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SBF Tips: When To Troll vs. When To Jig

Tip & Techniques: When To Troll vs. When To Jig

By Capt. Pete Rosko

Back in the mid-1940s, my family taught me how to troll for walleyes on Lake Erie and the inland reservoirs of Ohio. It was exclusively “the only way to catch walleyes!” One of the extremely few advantages of growing older is the acquisition of wisdom. As in life, it also applies to the art of sport fishing.

Explaining the differences between trolling and jigging

Whether fishing for walleyes — of any other species, including salmon — the presentation is either horizontal or vertical. Horizontal includes casting and trolling. Vertical basically applies to jigging when only artificial baits are used. From an economic standpoint, trolling is far more expensive in costs for equipment and fuel. A large variety of lures are necessary if fishing across country. Conversely, jigging requires far-less expenditures for equipment and fuel.

A well-designed metal jig can basically fish the world with only two handful of different-sized jigs. Metal jigs also have a distinct advantage in being able to vertically fish in and around fish-holding structure without any need to move off of it. Conversely, trollers constantly must keep moving for their lures to be able to attract fish. They cannot remain over structure for any meaningful period. There is an old saying when it comes to fishing: “never leave biting fish,” which can also apply to “never leave proven structure that hold fish.”

There are two critical functional points that separate jigging from trolling.

1. The drifting, jigging vessel moves with the natural flow of other water current.
2. The falling action of the metal jig creates flash, flutter, and vibration. It is, by far, the best lure action that will trigger strikes. No other lure-type comes close to duplicating this action of an injured and helpless bait fish. Predators are opportunistic and never pass up an easy meal. Conversely, trolling lures basically imitate normal-swimming baits.

Trolling conditions vs. jigging conditions

You should troll when the following conditions are true:

  1. When attempting to locate fish.
  2. When wind, rough water or fast current make controllable drift-jigging impossible.

You should jig when the following conditions are true:

  1. When the fish are located.
  2. Whenever boat and line control is not a problem.
  3. Anywhere not accessible for trolling.
  4. Any time trolling is not productive, especially when fish are near bottom on the fish finder screen. This is when bottom-bouncing jigs are especially effective and can account for impressive catch numbers quickly.

In closing, any time anyone is able to adapt to a particular situation, that person will be more successful. This certainly pertains to this article and its ability to be equally proficient at jigging and trolling alike. Jigging is very simple, but it’s potential for unimaginably large catches of highly sought gamefish is highly attainable in many fisheries. This can be attained both on land and especially on a boat.

However, as anything else in life, practice makes perfect. Once you become accustomed to jigging, one of its many benefits will be how fish strike the jig. Unlike when fishing with natural bait, the strike on a rod-held metal jig is usually extremely memorable.

As always, thank you for subscribing the monthly issue of the Mack Attack Magazine. It is our hope that this publication increases your enjoyment and success on the water. — Capt. Pete

Capt. Pete

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