Jigging Reservoir Lake Trout

By Ralph D'Angelo

Don't miss out on great Lake Trout action! Using light tackle and minimal equipment, jigging for lakers is a fun way to catch big trout!

lakerj 1If you read Row Boat Trolling - Spoon Tactics for Trout you already know that I love trolling.

Often, while out trolling, I mark pods of fish on the bottom with my fishfinder.  Every once and a while, I would try and jig some up. A couple of times I caught fish, but most of the time I didn't have much luck.

This year I decided to make a real effort to try and catch them. Armed with some Krokodile spoons and Crippled Herring jigs I was ready to go. For some reason, I thought putting glow-in-the-dark twisty tails would be a good idea. For a few weeks I fished some humps where I was marking fish…nothing. Finally one day, after a few fishless drifts, I decided to take the twisty tail off…and bam…just like that I caught two fish within minutes! It sure is funny how sometimes small changes make a big difference.

Since then it’s been off to the races, and it seems I have been catching fish every time out. Sometimes it takes time and effort, other times it seems easy, but at least now I am catching consistently. So for the time being, I have put down my trolling rods!


The first, and most important step, is to find some fish. A high quality fishfinder is essential. My Humminbird 798 has GPS also, so it helps get me right back on the spot. Since I also do a lot of trolling for trout, I try to use that time to find spots to jig fish later, by carefully watching and marking good laker spots along the way.


On most of the NYC reservoirs, you will find flat deep basins. Off to the sides of these basins, you will often find humps as the shoreline descends into the deeper water. On these drop-offs and humps, you will often mark fish on the bottom. If the reservoir contains Lake Trout, this will often be them. You will see these fish all year long, in various locations. Typically they will be on or near the bottom, in water depths of 60 to 100’. These are the ideal fish to catch with jigs. You may also see a few fish marks 20-30 feet off the bottom. This is even better, as these marks are typically actively feeding fish which have come off the bottom to feed.

Often these fish will be as high as the 40’ depth mark. From what I have heard, there is more oxygen in the upper water column, so these fish will be more active. I’m not a marine biologist, but it seems to prove correct when I am fishing. In fact, my hardest strikes often occur mid-depth between 50-40’. So between 40’ deep and the bottom is where I concentrate most of my jigging efforts. In the summer, higher than 40’ in the water column the water temps become too warm for the Lake Trout, which prefer 40-50 Fahrenheit degree water.


Now that you have located fish to jig, you need the right tackle. You don’t want to go too light. These fish are deep, and pull hard and there is always the chance of a 15lb plus fish! I have been using a 6’ fast action spinning rod rated for 1/4 - 5/8 oz lures, with a spinning reel rated for 150 yards of 10lb mono. I fill my reels with 15lb Power-Pro Super Slick braid. To the end of my braid I use an Albright Knot to attach a 6’ fluorocarbon leader. The Albright knot is low profile and goes through the guides easily. Just make sure you wrap the braid 12 times around the mono when tying the knot. By doing this I have yet to have one fail. I have tried double uni-knots, but they are much more bulky, and I find them more complicated to tie. To the end of the leader I tie a small, 30lb duo-lock snap. This set-up seems to have enough backbone to handle decent size fish.

Lake trout have a tendency to roll around and wrap the leader around themselves as you fight them. You can often feel them doing just that as you reel them up from the depths. For that reason, I prefer longer 6’ leaders, so I can always cut the line and tie on a new leader if they are wrapped up. Dealing with the mono is easier than dealing with the braid. Also, the leader will often be scuffed up and weakened from all that twisting. So it’s a good idea to replace it. To make leader changes easier, I use a “loop-to-loop” connection to attach the leader to my braid. I tie a few feet of leader to the braid using the Albright knot, then a perfection loop at the end of this small piece of leader. To this loop I connect a 6’ piece of leader using the “loop-to-loop” connection. It just makes it easier to replace the leader this way, without having to retie the “Albright” knot every time I need to replace the leader

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This is the fun part; you get to experiment with different lures. I tend to use small jigging spoons and jigs (or as the “salties” call them, “tins”). Most of the lures are in the ¾ - 1 ½ oz range. This seems to get you down to the 70-80ft depths pretty quickly, while also giving you a good feel of the bottom. Right now, my favorite lures include…

  • Kastmasters ¾ - 1oz
  • Tsunami Shockwave ¾ - 1oz
  • Gotcha Jigfish 1.5 - 2oz
  • Crippled Herring 1 - 2 oz
  • Krokodile spoons 1.5 - 2oz
  • Cabela's RealImage Jig-N-Spoon 1-1.5oz (Glow)
  • Keitech Swing Impact 4" (White -Sight Flash) on Kalin's Ultimate Bullet Jig (3/4 oz)

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The funny part is that most of these lures are designed for saltwater. I bet even a 007 or A17 diamond jig would work! But on any of these lures, it’s a good idea to replace the heavy saltwater hooks with some lightweight trebles sizes 4, 5 and 6 seem to be about right. I read somewhere to cut one barb of the trebles off, leaving just the two. This seems less likely to snag, and definitely makes it easier to remove. On some of my lures I have single hooks.

I have also caught fish on tube jigs and swim shads. White seems to be a good color. But unless the conditions are mild, not too windy, they can be a little more difficult to use. When it is calm, I use the smaller, bulkier lures and spoons like the Kastmaster, but as the wind picks up, I switch to heavier, thinner profile lures like the Gotcha “Jigfish”.

This season, I started experimenting with scents. I bought some Pro-Cure Alewife Super Gel to try out. Seems like a good idea. I know it's a quality product that is used by a lot of experienced fisherman in the Great Lakes. So far, I can't say I have noticed a difference, but it is worth trying. I would love to know if anyone else has had any success with scents. I also have been trying out some glow products. I put some glow tape on my Kastmasters. I haven't used them often, so I can't tell if it made a difference. But my Cabela's Glow spoon has been killer.


Now that you have located some fish, the hard part is staying on top of them. You want to keep your lure right in front of their faces. On days when there is little or no wind and the water is flat as glass, this can be easy. But when the wind picks up, it can get tricky. For the most part, I try to fish on days and times when the winds are 7mph or less…with 2-4 mph being ideal. If you are fishing with a buddy and there is a slight breeze, you can back row the boat slowly to hold its position, while your buddy drops his lure to the fish. The straighter down the line goes, the easier it is to fish.

If you are alone, or can’t hold your position because you both want to fish, then you can drift slowly. This works best when the fish are located over larger areas, rather than small humps that hold fish. On the small humps you will drift right pass the fish too quickly. A small drift sock really helps slow you down. I have been using a 36" Lindy Drift Control Drift Sock and it has been working great. They are relatively inexpensive and surprisingly easy to use. On windy days it slows the boat down, but by tying it off to the side, it also positions my boat sideways to the wind, making it easier for me to fish.. On less windy days, it also helps smooth the drift speed, because you don't speed up every time there is a gust of wind. So I use it most of the time, unless it is pretty dead calm.

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Typically a drift speed of less than .5 mph is ideal. I have a GPS on my fishfinder, so I can monitor my drift speed. But anything under 1mph is fine. And if someone is back row the boat to hold it's position, even better. If it's windy or you are by yourself, throw out a drift sock.

Now remember, just because the fish were there on the last drift, it doesn't mean that they will still be there. They may have moved. So if you go back to the same spot and they are not there, then look around a little. They are most likely close by, but they do move around so you need to follow and stay on top of them.

You may wonder why I don't just anchor over the spots?...I have tried before, and even caught a couple of fish doing so, but it's seems like a less efficient way to fish.  Dropping your anchor in the right place, and then being over the hump when the anchor lands can be extremely challenging, especially in 100' water and dealing with a breeze. And even if somehow you manage, one little breeze change and your boat can swing right off the piece, and then you will have to repeat the process. Additionally, I notice that the fish seem to move around, it seems especially after I hook one. So not being anchored allows me to continually put my boat over the fish. In fact, I am not so sure that the anchor falling on their heads doesn't scare them off either.


Most of my buddies like to let the lure drop to the bottom, then lift the jig anywhere from 6 inches to 2-3 feet. Then drop the rod tip to let the lure fall. It is important to follow the lure with your rod tip as it descends. You don't want slack as it falls, or you may not feel it if a fish hits as your lure falls. Also, if you see your line suddenly slack up for no reason, reel up and quickly set the hook, as that may be a fish.

I prefer to let the lure hit the bottom, lift, but then reel the handle one turn as I drop the rod tip and the lure falls. This will slowly climb the lure about 2 feet at a time through the water column. When I get to about 50 feet or the thermocline, I drop back down and repeat the process. Often the lure will get hit well off the bottom. I used a "sharpie" marking pen to mark my braid at 50 and 75 feet. That helps me get an idea of how deep my lure is. I used blue for 50' and red for 75'.

For a slow drift I may use wider, lighter lures like a 3/4 to 1oz Kastmaster, but if the drift picks up I will switch to a slender, heavier lure like the Gotcha or other “Diamond jig” style lures from 1.5 - 2oz as these gets down faster and stay there. The wider lures seem to have a little more vibration, which sometimes seems to work well.

For those not already familiar, the "thermocline" for our purposes, is the layer of water where the warm upper layer of lake water meets the cold layer of deep water. This is where the fish like to feed. Often it seems the fish will come off the bottom and feed in the thermocline. I catch ALOT of my fish just below it. Early in the season, the thermocline will be part of the warm surface water, but later in the season it breaks off into is own distinct layer.

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It's not difficult to determine at what depth the thermocline is. You can use a temperature probe such as the ClineFinder or if you have a quality fishfinder you can see it on the screen. It's important to have your unit's sensitivity turned way up and disable any noise filtering features such as the "clearview" setting on my Humminbird. It's also a good idea disable the unit's "Fish ID" setting as I believe that degrades the signal. On my unit it makes it difficult to read my lure on the screen. That said, unless it is dead calm and my lure is going straight down, I rarely can see my jig on the screen. The fish ID is the setting that shows "fish" symbols instead of fish "arches".


So this was a brief run down on how I jig for Lake Trout. I know other people who have their own techniques and methods, that may be as good as or better than my own. Hopefully, this article can motivate a few people to try jigging for themselves, and at least give them a place to start. I would encourage anyone who has their own advice or experiences to please share them in the comments section below. The more people jigging the better, because then we have more information to share. So please, if you haven't already...give it a try!

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#3 Luc 2017-10-30 08:33
Thanks, let me know if your friend catch one
#2 Ralph D 2017-10-11 18:41
I have never caught any browns on the jig. I actually have a bet with a friend, if he catches a brown, I will buy lunch at the location of his choice!

That said, never heard of anyone catching one on a jig...but I hope someone does.

I also fish Croton Falls on occasion. Saw some marks down deep. I guess those could be browns...but I am not sure, most browns I catch are 50' or less. Not sure what else could be that deep, would love to know.
#1 Luc 2017-07-27 15:10
Did you catch any brown trout using the jig? I have boat on croton falls I see some mark 70-80ft deep ,that can be brown trout?

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