When it comes to catching fish—especially walleyes—it’s hard to beat jigging. That means vertical presentations, pitching, slipping, and other creative ways to present a jig and live bait or plastic to the willing walleyes.
Speaking of jigs, although there are a lot of different variations on the market, Northland offers a host of baits that match every water body and situation an angler can encounter. For starters, the Fire-Ball Jig and minnow is the bread and butter of walleye fishing and has been so for literally decades.
The Fabulous Fire-Ball Jig
“I’ve used the Northland Fire-Ball Jig for over thirty years,” says old hand guide and Northland pro-staffer Tom Neustrom. “It’s been an extremely productive jig to fish. Besides pitching and slipping, I’ve started to do a little more vertical fishing with it. I’ve also found that going from a ¼-ounce to a 1/16th in certain shallower water walleye situations makes a big difference.”
“Fishing it vertically, I like to sit on walleyes in 16- to 20-feet. It’s sets up with the balance of the head and tie-knot position provides a better presentation than a straight shank jig. And it’s not just a walleye weapon; when vertically fishing for crappies, it’s become my go-to. I don’t think there’s a better jig to present live bait,” adds Neustrom.
The lion’s share of the time Neustrom employs a ¼- or 1/8th ounce Fire-Ball for walleyes and sizes down to 1/16th when it’s time for crappies.
UV Moonlight Glow
“Fire-Balls were one of the best designs ever hatched, period,” says Northland jig guru Brian “Bro” Brosdahl. “They are synonymous with catching walleyes. It has shorter shank hook, which gets snagged less in rocky situations. Still, it has a nice gap for solid hookups.”
He adds: “With the short hook there’s no messing around with the minnow. You just hook through the nose or go behind the head. I like to go in with the hook point behind the head, so you don’t break its spine. The minnow stays lively—it’s a super neat and tidy presentation. The action is really tight with a jig and minnow, so when you hop it, there’s a corresponding response from the minnow.”
For extra hooking potential—especially in cold water—try adding a Sting’R Hook to the small eyelet included on the Fire-Ball jig. Bro does so on occasion when the bites are short. “It’s a great idea to include a treble Sting’R Hook to the Fire-Ball jig in cold water conditions. The Fire-Ball is unbeatable with a minnow double-hooked, and, historically, in many tournaments it’s come out on top.”
“Spring, fall, or summer it’s my top jig for walleyes. In the summer, I fish the Fire-Ball with just a chunk of ‘crawler. Half a ‘crawler slides nicely on the jig. It’s a fantastic presentation during the crawfish molting period. I’ll also use a leech. Because of the shorter shank and less hardware, you can hook a leech right behind the sucker and get a natural action.”
In terms of Fire-Ball colors, Neustrom keeps his rods rigged throughout the seasons with Parrot, UV Moonlight Glow, Glow Watermelon, and Bubblegum. “Mentally, when you’re successful with certain colors you come back to them. You have the confidence factor, which is so important in fishing. You must factor in water clarity and depth, of course, when choosing colors, but confidence is a huge thing,” observes Neustrom.
As far as Bro’s favorite colors are concerned, he’s a big fan of Parrot, which is his defacto choice for most Midwestern lakes and rivers. “I like Sunrise if I’m fishing Lake of the Woods, Rainy River, or other darker waters. Parakeet with a leech is my weedline assassin for walleyes. All the colors, though, have their place, so I encourage anglers to go with an assortment and find out what works best for them,” notes Brosdahl.
When it comes to line and the rod and reel set-up, Brosdahl favors a 3-foot, 8-pound fluorocarbon leader attached to 10-pound braid with a double-uni knot. He’s a fan of St. Croix Legend Xtreme spinning rods and Daiwa Tatula 2000 reels.
Neustrom too, uses a St. Croix Legend Xtreme with a Daiwa Ballistic or Kage 1000 or 2500 spinning reel, but switches between 8-pound clear monofilament for its stretch and subtlety and 8- or 10-pound braid with a 6- or 8-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader. Neustrom carries both rods on deck and lets the fish help him decide which to use. “Mono gives more of a glide to your jig than the hop-hop, which you get with superline and a leader. It all comes down to what the fish want,” adds Neustrom.
The Bedazzling RZ Jig
“The Northland RZ Jig is one of my primary jigs,” says Neustrom. “I fish it the most, probably 60% of the time. I like to Spot-Lock from my bow and pitch RZ’s. It’s simply the best pitching jig I’ve ever used,” notes Neustrom.
“I like the colors, sticky sharp hook, and the entire set-up of the jig,” adds Neustrom. “Most often it’s a live bait delivery system, but I will use it with Impulse plastics, too. I like the 4-inch Impulse Smelt Minnow and smaller Impulse Paddle Minnows. One thing I do with the Impulse Paddle Minnow is stretch the tail out a bit so it’s a little thinner, which gives it a bit more wobble and vibration. Sometimes, it puts a couple extra fish in the boat,” confides Neustrom.
Neustrom adds: “The RZ’s signature hook-keeper keeps plastics on exactly the way you rig them, which is important when you’re pitching baits cast after cast.”
“The RZ Jig is great for double-hooking minnows and threading on plastics. It has a long enough shank to double-hook small- to medium-sized minnows. The colors are fantastic for any body of water as well. I do a lot of jig and ‘crawler fishing with the Northland RZ Jig. It’s one of my favorite jigs when I’m fishing shiner minnows. I like the color Shrimp especially. It’s a bright UV pink with a pink-on-pink eye. Sunrise is a good color, too, as is Parrot, Moonlight Glow, and Glow Watermelon. These are tried and true colors on your big walleye factories across the Walleye Belt,” says Brosdahl.
Impulse Paddletail (Electric Chicken)
Impulse Smelt Minnow (Emerald Shiner)
The Northland Deep-Vee Jig
Neustrom gravitates to the Northland Deep-Vee Jig for its large, fish-attracting eye and prevalent hook-keeper. “The Deep-Vee Jig is a great choice for rigging plastics. Its pill shape sinks faster than other jigs. I can fish an 1/8-ounce where I would normally fish ¼-ounce. It also has an amazingly sharp hook for solid sets,” notes Neustrom.
“The Deep-Vee Jig has a seductive flip to it. If you’re fishing a jig and a shiner over the rocks and you’ve got walleyes nearby, fish hit because of its pill shape with a V bottom, which flips to the side to flash the shiner at the walleyes,” notes Brosdahl.
“The shape of the Deep-Vee also cuts through the current for river situations, and the big eye draws in fish from a distance. Thread an Impulse plastic and it looks like a big shiner. The Deep-Vee is probably my number one jig for fishing plastics in both bass and walleye tournaments. It’s just a fantastic jig.”
“One of my new favorite colors is Purpledescent. I’ve done extremely well with it when I’m fishing a deeper water in the 20’s or more. I also like Glo Pink, which is a must-have in the 1/16th ounce size for crappies, bluegills, and is an absolute crusher on jumbo perch. With a small crappie minnow, it’s a multispecies weapon. The color Walleye is also good for all situations; add a shiner, rainbow, chunk or ‘crawler or leech. l use an 1/8th ouncer and thread the leech all the way up the barb, which keeps the leech pinned for slip bobber fishing or slow dragging through emergent weeds. The magic is the barb which keeps plastics tethered, as well as leeches and ‘crawlers for pitching and casting without fear of losing your bait,” notes Brosdahl.
Deep-Vee Jig (Sunrise)
Deep-Vee (Front View/Parrot)
Jigging can put a lot of walleyes and other species in the boat. If you want the security of improved bites and solid hook-ups, the best advice is to take our pros’ words to heart and experiment with this triumvirate of time-proven jigs from Northland Fishing Tackle. Peruse your local Northland retailer’s stock and invest in different sizes and colors. You’ll be glad you did!