What Kind of fishing is Walleye?
As a tournament walleye angler, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is about which rods to use in certain situations. It is somewhat surprising to me how many people use the wrong stuff. Many times the rods are too heavy, or they are built with the wrong components for the technique they are being used for. I am a firm believer that having the right equipment, especially rods, is an easy way to make just about anybody a better angler. With that, let’s take a look at what makes for the right rod in a few popular walleye tactics.
Terms to Know:
Blank: The actual “rod” portion of the fishing rod. Generally made from graphite, carbon fiber, fiberglass, or a composite blend of these materials.
Guides: The loops that the line passes through down the rod blank. Generally made from metal or with a metal frame and ceramic inserts.
Reel Seat: The part of the rod handle that secures the reel to the rod.
Action: The term “action” refers to the rod’s flexibility. For example, a fast or extra fast action means the rod bends close to the tip. A moderate action rod bends more in the middle of the blank, and a slow action bends all the way down near the handle.
Power: “Power” refers to the stiffness of the rod. Generally it follows a scale of Heavy, Medium, and Light power, with incremental increases (ultra-light, medium light, medium heavy, extra heavy, e.)
Jigging is a staple technique in walleye fishing, and one of the easiest ways to make just about any angler a better jig fisherman is by using the right stuff. Things you want in a quality jigging rod include a very sensitive blank, comfortable and sensitive handle material, an overall lightweight design, and a compact package. Here are the stats for my perfect jigging rod:
- Between 5’9” and 6’ long
- Medium light to medium power
- Fast to extra-fast action
- Dense handle material
- Graphite or carbon fiber blank (Never Fiberglass!)
You may be thinking that a 5 foot, 9 inch rod seems pretty short, and it is. However with jigging, longer rods can actually be a disadvantage. The goal with a jigging setup is to have the most sensitive setup possible. By having a shorter rod you are able to shorten the overall distance between the lure/bait and your hand, in turn allowing you to feel any strikes more quickly which lets you react faster. That is not to say a long rod won’t work, but the short sticks are most widely accepted and put into use for this presentation. Another bonus to a shorter rod is they are lighter. Having a light jigging setup is important as it reduces fatigue and helps transmit feel better.
Going along with the sensitivity and “quickness” factor, having a fast to extra-fast action is key to having lightning quick hook sets. When a walleye grabs a jig/bait in a river, they suck it in very quickly and will spit it back out within seconds if they don’t like how it feels or tastes. This greatly limits the amount of time you have to set the hook before you lose the fish, so having a fast action allows you to bury the hook more quickly.
Probably the most important factor to choosing a good jigging rod is the rod material. Absolutely under no circumstances should you choose a rod with a fiberglass blank. Fiberglass is slow and doesn’t transfer feel well making it a horrible choice for jigging. Look for rods with a high-modulus graphite or carbon fiber blank. These materials are much more sensitive and react much more quickly than fiberglass, making them perfect for this application.
It can be expensive to find the right rod with all of these features, however you don’t have to break the bank to equip yourself with a quality rod. The Fenwick Elite Tech Walleye series has 12 different models to choose from, all of which retail for under $150. The price may seem steep, but making an investment in a quality jigging rod with pay for itself in no time. The model I use is the 5’9” extra-fast action with medium power. This rod fits the criteria perfectly and performs up to par with rods three times the price. They also have a hidden reel seat design which is super comfortable. You can learn more about these rods by watching this video:
Live bait rigging is a great way to catch walleye all year, and as before with jigging, having the right rods can make a big difference. With rigging, sensitivity is still very important, however there are a few other factors that a good rigging rod needs. For this, we want a longer rod to provide some leverage for big sweeping hook sets, a lighter tip action, and a lighter rod power. Here are my specs:
- Between 7’ to 7’6” long
- Light, medium-light, to medium power
- Moderate to fast action (moderate for medium power, fast for light power)
- Graphite or carbon fiber blank