Vertical Jigging for Summertime Lake Trout!


“There’s some trout” I say, looking at the screen of the Helix beside me, seeing some trout looking arcs hovering above bottom. We had just settled over a hump rising from around 50 feet to just over 40, and on top of this little hump were what sure looked like lake trout. I hit the anchor mode on the Terrova, grabbed a rod and sent a jig into the depths.   


We were fishing the giant expanse of Lake Nipigon and had found an area that seemed to be holding trout, and over the last several seasons I had done quite well trolling around this area. We would either run downriggers, or trolling weights, and had great success for lake trout, both in numbers and size. Lake Nipigon is a well-known body of water and is famous for several reasons. It’s one of the most beautiful places you can fish and is a big piece of water that demands respect but is well known for trophy brook trout and lake trout.


Putting a trout on the + side of 40 inches and fish breaking the 20-pound mark are not uncommon, and once you figure things out it can offer some serious fun. After doing this for several years and having a good handle where the productive spots were, I decided it would be fun to try jigging for these brutes. As much fun as battling a 25 pound lake trout is on heavy trolling rods, doing it on lighter spinning gear sounded even more fun.   


We started out fishing the areas I had marked on my GPS. I had previously marked every fish caught over the last several years.  We hovered around the concentration of red marks on the screen, and slowly cruised around with the trolling motor until we marked a fish. As soon as we did, I used the anchor mode on my trolling motor, held us on the spot and started jigging. And did it ever work! While not every fish would eat your jig, a lot would, and if you got on a top of a fish, they were usually eager to bite.  Battling these predators on spinning gear was a serious rush, and you need to make sure you have a quality drag! 

Tom with a handsome lake trout

When it comes to finding fish, it really isn’t all that hard. Anywhere you fish lake trout, you can catch them on jigs, and it offers a totally different tactic for anglers. It requires very little in the way of specialized gear and makes for a simple trip. It eliminates the need for downriggers or other deep-water trolling tactics (which I certainly still enjoy, but this is seriously fun!). It makes targeting trout easy and fun, and once you dial them in it becomes ultra-productive. On several other nearby inland lakes, we’ve started targeting trout this way, and it works everywhere you go. With decent electronics and a general idea where to start, you can catch fish.  Cruising areas you suspect look good for trout, or areas you’ve caught them before are the perfect places to start.  I like to roam, watching the sonar for those telltale trout marks on the screen, and start there. Once you mark a fish or two, odds are good you’ll hook up. 


Finding mid-lake structure is always a good place to start, and if you can find humps in deep water, you’ll often find trout hanging on top or just off these humps. Once you find fish, staying on them can be a challenge. Something like the Minn Kota Terrova, and their spot lock feature is the ultimate for this type of fishing.  Unless you want to start setting anchors in the depths, this is the way to go. Without this you can still stay on fish if wind isn’t a major issue. You can usually drift and stay in the area, or try and use your boat motor or trolling motor to stay on a spot. I like to mark these humps, or areas you’re marking fish on my Helix. This lets me return there later, or helping to stay on the spot. 



Electronics are clearly a large part of this. You don’t need anything particularly fancy, but for this type of fishing they can really make a difference. Using the auto chart live feature on my Humminbird Helix, I’ve mapped the bottom in several the areas we fish trout. It shows me an accurate depth map of the bottom, with areas I’ve caught fish laid over top. It is a highly effective means to target trout, and it is a feature packed sonar/GPS unit  If you have electronics that you’re confident you can mark fish on, that’s all you really need, but stepping up your electronics to a unit like the Helix can be a real game changer.  


I like using spinning rods, but baitcasters will certainly work. I prefer a rod in the eight foot range, with a fast action and backbone for wrestling big trout. You can run heavier gear, but fighting big fish on modest spinning gear is seriously fun. I prefer using braided line, eliminating the stretch that comes with monofilament, giving you solid hookups.  It’s also nice when we fish places like Lake Nipigon, as it has a barbless hook only rule. Braided line gives you a solid hook up, and I find I land more fish. I’ll usually run a 12-18 pound braided main line, add an ant or chain swivel, and use a two to three foot mono or fluoro leader/shock absorber, usually in ten pound test. 


For jigs, I have a relatively small tackle box, with three main options. My number one favourite lake trout jig is a smelt pattern jigfly. I’m a big fan of the Mighty Mitch & Jungle Joe jigflies, a local company out of Terrace Bay, Ontario. They’re my go to for brookies and lake trout and are a dynamite jigging bait.  For big trout in deeper water (40’+), I prefer an anvil style head in a ½ or 5/8 oz, getting me down quickly once we mark fish. The other baits in my jigging box are plastics like the Berkley Power Minnow, a sleek little plastic, that looks an awful lot like a smelt, conveniently something big trout like to eat. 

The last addition to my box of jigs are any variations of white tubes. While I tend to use these more in the winter for some unknown reason, they are an ultra-productive jigging bait.  They have a rather enticing action that seems to drive big trout wild.   

 In some lakes that hold smaller trout, I’ve found that a simple jig and a minnow approach is all you need.  We fish one local lake trout lake, where the average size may not crack the two pound mark, but the fish are plentiful, and a ton of fun to catch. In this lake, live bait rules, and it feels like you’re fishing for walleye.  While most of the time, I don’t even bring bait along when targeting lake trout, if you find fish are passing on your offering, this may be worth a shot.  

 Jigging for trout, aside from being an ultraexciting way to fish, is simple and productive. It eliminates the need for specialized gear, lets you be mobile, find fish, and get on top of them, and catch them in an adrenaline pounding way.  


About Author

Tom Armstrong is an angler and hunter living in Northwestern Ontario. With a real passion for the outdoors, Tom spends every spare moment either hunting, fishing, or planning for one of these. Living along the North shore of Lk Superior, Tom spends a great deal of time on Superior and tributaries along the North shore, fishing salmon, lake trout, steelhead and Brook trout, with a real passion for the Nipigon area. Tom is often accompanied by his wife who shares this love for the outdoors, and their two labs. Tom shares this love for the outdoors through his work as an Outdoors writer and photographer.

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