Current Tactic: Fish the Swing for Walleyes


Charter captains do it, Canadian guides do it and regular Joes do it without even knowing that there doing it. What is it?

Fishing the swing.

One time a few years back, we were chasing walleye on the Wisconsin River in the Dells area and the water level was up—way, way up. It was so high that we were fishing up on what used to be a guy’s front yard. Then Poppee made a cast up under the swing set and voilá, a walleye was on. After a nice fight, three more fish were pulled from the swing set. That was swing set fishing at it’s finest, but that’s not to be confused with fishing the swing.

In a river, fishing the swing means to cast off the side of the boat with a jig, slightly upstream and then you let your jig swing to the back of the boat. You can also do the same from shore, casting upstream and to the side and allowing the jig to swing past you toward shore.

Guide Bret Alexander and Bob Gillispie of B-Fish-N Tackle with a pair of brutes.
Guide Bret Alexander and Bob Gillispie of B-Fish-N Tackle with a pair of brutes.

In a lake, fishing the swing means to let your boat drift and then you cast slightly forward and let your jig swing to the back of the boat. You can also slowly troll with your electric motor and then toss to the side for the swing.

Jig selection is the key to fishing the swing. Anglers have their favorites, but one thing is for certain, even though color plays a huge role in jig selection, the most important feature is weight. The proper weight is determined by the current and boat speed, which leads to how your jig is in relation to the bottom. Most of the time you’ll want to be just off bottom with the jig ticking every once in a while.

If your jig is too heavy, you will snag up. If your jig is too light it will be too high off bottom, tumbling by out of control. A spinning rod with a fast tip and line without stretch will aid in fine-tuning this presentation. Some anglers prefer fluorocarbon, while others prefer thin braid. We like braid with a fluorocarbon leader.

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Besides the jig weight, what you tip the jig with will affect the swing. Popular choices are minnows, half ‘crawlers, Gulp Minnows and Ringworms. Theoretically, minnows work best in cold water, minnows in warmer water, with Gulp and Ringworms thrown in when the fish are biting quickly.

Theories go out the window when you fish with guides like Bret Alexander of Green Bay, Jesse Quale of Petenwell and Justin Kohn of Puckaway. They will use Ringworms and Gulp exclusively tipped with bait when the action slows. The reason is that they are so confident in their presentation that the only reason that they won’t catch walleye is that they are either not biting or not present. It is rare that guides like these don’t catch a limit of eaters every day with a few whoppers thrown in for flavor.

We fish a lot on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes in northern Illinois. It is arguably one of the toughest bodies of water to fish. When the bite is on, it is still hard to catch a walleye. The Chain is a series of lakes formed by the Fox River. Often, we will catch walleye in three to five feet of water, no matter how warm the water gets. One top technique is a half ‘crawler on a 1/16-ounce jig tossed to the side and then swung to the back as the boat slowly moves along with the trolling motor. We’ve used this technique for 30 years and it still works today.

Speaking of jigs, the only ones we use are made by B-Fish-N Tackle (Custom J. Their H20 jig comes in five sizes, a myriad of colors, has a wire keeper that holds, Ringworms, Gulp, minnows and ‘crawlers tight to the head, and best of all they are stamped with each weight right on the jig. This makes jig selections easy for fishing the swing for everyone in the boat.

Walt Matan and his father, Poppee, design lures for Custom Jigs & Spins. They are also co-owners of Water Werks marine and tackle in Naperville, Ill.

For more information…
Check out the B-Fish-N H20 jigs and their full line-up of Ringworms including the Moxi: or