There is a time and place for rod holders when trolling for walleye (when using planer boards for example). However, whether short or long-lining, pumping the rod can trigger walleye to bite. My friend Derek Samson calls it “horizontal jigging.” Here’s what you need to know.
A long-jigging stroke is tough to beat. To do this, start with the trolling rod perpendicular to the boat. Let’s call this 12 o’clock. Next, drop the rod back to 10 or 11 o’clock, then sweep it forward to 2 o’clock. Keep the rod here for a second or two. Then slowly return it to 10 or 12 o’clock.
Short strokes are equally potent. These can be slow pulls, short twitches, or hard snaps.
Why it works
Horizontal jigging gives a lure an irregular action. Movement, flash, rattle, and vibration are altered when a bait is pumped forward, then paused as the rod drops back. The erratic swim attracts fish.
Walleye like following a lure while deciding whether or not to bite. Pulling the bait mimics the flight response of prey and, in turn, prompts a walleye’s predatory instincts. The hunter must decide to strike or let a meal escape.
If the forward flee doesn’t get a response, dropping the rod to slow or stall the lure can seal the deal. The dawdling bait replicates injured prey unable to get away. And, slamming on the brakes forces a pursuing walleye to choose whether to eat the bait or veer away to avoid a collision.
Another benefit of horizontal jigging, in my eyes anyway, is that it makes trolling more engaging. Feeling a fish smash a crankbait is a rush.
A more engaging troll
If you feel a walleye bump a bait, it’s a sign a fish is eager to eat. Jig the rod and odds are good it will hit. Now that’s fun!
It goes beyond excitement, though. When pulling minnow baits or shallow-running crankbaits around vegetation, feeling vibrations through the rod reveals when a lure is ticking weeds. This same sensitivity is how you know when a bait gets fouled and needs cleaning.
On a deep-diving lure, you’ll feel when it grinds bottom, and across composition changes (rock-sand) along the lake floor. Depending on the situation, it may require less line to avoid hanging up, or it may be exactly what’s needed to get fish to take notice.
There are other ways to manipulate a lure. A short burst of thrust from the engine makes a bait sprint forward. Putting the outboard in neutral or stopping an electric motor slows a hard bait. Don’t be shy to back troll to dial-in trolling speed and maintain precision boat control.
Making S-turns with the boat also works. A bait on the outside of the turn runs faster, while the inside one slows. If fish keep hitting the outer bait, it’s a signal to speed up. Vice-versa when the inside-turn lure gets more attention.
Troll what you got
A technique-specific combo is not needed for horizontal jigging. Odds are whatever you troll with now is fine.
The gear is less important than remembering to add some erratic, evasive action to the lure. Horizontal jigging is an easy way to put more walleye in your boat.
Tim Allard is a full-time freelance journalist and photographer based in Ottawa. He’s the author of the multi-award winning book Ice-Fishing – The Ultimate Guide. Reach Tim at email@example.com
Originally published in the 2021 Fishing Annual of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine.