Jigging for Lake Trout- Technique
Modern fish-finding technology has taken the guesswork out of a lot of fishing, and jigging lakers is no exception. A decent FF with at least 480 pixels of vertical resolution will help you track your jig as if falls. Color screens are nice but in no way necessary, their biggest advantage is being easier to see in bright light. A wide screen is nice as you can set one half to zoom on the bottom. There are several lower-budget models that are good enough to recommend- the Lowrance 5x and 5x Pro and the Humminbird 570. Most more expensive models will be good as well, and of course cheaper ones will get the job done. If you plan on jigging traditionally without playing "video games" any fishfinder will work.
There are several settings you can adjust to improve the performance of your fishfinder. Start by turning up the ping speed to as fast as it will go. On Lowrance models you first have to enter Advanced Mode to gain access to this option. This decreases the lag time between what is happening below and what you see on the screen. Entering split screen mode with bottom zoom on one half is also a good idea.
The jigging game is a lot of fun, and a deadly way to catch lake trout. Try to stay as vertical as possible to keep your jig in the cone and track your jig on the screen. When you see reactions from the lakers, you can often get one to grab the jig- fish on! There are several approaches to this. The simplest and often most effective is reeling like mad. If you see the fish come off the bottom, wait as you see them approach the falling jig. When the two lines nearly intersect, start reeling! The trout will follow it up and within seconds you'll (hopefully) feel a mighty pull on your rod. If you see the fish turn away, either finish reeling to the boat or drop it back down again. If the two lines (fish and jig) merge into one, keep reeling- the fish is closely following the jig and may strike at any time, even coming up to near the surface.
A lot of this depends on the mood of the fish. This you can tell by watching the screen. Active fish will rocket off the bottom after your jig, while negative fish will rise at a nearly horizontal angle. Sometimes they are unwilling to come up more than 5 or 10 feet- in these conditions it's not necessary to reel all the way back to the boat, after getting it part way up go ahead and drop it again. If this happens you are best off bouncing the jig on the bottom and working the bottom 10 feet or so. If fishing in bait, and your jig disappears into the cloud, keep reeling until it comes out the other side and beyond as the fish will often ignore the bait and keep following your lure.
Play around with the retrieve- start fast, then slow down as you near the surface. Or start slowly, and accelerate your retrieve. Stop halfway up and jig that spot a few times. Watch your screen to see what the lakers want. A lot of what you do should be dictated by the fish but there is room for personal preference. With spoons snap jigging is often the best technique. Raise the jig three or four feet and let it fall- most of the time you will get strikes on the fall so be alert.
Jigging by feel is sometimes necessary, either because conditions make it hard to track your jig or not all the anglers on board can see the fishfinder. Use your fishfinder to locate either clouds of bait or lakers near the bottom. Ideally you'll see a pod of suspended fish underneath a big cloud of bait. Most of the time, though, this won't happen, and you are looking for fish holding tight to bottom. Many depthfinders won't register bottom-huggers until you get them moving. Slowly motor in a likely area until you find marks or bait, but don't be disappointed if the screen looks blank- there are probably some fish around. The only way to tell for sure is drop a jig over and see if any fish come to investigate.