Everyone knows trolling with lead core line is the best way to search for big lake trout and salmon in the upper water column. But what about fish holding deep? Up until a couple of years ago, I would consider any fish I mark in 60 to 100 feet a missed opportunity. That was until I tried finesse jigging.
Finesse jigging involves dropping light jigs and spoons down to fish holding in deep water. The first step is finding the fish. For best results, use a high-quality, color fishfinder to pick up fish in more than 50 feet of water. A good fishfinder will also display the thermocline, where the water temperature changes. I even pick up my lure with the fishfinder so I know exactly where I’m jigging. I’ve actually watched fish strike my jig.
Temperature, oxygen level and food all play role. Trout and Kokanee salmon like water temperatures between 45 and 60 degrees. Marking several fish at the same depth is a good indication of where the school is feeding.
A seven-foot medium-heavy rod with a sensitive tip is ideal for jigging. Bait casting reels make it easier to free-spool and thumb the line as it drops through the water column. A depth counter on the reel will indicate when the lure is in the feeding zone. To feel the light strike, I use 15-pound braided line with two feet of 10-pound mono leader.
The weight of your jig can vary from a 3/8 ounce to one-and-a-half ounces depending on the depth of the fish and the speed of the drift. Fish suspended off the bottom can’t resist a spoon or bar jig falling
through the water. Metal spoons are easier to pick up on the fishfinder.
Mackinaw lake trout spend much of their time laying right on the bottom. A one-and-a-half ounce lead-headed jig and tube lure or curly tail is best for fishing the bottom. Trout and salmon are finicky, bring a variety of sizes and colors to match the daily special.
Finesse jigging is the key to drawing a strike. Position the kayak up wind from the fish marks. Then, drop the jig to the appropriate depth. Lift the rod tip two to six inches and allow the lure to drop before lifting again. Too fast and the fish will spook. Many times they will hit the lure on the drop. If I don’t get a bite after one drift, I will reposition the kayak or move to another location.