Ideal jig water is a lot like plugging water

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Having a jig program dialed in can be the difference maker.

By Toby Wyatt

The best steelhead jig water is a lot like plug water: slow to medium speed water. Find that and you’ll be a step ahead of the next guy. Of course, it helps to have a jig program dialed in once you find the ideal water to fish.

I recommend fishing jigs that match your favorite plug color. If you don’t pull plugs for steelhead, then use my colors as a guide. I personally like the 1/8 or ¼ ounce Pearl Nightmare Maxi Jig from Yakima Bait. My second and third choices, in no order, are Metallic Blue and Metallic Chartreuse. But don’t make the mistake of getting hung up on one color. If the Pearl Nightmare isn’t working switch colors. 

The same can be said for jigs. If for some reason the jig is not working, don’t be afraid to use a sand shrimp or a coon shrimp. I have done well fishing a whole coon shrimp under my float. I brine the coon shrimp myself using a ¼ cup of salt, a ¼ cup of sugar and Pautzke’s Fire Brine. Place enough shrimp into a quart jar and fill it with your favorite colored brine. I use red, pink, purple and chartreuse color brines. Let it sit in a refrigerator for a week shaking the jar regularly. Once the shrimp is cured I fish it on a double hook rig using two number 2 hooks or two number 4 hooks (hook size is personal preference). To rig it, place your first hook through the tail and out through the head and then secure your second hook into the tail (see photo). Make sure the eyes are facing down. If you want to add some buoyancy run a Corky over your leader. 

The author will have brined shrimp ready if his jigs aren’t getting a response.

Presentation is really important. The main thing I see my clients do wrong is allowing the bobber to drag. This is usually caused from not mending the line. Make sure you keep your line above your bobber at the same time keeping a tight line. I always start shallow and slowly adjust until the jig contacts the bottom. Too many fishermen don’t adjust their depth enough. 

In order to present your jig properly you’ll need a longer rod. I personally use a 10-foot, 2-inch rod (Fetha Styx’s SH-1022 Homewater rod). I also fish a Daiwa 4000 Ballistic Spinning Reel loaded with 30-pound Suffix Superior braid. A long rod helps to mend the braided allows you to maintain a tight line. One problem with bobber fishing is there is always going to be slack and we all know a tight line is best. I will also dress my braid with Gehrke’s Gink or fly line dressing to keep it buoyant. 

I like the convenience and effectiveness of inline weights below my bobber. I will use a ¼ or 3/8 ounce when I’m fishing ½-ounce floats. A good rule of thumb to use when steelhead fishing is to use a slightly lighter weight than your float. You can assemble your float setup a variety of ways, and the photo illustration shows you one way to do it. I like to run a 30-inch leader in 12-pound test. Make sure you use small beads to bumper your knots. It keeps from fraying the knots. 

When it comes to floats I prefer a ½-ounce inline slider drift float from Beau Mac (I also like a standard bobber with enhanced rivets). If I use a standard bobber I like to use a permanent marker and color the bottom of the bobber black if it’s a bright color. This helps to camouflage the float. 

Finally, if you’re fishing low clear water use a smaller, lighter jig and conversely, use a larger, heavier jig in high water. And don’t be afraid to add scent. It never can hurt. 

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