Gearing Up for the Detroit River

By Lance Valentine

The Detroit River is one of the nations best walleye destinations, especially in the spring. While lots of presentations will catch fish, vertical jigging with heavy jigs (3/4 and 1 ounce) is the one most often used. Heavy current, walleye using deeper water and fish spread out all make vertical jigging the best option most days, but doing it properly requires the right gear. Here is how I prefer to “gear up” for vertical jigging.

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1) Rod – I have fished with lots of different rod lengths and actions on the river over the years, and am convinced that a short, stiff rod is the best choice for vertical jigging. I like short rods, 5’6” being my favorite. Short rods keep your line closer to the boat, making it easier to see that you are COMPLETELY vertical. Stiff rods allow you to “feel” the subtle bites from a walleye, whether the jig is being lifted or dropped (always on a tight line!). When picking a rod, be sure that it has a lot of guides to help fight big fish. Avoid cork handles, since cork deadens vibration up the rod blank. I was asked to design a rod a few years ago for Denali and am proud of the “Teachin Fishin Signature Series” rod we developed! A 5’6” Medium Heavy rod with an extra fast tip, 9 guides, and a short rubber foregrip for sensitivity and comfort.

2) Reels – pick a reel that balances well with the rod you choose. When checking, remember the rod tip should be pointed down at a 45-degree angle when holding the rod just forward of the reel. Be sure your reel has a large enough spool, so line doesn’t come off in coils. I prefer size 2000 reels, and my favorites are the Piscifun Honor XT 2000 and the Piscifun CarbonX 2000. Fill the spool with old mono line, leaving enough room for 100-125’ of braided line.

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3) Line – thin, no-stretch line is key to feeling subtle strikes when vertical jigging. Using brightly colored line (yellow, green or orange) is important to be able to see line under the surface so you know your jig is vertical and it makes it easier to see slight “ticks” on your line. My favorites are Sunline SX1 or Sunline Plasma braid in 12lb test. I tie direct to the jig using a palomar knot, and never use a leader.


Vertical jigging is a specialized technique that needs the right equipment to be done properly. Pay attention to the tips above, get the right gear, and you will see your catch rate increase.

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