Best Walleye Jig Setup (Explained)

PUBLISHED 14 FEBRUARY 2021

by Bill Laney

Jigging is one of the most effective tactics for catching walleye. In fact, during winter and spring it beats all other walleye fishing methods hands down, and during fall it is still among the top 3 methods for catching walleye. 

So what is the best walleye jigging setup? The answer depends on the specific tactic that you’re planning to use, but two main setups cover most scenarios:

For vertical jigging with lightweight jigs (usually 1/8 to 1/4 oz), the best setup is a 6’3” medium light power, extra fast action spinning rod paired with a 1000 size reel. For casting larger jigs (usually 1/4 to 3/4 oz), the best setup is a 7’0” medium light power, fast action spinning rod paired with a 2000 size reel. 

Now let’s cover these setups in more detail.

What is the best tackle setup for walleye jigging?

When it comes to catching walleye, finesse fishing is most often the name of the game. The main reason for this is that walleye bites are often subtle (unlike bass), and so you need lightweight gear that’s sensitive enough to detect their bites, in order to set the hook before they spit out the bait.

Also, walleye are almost always caught in open water, so you don’t need to worry about them getting snagged in cover, which means you can easily land them on lightweight gear. Because of this, a spinning rod and reel setup is much better suited for walleye fishing than a baitcasting setup. 

Spinning rods and reels are ideal for lightweight lures and light pound test lines used for walleye fishing. Three main tackle components are critical for this type of fishing: rod, reel, and fishing line.

See also: Best walleye jigging rod reviewed

Each of these plays an important role, but by far the most critical one is the rod, so let’s start by looking more closely at that.

Rod setup

As mentioned above, the best rod type to choose is a spinning rod, since that will give you a lot more sensitivity for detecting subtle bites, and for fishing with lightweight lures.

Best rod length for walleye jigging

The best rod length depends on the specific type of jigging you plan to do for walleye:

  • Vertical jigging: 6’3” to 6’9” rod length
  • Casting or pitching jigs: 6’9” to 7’2” rod length

Vertical jigging is usually done from a boat, and in that setting it’s better to fish with a shorter rod, since that enables you to lower the jig straight down from the boat when you detect fish with your fish finder, and it also allows you to feel the jig better. 

On the other hand, when you’re casting jigs (either from a boat, or from shore), a longer rod increases the casting distance, and it also allows the rod to load up better when you get a bite at a distance, resulting in a higher hook up ratio.

While jigging vertically, it’s common practice to bait the hook of the jig with a live minnow, which increases the number of bites dramatically. But in order to do this effectively, you need to use relatively lightweight jigs, so the minnow still has some freedom to move. In addition, you need to make subtle movements with your rod tip while jigging (otherwise you’ll just end up tearing off the minnow).

See also: What size hook for walleye fishing?

As a result, a bite can often end up being hard to detect, and a longer rod with a soft tip gives you more time to detect a bite, as it loads up slowly, without alerting the fish that there is a fishing line attached to the bait. Because of this, the best rod length to choose for this is around 7’3”, or even longer.

What rod power rating should you choose?

Again, this depends on the specific type of jigging you plan to do:

  • Vertical jigging with small jigs (1/8 to 1/4 oz): medium light rod power
  • Casting bigger jigs (1/4 oz and above): medium light to medium rod power

While jigging vertically, it’s common practice to bait the hook with a live minnow, which increases the number of bites dramatically. But in order to do this effectively, you need to use relatively lightweight jigs, so the minnow still has some freedom to move. In addition, you need to make very subtle movements with your rod tip with this type of jigging (otherwise you’ll just end up tearing off the minnow).

Because of this, you really want a rod with medium light power for vertical jigging, since that works well within these constraints. For casting jigs, on the other hand, you can go up to medium power, especially if you’re throwing bigger jigs. For both types of jigging you’ll want a rod with enough backbone to set the hook effectively, and to handle big walleye over 5 pounds. 

Best action rod for jigging walleye

The best action rod to choose depends on the type of jigging you plan to do:

  • Vertical jigging with small jigs (1/8 to 1/4 oz): extra fast action
  • Casting bigger jigs (1/4 oz and above): fast action

An extra fast action rod is best for vertical jigging, as this has very little play, and allows you to feel every little tap or tug on your jig, especially when combined with braided line (which has almost no stretch).

A fast action rod is best for casting jigs, since the softer tip loads up better during the cast, resulting in greater casting distance. In addition, the softer tip gives the walleye more time to get your bait fully inside their mouth before you set the hook. This is important when you’re casting, since you’ll often get bites at a distance of 30 feet or more, and don’t want to set the hook prematurely, since that will just pull it out of the mouth of the fish.

In addition, a fast action rod only has a soft tip, while the rest of the rod backbone is stiff, and this is essential in order to set the hook effectively (especially on a long cast).

Reel setup

While the reel is less critical for this type of fishing than the rod, it’s still important to choose a reel with a good drag system, since you want to be able to land big fish on light pound test lines. So if you hook into a 30 inch walleye, you really need that drag to release line during the fight, so you can tire it out and bring it to the net safely.

Best reel size for walleye jigging

The best reel size to choose depends on the specific jigging technique that you want to use:

  • Vertical jigging with small jigs (1/8 to 1/4 oz): 1000 size spinning reel
  • Casting bigger jigs (1/4 oz and above): 2000 size spinning reel

When you’re using lightweight jigs around 1/8 to 1/4 oz, you’ll want to use the smallest spinning reel size of 1000, since that will make your overall setup lighter, helping with subtle lure presentation and detecting every movement and bump on your jig. 

For casting jigs, a slightly bigger 2000 size reel is better, since that’ll allow you to spool more line and cast farther. A 2000 size reel is still lightweight enough to avoid casting fatigue when throwing jigs all day long.

Line setup for walleye jigging

When it comes to choosing the right line setup, you can use any of the 3 major line types for this type of fishing, but by far the best choice is braided line.

Braided line has almost no stretch, which enables you to feel everything that’s going on with your jig, and also helps when it comes to setting the hook (especially at a distance). Monofilament, on the other hand, has a lot of stretch, which can result in many short strikes.

See also: what is the best line for walleye jigging?

The only disadvantage of braid is that it has a high visibility underwater, which is why it’s best to tie a 4 foot fluorocarbon leader, which has almost zero visibility. 

What pound test should you use for walleye jigging?

The ideal line strength to use is a 10 lb test braided main line, tied to a 8-10 lb test fluorocarbon leader that’s about 4 foot long. If you’re fishing in super clear water, and the walleye are very finicky, you can even go down to a 8 lb test braided main line, with a 6 lb test fluorocarbon leader.

Tip: use a barrel swivel to attach the main line to the leader, since that will prevent line twisting. If you tie your main line directly to the jig, you’ll end up with a lot of line twisting, which will result in line tangles around the rod guides.

Additional resources:

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