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Vertical Jigging

By Gregg Munck

A New State Record ?

When planning and scheduling our next fishing adventure, we all anticipate the chance of hooking the big one. Let’s face it, that's why we're up before the crack of dawn so we can increase the odds of sticking a brute.

I recall when I was a young boy that I wanted to become a professional baseball player. I can't tell you how many times I visualized hitting the game-winning home run. I believe that dreams and goals are extremely important in our lives.

AZ state record walleye
AZ state record walleye.

remember a couple of years ago when I set a personal goal to see my name in the record books for catching a state record fish. Early on in that quest, there were times when I felt like I was chasing a ghost.

In November of 2002, I was fortunate enough to catch up to that ghost. She ended up being a 16 pound, 1.76 ounce Arizona state record walleye with national recognition. Then approximately one year later to my amazement, I was flirting with that record.

The main reason I was on the water was to run my motor out of gas and store the boat for the season, so I decided to bring a pole or two along. The warmest water I was able to locate had a surface temperature of 41 degrees. I scanned the area with my electronics and located some promising rocky structure at a depth of 22 feet.

I finally observed a small concentration of fish holding just off the bottom where the rocky structure gave way to a hard flat bottom. From my years of experience, these transition areas often hold some decent size fish, especially when forage is present.

At times the fish will spread out along the structure, and often they will hold right on the edge where the bottom composition changes. This is the perfect scenario for using a vertical jigging presentation. For this trip, my equipment consisted of a 6' -6" medium baitcasting rod with a soft tip. I was using a high-speed baitcasting reel with a 6.2:1 gear ratio spooled with ten-pound XL line. The rod has enough strength in the butt section so you are able to get a solid hook-set. After the hook-set, you have the right amount of backbone to get the fish safely away from the cover that it was holding near.

The high-speed reel compliments the rod by taking up any slack line in a heartbeat, so you can keep that monster fish out of the cover.

So what am I doing with the light line? Also haven't I heard of abrasion resistant line like XT? I would love to have the confidence of the heavier, abrasion resistant line. The fact of the matter is that I have tried it, and it is great in certain situations. In this case it is crucial that you must keep in contact with your jig at all times, and the XL line helps me with that task.

I often fish small plastics Texas rigged on a 2/0 or 3/0 XGAP, Xpoint hook. They are strong enough to handle a huge fish, and the extra gap gives you a more solid, secure hook-set which is required to get these bruisers to the boat.

From my experience, the extra limp, lighter line creates a more natural presentation and gives me the "feel" I require to stay in contact with my jig at all times. For weight I use a 1/8-3/16 ounce bullet weight, usually pegged in cover situations.

Certainly on occasion, a trophy fish will get the upper hand on you, and wrap you up in structure, and possibly break your line. When this unfortunate incident happens to me, I try to convince myself it was a huge catfish or carp, just so I can sleep nights.

During the course of this fishing trip I was using a three-inch June bug colored plastic craw, Texas rigged while vertical jigging near the transition areas. The rocky structure had already claimed two of my craws. I set a pretty tight drag on my reel, even with the ten-pound line. For more information about trophy fishing, drop by my website: I believe that after you hook a monster fish, the battle is won or lost within the first few seconds. A big fish is very rarely far from structure or some form of cover. Finally, I felt a hook-up while the jig was on the fall. This was after dark, and once I set the hook, I was certain it was a decent fish. The heavy walleye wanted to stay deep, so I quickly maneuvered the boat towards deeper water and coaxed her toward the surface.

Once I took a good look at the big bruiser, it was obvious this fish might beat the existing record. I measured the walleye three times to be certain. She was one and a quarter inch longer than the existing record and had the same girth measurement. I firmly believed that this fish had a good chance of taking the old record by half a pound. After making a visit to a certified scale, the huge fish topped out at 15.43 pounds. She was certainly a monster walleye anywhere in the country, but not a new record in Arizona.

While fishing during the cold-water periods of the year, I have developed a tremendous amount of confidence with this vertical jigging technique. This vertical presentation allows you to keep your offering in the fish's face for as long as you desire.

When fishing in colder water, vertical jigging increases your chances of a hook-up. It gives a lethargic fish the extra time to decide if it would like to take your offering. With slight modifications, you can use this technique for many different species of fish effectively. Vertical jigging is a tool that I will always keep in my trophy-fishing arsenal. Check it out; you will be glad you did.

Gregg Munck is a nationally known multi species trophy fisherman who has fished the Southwestern United States for over two decades.