The Rapala Jigging Rap!


Pete Schaefer of Linwood uses the “Bombing” technique for walleye success.

This is not an article to plug a sponsor. It’s a story of some smart anglers utilizing electronics and a very versatile jigging glide bait to rewrite tournament weight records and put a bunch of walleyes in live wells across the northern tier of the walleye world.

First, some history on the Rapala Jigging Rap. It was designed to be fished through the ice vertically. It is a jigging glide bait that will sit horizontally in the water, mimicking a minnow. The angler’s line is attached to the top center of the bait like a spearing decoy. This bait is bigger than most jigging baits. It has plastic fins on both sides of the bait’s tail to allow it to glide around in a small circle below the ice angler. Many anglers would attach a minnow or minnow head to the treble hook hanging from the bait’s bottom-center when fishing through the ice. The bait has put a lot of walleyes on top of the ice through the years.

Now rewind to 2001 and the angler that I personally credit the current open water Jigging Rap craze. Kim “Chief” Papineau from Escanaba, a veteran of the pro walleye trail and fishing the 2001 PWT Detroit River Northeast Pro/Am. Tournament practice was proving tough, and Chief decided to pull a bait out of the box that had never been used in open water before in a national walleye tournament event. On the very first drop in the Detroit River, he caught an 8-pound walleye. Chief stated during the final weigh-in that he thought he had nothing to lose during a tough event and started using the jigging rap during the event.

He went on to lead that event for the first two days of the three-day tournament and, on day two, weighed in an astounding 36.39-pound basket, one of the largest five-fish baskets ever on the Detroit at that time. I vividly remember hearing what Chief was doing on day two and shaking my head in disbelief. We were discussing with some other pros if he was possibly changing his baits when he returned to weigh-in each day to throw other anglers a curve ball. Nope, Chief was jigging up a storm with a Rapala Jigging Rap.

Now fast forward to 2013. Rapala sees a 50% increase in sales of these baits. Obviously, anglers are having success and word is getting out. Another big advance was the introduction of forward-facing live sonar. Anglers could now use their bowmount trolling motor to watch fish actively swimming in front of them instead of hoping they may still be active when they have already trolled past the fish. Anglers could cast and watch the fish react to their baits. A new, incredibly productive way of fishing was born, and the term “bombing” was born in the walleye world.

The technique works best in areas with few snags, as that treble can prove to be trouble in weeds or areas with wood. The technique has been proven to shine the brightest in areas where walleyes utilize rock piles that transition into sand or marl. The angler can cast the Jigging Rap to the rock pile and jig it back to the boat, pulling the walleyes out of the structure. The basic jigging action is to cast the jig and let it fall to the bottom, then snap it up about a foot and allow it to fall to the bottom, although many anglers have become extremely proficient with the jig and don’t let it hit bottom. They keep the line tight and jig the bait back to the boat. When the jig gets back to the boat, the angler will vertically jig the Rapala for a minute or two before recasting back to the structure.

A fast-action longer rod like a 7 footer or even an 8-foot, 6-inch rod works well for this application. Braid is okay to use, but a fluorocarbon leader should be used as a leader with a ball-bearing swivel to keep line twists to a minimum.

How well does the technique work? National Pro events have been won with huge weights around the northern tier, including the most recent National Walleye Tour event at Sault Ste. Marie in July 2023. Max Wilson of Cambellsport, Wisconsin, won the event using Rapala Jigging Raps casting to boulders. Pete Schaefer of Linwood, Michigan, also uses the technique well nationwide.

On the next walleye trip, don’t forget to throw the ice fishing box in the boat. It may well open an entirely new option for putting fish in the net. I’ll see you on the water.