a row. I immediately switched to a 1/16th ounce jig and started catching them as well. As a rule of thumb, I try to go with the lightest jig possible. But ultimately you just have to try different sizes to find out what the fish prefer. For me, once I find out what size the fish prefer, this size works for me year after year at that particular location, provided that I’m not fishing in current or waters that frequently fluctuate.

Regardless of what you dress your jigs with, I couldn’t imagine a tacklebox without them. As always, let the fish tell you what they prefer, and keep jigging!

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Learning the Fine Details of a Fishing Location

On any body of water, some locations have a better ability of attracting fish. Sometimes through word of mouth, these spots become well known and very popular among anglers. You’ll know these spots when you see the shoreline crowded with anglers, or by the large fleet of boats floating side by side. Other spots are more secretive, shared by a handful of friends or by one sole lucky angler who happened to stumble upon it. Either way, knowing the best locations is only half the battle. To be fully successful at these locations, it helps to get to know them in full detail.

When I first started fishing for saugeyes, I fished one of these crowded fishing locations almost every day. As time went on, patterns began to emmerge that were completely exclusive to this location. Over fifteen years have past since I first started fishing at this location, and the same pattern stays true here to this day. I don’t fish here much anymore, but everytime I come here I apply the same tactics and they still hold true. Here is a rough description of this location. 

*For imformation on how to read lake maps, check out Utilizing Lake Maps for Saugeye Success.

The only time I ever caught fish at this location during the day in the spring was after a hard rain that made the water high and muddy. When the creek level was only slightly elevated, the following pattern held true: During the morning and evening hours, Almost every fish caught at this location came from either tight to the bank, or in the creek channel as shown in the image. Also note that almost all fish came from this side of the bridge. There was the rare occasion where fish were caught in other locations, but this event was so rare that I did not bother to make note of it.

During mid-day, I could usually pick up a fish or two in the shade underneath the bridge, and only on the side near the creek channel. *See post How light effects saugeye.

Sometimes the water would get so high that it would overflow the banks. This was prime time at this location, but the pattern also changed slightly. The creek channel still produced, but I also began to pick up fish in the middle of the creek. Also, I still caught fish under the bridge during mid-day, but on the opposite side as well. 

In the fall, the pattern changed again. The mid-day bite became non-existant. This time of year, clear water was the trend and it brought on a late-evening bite and an awesome night bite. Sometimes the water was crystal clear and low yet the fish were still here. The fish seemed to hold closer to the bridge this time of year, and consistantly stayed near the creek channel.

As for lures, what worked best here in the spring was 1/4 ounce jigs with a 2-3 inch plastic grub or swimbait. I tried 1/8th ounce and 3/8th ounce and caught significantly less fish. I tried 4 inch plastic and never succeeded. I tried crankbaits and jerkbaits in the spring and never got a strike. However, in the fall 4 3/4 inch suspending jerkbaits were the best option and crankbaits worked as well.
The fine details of these locations can only be learned from experience and time on the water. To me, thats all part of the fun! Try different things and under different conditions to find out what works and what doesn’t, always take notes, and always be willing to adapt. Knowing good locations and the habits of the species you pursue is very important, but the fine details can make all the difference.

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Utilizing Lake Maps for Saugeye Success

Looking for new locations to fish at your favorite lake? Are you planning a dream vacation for some prime fishing in another state? No problem! Lake maps can offer a wealth of information to any angler. With a little knowledge of how to interpret them, you’ll be better prepared for any situation.
Lake maps use contour lines to show depth changes. Each line represents a change in depth, usually indicated somewhere on the map. Alot of maps are calibrated to a 3 foot depth change per line. In the following example, the depth gets deeper farther away from shore to a depth of 9 feet. 

The distance between each line represents how steep the depth change is. Lines that are close together show a steep drop-off whereas lines that are far apart show a flat. Also note the dark blue line that represents the creek channel.

Lake maps also show how a point lays out beneath the surface of the water. Also note how the map shows irregularities of the point, such as the steep drop-off shown in this example, or where the end of the point meets the channel. These irregularities have potential to hold fish.

Islands are shown by the contrast of color of land to water, while submerged islands are shown as the same color of water, and again the contour lines are used to determine depth change.

Deep holes are shown in the same manner. 

Many maps also show structure such as rocks, wood, and brush piles. With the use of a search engine, there is a good chance you’ll be able to find a map of the lake you plan to fish. 

To put it all together, maps can point out potential hotspots, as well as show areas of the lake that are less likely to produce. Apply knowledge of what saugeyes do at certain times of the year as well as weather trends to decide what depth and structure to approach. Circle any areas that have potential, and again pay attention to any irregularities. A small steep drop-off among an otherwise gradual slope might be just enough to hold fish. The opposite also should be considered. A deep hole also can have its time to really shine, especially during fall and winter or for a hot daytime bite. For more information on the habits of saugeye, check out the saugeye and walleye category on this page. When utilizing a lake map, these locations can be known to an angler, and potentially increase success.

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