How to fish the Meegs jig... and catch whitefish, that's what I've been trying to figure out for a while now. I can't seem to get the hang of this Meegs jig though. Today I decided to get some professional help from Steve Rowbotham (www.srfishing.ca) who's working with Fatal Force Outfitters here in Orillia - and a Meegs jig pro.
I had planned this trip for a while. Just as the winter season started, Steve Rowbotham announced that he was going to start guiding full time. I've been a follower of Steve's on YouTube for a while and have always been jealous of his Lake Trout and Pike trips - so of course I had to book right away!
The trip was originally planned for the 2nd of January but because ice on Simcoe was a bit delayed, so was the trip.
Of course early mornings are the norm for fishing trips but this one wasn't so bad. We met up at the north end of Simcoe around 7am. The entire Fatal Force team was there - Tom Carr, James Meeger, his Dad and Steve Rowbotham all chatted with us while we packed up gear and got ready to hit the ice.
They only had two sleds so the team went out and setup huts and heat while two of them came back and picked us up. The drive wasn't too far off shore but we did hit a deeper shoal. After Steve got the hut setup we were able to finally sit down and talk about how to properly fish the Meegs.
Steve outlined the basics of the rig:
1. Put the bait on bottom but keep tension on the line
2. Hold the reel in your hand, palm up, like you were weighing a small coin.
3. When moving the bait, work it like you are just moving the tail up and down with only a millimeter amount of separation between the bait and the bottom. The goal is to make the bait look like it's burrowing into the mud.
The bite, that was tricky to help me understand. I'm very much used to fishing summertime moving baits for fish who tug, pull or otherwise aggressively hit baits. Even my winter time perch attack, there's no confusion - you feel it, or see the rod bend. Whitefish bite different. Since there's tension on the bait, and it's on bottom - the only way the bait is going to move is up, into that fishes mouth. Since it's moving up the feeling is nothing. The tension is gone, as Steve put it "It's like something's cut your line".
Steve pinned a few fish while I tried to figure it out but it just wasn't working out for me. He moved me to a bait called the "Halo" which is a small feathered bait made by Tom Carr. it looks a bit like a Mr. Crappie Slab Daddy... kind of. I mean, not really but it's the closest thing I can think of that would come close. The bait is kept above the bottom by a few feet, and you gently stroke it. It's a chase bait so when the fish see it, you slowly reel up and let them chase and take it.
After a few hours, I wasn't getting anything. Steve left for a bit and Tom came in - I assume Steve told him I couldn't get it and brought Tom in to have another perspective and see if it would click with me. Tom sat down and in 2 minutes he had a fish on the line and quickly followed it up with a second. I missed my chance with one fish but there was quickly another mark and with instruction from Tom and Steve, I had my bite.
It was very subtle but the weight on the line felt amazing. I was able to get him to the hole quickly and Tom, Steve and I all shook hands and were happy to help me get my first Whitefish - ever.
The chase bite really wasn't there so Steve got me back on the Meegs jig. I had a few *tings* on the line but missed those hook sets. Suddenly it was there, exactly as Steve described it - nothing. I lifted the rod straight to the roof, the drag screaming all the way up as the hook buried into the top of the fishes mouth. My heart started going - I couldn't believe I figured it out. All last season was spent looking for the wrong bite, with the wrong presentation and within half a day I had it. I could see the smile on Steves face, he knew I had it too - it was on!
I managed another fish on the Meegs and each hook set felt as amazing as the first. The feeling of nothing on your line is a weird bite for me but once you feel it - you get it.
The day ended with a close to double header and a very happy angler - me. Sometimes you just need to spend time with someone better than you, who's been there done that. You can't go to school for this type of education but you can surround yourself with people who can help you grow.