Mention early-season walleyes to Jim Breedlove and you invariably will start a conversation that centers around jigs
Breedlove eats, sleeps and breathes jigs - in all sizes, all colors and all retrieves. And he catches hundreds of walleyes each year on them
A veteran walleye tournament competitor, the Girard resident has refined his techniques to the point where he can catch fish on jigs in water ranging from one foot to as deep as the fish care to live
Competition breeds innovation in fishing and it was the tournament scene where Breedlove learned that jigs provided him with the versatility to place high in events such as those operated by the Western Reserve Walleye Association
"Early in the season at Mosquito it's definitely a jig bite," he said. "You can work them wherever the fish are and get bit." Breedlove revealed a few tricks that have helped him catch more walleyes more regularly at Mosquito, Berlin and Pymatuning reservoirs
"I found that hooking the minnow through the lips rather than the head can add fish to your catch. I also vary my retrieves. Early in the year I drag the jig slowly and then when the water hits the mid-40s, I speed up and hop it a little. You need to experiment to see what the fish want on any given day." His standard set-up incorporates1/16- to1/8-ounce ball head jigs.
Color preferences: Northland's Fireballs and jigs made by Dan Kerr of Liberty are his favorites. For colors, he prefers red-orange and green-chartreuse
In April at Mosquito, Breedlove recommends that anglers explore the sand and gravel bars on the south end
"I used to fish the bars with chest waders a lot and then when I began to do more boat fishing, I got away from the shallow water. I wasn't working the shorelines enough. Now I'm back to the bank and catching more fish than ever," he said
Go shallow: In fact, said Breedlove, the biggest mistake many people make at Mosquito is they don't fish shallow enough
"Ninety-nine percent of the anglers are fishing too deep. A lot of times, I'm casting right up on the shore, just like bass fishermen." Another trick Breedlove employs is a tandem set-up. He ties a three-way swivel to the main line, then uses two leaders - one 18 inches and the other about 10 - to which he adds1/8-ounce jigs with twister tails
"It's good for dragging, but also for casting the edges of the weeds. One time I caught seven walleyes in seven casts on the tandem rig." Breedlove said weeds play an important role in the success of Mosquito walleye anglers as the season advances. He said he often positions his boat so he can pitch jigs to the points and pockets along a weed line
"I'll take a Fireball jig and add half of a nightcrawler or a leech and flip just like I was fishing for bass," he said
While he's not so locked in on leadheads that he fails to fish other lures, Breedlove has found they fit virtually all of his needs for much of the year. Jigs have produced 4-pounders at Mosquito for Breedlove, several 5-pound fish at Berlin and a 6.14-pound walleye at Pymatuning
His sponsors: To support his tournament fishing, Breedlove has sponsorship from Ravenna Marine, Crestliner Boats, Ram mounts for fishfinders and GPS units, and Reef Runner lures
When he's not fishing or tending to his family, Breedlove works for Liberty Steel in Masury. But the place he's most likely to be today is Mosquito Creek Reservoir and he'll be easy to spot. He'll be the guy tossing jigs for bank-running walleyes.