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Another rig that works early in the year is the basic “plain Jane” rig which consists of a good quality hook, a bead above the hook for attraction, a split shot, and a lively fathead minnow. You can cast this rig and slowly retrieve it along the bottom or put it in a rod holder and let it sit on the bottom of the river. There are days when this simple rig will catch a majority of the walleyes or saugers. So, always have a rod rigged this way especially if you’re fishing a state like Wisconsin, which allows multiple rods. Wading this time of year can also be very effective as can slipping the current in a boat while vertical jigging. Try to fish the low light periods of the day (early AM or just before and after sunset) when fish move shallow to feed. Big female walleyes will often move shallow to feed after dark or during the night depending on the moon phase. Fan casting shallow water with a crankbait (Mann’s Jerkbait or Rapala Husky Jerk) in natural colors (black/white, perch, or blue/white) is also worth trying in the spring. Use a stop-n-go retrieve while twitching the bait now and then. What ever presentation you use, be sure to use a VERY SLOW retrieve because the fish are not going to chase your bait when the water is cold. By cold, I mean water temperatures in the upper 30’s and into the 40’s. If fishing from a boat, slip the current or slowly drift downriver while vertical jigging. Keep your line as vertical as possible, so that you can feel the light tap or tick of a walleye and the river’s bottom. The walleyes are always close to the bottom, so tap it gently as you move downriver. If you’re jig isn’t fished vertically, then you have little chance of “feeling” the walleye and catching them! Also, vary your jigging cadence till you find what the walleyes like and want. Some days, walleyes like a little rhythmic cadence in your jigging while other days they prefer a minnow on a “dead” rod without you giving any motion. Remember, that the natural current in any river will give your bait motion without you doing a thing. Besides the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers, there’s also the Wolf, Fox, Rock, Crayfish, Baraboo, Black, and Pecatonica Rivers in Wisconsin that contain walleyes and or saugers that are very catchable during this early spring spawning period. Rivers in Wisconsin are open to fishing for walleyes and saugers year-round. All of the techniques, tactics, and methods mentioned in this article can be applied to all rivers throughout the Upper Midwest. Now’s the time to get on a river and experience this great spring ritual. Gary’s “plain Jane” jig & minnow works E-mail Web site: http://www.garyengbergoutdoors. com

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