What Is The Best Jigging Rod For Walleye? (2021 Buyer’s Guide)
PUBLISHED 14 FEBRUARY 2021
by Bill Laney
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Jigging is not only one of the most fun ways to catch walleye, it’s also one of the most effective tactics out there. But when it comes to walleye jigging, it’s essential to choose the right rod that combines lightness and sensitivity with sufficient backbone to set the hook and handle big walleyes.
So what which rods have exactly the right specifications to perform optimally for walleye jigging?
In order to find the best rod for walleye jigging on the market, our editorial team compared 10 of the most popular models to generate a shortlist of the 5 top walleye jigging rods. In addition to testing the rods ourselves, we also asked several walleye pros to comment on our selection.
Best walleye jigging rod – 2021 review
The table above compares the most important specifications of the 5 best walleye jigging rods. Note that each of them is ideal for slightly different purposes, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Now let’s dive into the details, and look at each of these rods more closely.
1. St Croix Tournament Walleye
The Tournament Walleye is undoubtedly one of the best rods for vertical jigging on the market. It comes with exactly the right combination of specs for this type of fishing: a medium light power blank with an extra fast action tip.
The lightness of the blank allows you to fish lightweight jigs baited with minnows, and the stiffness of the extra fast tip lets you feel even the subtlest of bites. Fishing 10 hours or more with a heavy rod quickly becomes a burden, but this rod is light enough that you hardly notice the weight, and is a joy to fish all day long.
It comes with one of the highest grades of carbon (high modulus SCIV graphite), which is further strengthened with Advanced Reinforcing Technology (ART). In addition, Integrated Poly Curve (IPC) technology is used to make the action taper smoother and more sensitive.
If you choose the 6’3” length rod, this is the ideal size for vertical jigging from a boat. You don’t need a longer rod for this, since you just want to lower your jig straight down, and the shorter length gives you more feel for what’s going on with your bait.
- High modulus/high strain SCIV graphite blank
- Fuji reel seat with blank contact
- Premium grade cork handle
- Fuji guides with alconite inserts
2. St Croix Premier
This is a classic St Croix rod that can be readily used for a wide range of applications. And while the previous model is a little too short and underpowered for pitching or casting jigs, the Premier is ideal for this purpose, since it comes with a greater length of 7’0” and with a fast action tip.
When it comes to casting jigs, it’s better to choose a slightly longer rod around 7 feet, since that will allow you to cast farther. In addition, the fast action tip is slightly softer, which loads up better during the casting process, thus further increasing casting distance.
On the other hand, we don’t recommend using the Premier for vertical jigging, as the fast action tip is a little too slow for that, since you want to be able to feel taps and and subtle changes in lure movement, which is why we recommend the other models with extra fast action for that type of fishing.
And another positive feature of this rod is the relatively affordable pricing (while still delivering a high end performance). It’s built with mid-modulus SCII graphite, and has a finely tuned action taper due to IPC technology.
- PremiumSCII graphite blank
- Fuji DPS reel seat
- Kigan guides with aluminum oxide inserts
- Premium grade cork handle
3. Lew’s Speed Stick Vertical Jigging Walleye
The Lew’s Speed Stick is the best budget choice on the market, and offers excellent value for money at less than $80. And while it doesn’t provide the same kind of sensitivity and ability to feel subtle bites compared to high end rods, it’s still good enough to catch plenty of fish.
The Lew’s Speed Stick is a great choice if you want to try out jigging for walleye for the first time, and aren’t sure if you’ll do more of it later. It can give you a great experience catching your first walleye, and it’s also a good choice as a backup rod if this type of fishing isn’t your main focus.
It comes with an IM8 graphite blank, and a full length cork grip. Two of the models are short enough (6’3” and 6’7”) to perform well for vertical jigging, and we recommend choosing one of these.
- Premium IM8 graphite blank
- Cork handle with duracork inlays
- Fuji guides with aluminum oxide inserts
5. St Croix Legend X
For many anglers the St Croix Legend X is currently the absolute best rod for walleye jigging on the market. It combines some of the most advanced technologies developed by St Croix for improving both performance and lightness of weight.
It’s built with a super high-modulus SCVI graphite blank, combined with strengthening resin in the lower portion of the rod. As a result it’s even lighter and more sensitive than other St Croix rods, but without sacrificing any strength.
In addition to the high end blank technology, it comes with a split type handle and an exposed reel seat. This design maximizes direct hand contact with the blank, which really helps to feel every vibration that’s transmitted from the lure and the line. In contrast, if your only contact with a rod blank is through a thick cork grip, a lot of those vibrations are absorbed and muted.
When Tommy Skarlis and his partner Jeff Lahr won the World Walleye Championship in 2018, they credited the sensitivity of their St Croix Legend X rods as providing them with a huge advantage in being able to feel subtle bites. Many anglers report that they can’t feel a walleye bite while the bait is on the drop, but Tommy and Jeff claim they were able to feel 90% of those bites due to the sensitivity of the Legend X.
- Super high-modulus SCVI graphite blank
- Taper Enhancement Technology (TET)
- Split type handle with super grade cork grips
- Fuji blank-touch reel seat
- Fuji guides
5. Fenwick Elite Tech Walleye
The Fenwick Elite Tech is a classical workhorse rod, and provides excellent quality at an affordable price, which is an ideal combination for any beginner, or for someone who wants a backup rod for a technique that they don’t normally use.
The Elite Tech is built with lightweight graphite, and has a very sensitive fast action or extra fast action tip that enables you to feel subtle bites. The handle features an innovative “hidden reel seat” design, with the reel seat embedded inside the cork of the handle, which makes it more ergonomic and increases comfort.
- Titanium guides
- Pressed cork handle
- Hidden reel seat design
What is the best St Croix walleye jigging rod?
When it comes to walleye fishing, it’s impossible to avoid talking about St Croix, since they produce some of the finest walleye rods on the market today. The only “problem” is that almost all of their light spinning rods are great for this purpose, since they combine lightness, sensitivity and strength, which is ideal for catching walleye, and this makes it harder to choose the right one.
So which St Croix walleye rod is best for jigging? For us, the top choice is undoubtedly the St Croix Legend X, which not only has an extremely sensitive and lightweight rod blank, but also comes with an exposed reel seat that maximizes direct hand contact with the blank backbone.
And especially when the walleye bite is finicky, the sensitivity of the Legend X allows you to detect even the most subtle bites, including bites that happen while your lure is on the drop. Also, if you choose the 6’10” ML/XF model, you can actually use it for both vertical jigging and for casting jigs.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more affordable model, then the St Croix Legend Tournament Walleye can give you almost 85% of the same performance as the Legend X, but at half the price.
Best budget walleye jigging rod
If you’re on a small budget, or if you’re a beginner who wants to try out this type of fishing for the first time, it’s best to choose the cheapest model that can still give you a positive experience on the water.
In our opinion, the Lew’s Speed Stick is ideal for this purpose, since it retails at less than $80. And while it lacks a lot of the sensitivity of the higher end rods, it’s still good enough to catch walleye on. And should you decide later on that this type of fishing is your passion, then you can always upgrade to more expensive models.
If your budget can stretch up to $150, then either the St Croix Premier or the Fenwick Elite Tech are also great choices, as both come with enough quality to satisfy even experienced anglers.
What kind of rod should you choose for walleye jigging?
Walleye jigging is definitely a finesse fishing tactic, and thus requires sufficiently lightweight spinning gear. In fact, the rod is probably the most important part of the whole setup, and so you should definitely spend some time choosing the right one for your purposes.
Now, there are two main styles of walleye jigging, and your choice of rod is going to vary slightly, depending on which one of these you want to do.
The most common method is vertical jigging, which is usually done from a boat, and is highly effective when you can use a fish finder to locate promising structure with fish to target underneath your boat. Vertical jigging is usually done with smaller jigs combined with live minnows (which is feasible when you don’t need to throw them a long distance, and instead just lower them down into the water).
The second approach is casting or pitching of jigs, which is often done from shore, but can also work from a boat. For this, it’s better to use larger jigs that are heavy enough to cast further, so you can cover more ground. A very popular variation of this tactic is snap jigging, where you snap up the jig as fast as possible by raising your rod tip after it sinks to the bottom, and then let it slowly sink back down as you retrieve it, followed by another ‘snap’.
Now let’s look at the best choice of rod for each of these tactics.
What size rod is best for walleye jigging?
If you’re doing vertical jigging, it’s better to choose a shorter rod, between 6’3” and 6’9” rod length. This is ideal for lowering your jig straight down from the boat (in some ways similar to ice fishing), after locating a group of fish on your fish finder. A short rod is also great for getting a good feel for what’s going on with your bait below the boat, and it also helps when you’re landing a fish by hand.
See also: walleye jigging setup (explained)
On the other hand, if you’re casting jigs, you’ll want to use a longer rod, between 6’9” and 7’2”. The greater rod length gives you greater casting distance, and it also allows the blank to load up more when a fish bites, which helps to avoid short strikes (especially if your jig gets bit 30 feet away or more).
Choosing the right rod power
In terms of rod power, keep in mind that you want to go as light as possible, since lighter tackle will help you to detect subtle bites better.
For vertical jigging, a medium light power blank is ideal, since that will give you maxiumum sensitivity, while still being strong enough to handle a big fish north of 5 pounds. This rod power is also perfect for fishing with lightweight jigs of 1/8 oz or less.
For casting jigs, you may want to go slightly heavier, and choose a medium power blank. You’ll want to have enough power to cast bigger lures up to 3/4 oz in weight (though most casting jigs tend to be around 1/2 oz).
Choosing the right rod action
When it comes to rod action, extra fast action is perfect for vertical jigging. The reason for this is that the extra stiffness of your tip allows you to register every single vibration of your jig underwater (while a softer tip would absorb some of those vibrations). This works especially well when you’re using braided line, since this type of fishing line has almost no stretch.
On the other hand, if you’re casting jigs, a fast action rod can give you better results, since it loads up better during the casting process, resulting in greater casting distance. Having a tip that loads up gradually is also a plus when you get a bite a distance of 20 or 30 feet or more, since the fish has a little more time to get the bait inside its mouth before you set the hook.
This concludes our review – hopefully you can use it to select the right rod for your specific purposes. Tight lines and hope to see you on the water!