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Tips on Picking the Perfect Walleye Rod from St. Croix Pro

A professional angler, educator, and fishing promoter from Barrington, Illinois, John Balla employs a variety of techniques to catch walleye, and a whole lot of them involve jigs. “The St. Croix Legend X 6’8” medium power, extra-fast action (XLS68MXF) is my favorite rod for most jigging techniques, but especially snap-jigging,” Balla says. “First thing is the feel of this rod; it’s so well balanced in the hand, unmatched by any other in my opinion. Balance is the key to fishing the lure the exact way it’s intended, because in most forms of jigging the rod becomes a real part of the presentation.”

Balla says an extra-fast action is the way to go when fishing ¼-to-5/8-ounce jigs and plastics in the weeds. “St. Croix builds an extra-fast tip better than anyone, and that action is the most sensitive in terms of bite detection, period,” Balla says. “A St. Croix extra-fast tip tip gives feedback to the angler quicker than any other. This is critically important when fishing highly erratic and snapping motions which cause slack line. Detecting and feeling slack-line bites is made easier with this rod; you simply miss fewer bites. The blank-through reel seat combined with the Torzite guide rings creates next-level sensitivity throughout the blank. That’s why the XLS68MXF is my weapon of choice when aggressively triggering walleyes in weeds.”

To fish weeds effectively, Balla chooses bullet or fish-head-style jigs rigged with thin, paddletail plastics. “Simply choose the right weight of the jig depending on your depth,” he advises. “Try 3-4” plastics early in the year or match the forage of the lake you’re fishing.”

Balla pairs the XLF68MXF with at least a size 2500 reel. “I prefer a Daiwa Ballistic LT 2500 spooled with 12-16-pound Sunline SX1 braided line,” says Balla, who adds an 8-10-foot leader of 12- or 14-pound monofilament line connected to the braid with an FG knot. “The mono helps slow down the jig’s decent a bit and creates more lift on every snap of the rod.”

Choosing the right weeds for this presentation also makes a difference. “Look for weeds with broadleaf cabbage, which is a walleye magnet,” he says. “Long casts are preferable, and the 6’8” length of this rod helps greatly in that department. Position the rod at a 45-degree angle to your line, immediately reel up slack, and quickly sweep the rod forward 4-6 feet. Pause and use this first sweep to see how long it takes to reach the weeds and make a mental note. Reel up slack and sweep again, letting the jig fall to just catch the tip of the weeds. Repeat this all the way back to the boat.” Balla encourages anglers employing this technique to be aggressive. “You’ll be amazed at how the walleye respond to a darting bait above their heads. Be prepared to catch anything that swims in those weeds; not just walleyes, but bass, pike, perch, and rock bass as well.”

Balla says medium power is perfect for this presentation. “Medium-light power and slower rods aren’t suited for the tension and water resistance that’s created with the snap or the sweep of the jig and plastic,” he says. “Also, you need some power when a hooked fish takes a dive down into the weeds.” He says sensitivity is very important, because the angler needs to use the rod to feel the jig contacting the weeds. “It’s so important to fish through the scattered tops of the weeds,” he emphasizes. “Choosing too heavy of a jig or oversized plastics reduces the effectiveness of the technique as well.”

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