Sauger Fishing on the Illinois River
By: Mark Komo
Who is Mark Komo?
• Husband and Father of 1 boy – Matthew/Age 7
• I Love to Fish Walleyes and Saugers
• Participant in FLW Walleye League, FLW
Walleye Tour, Illinois Walleye Trail, MWC, and
local tournaments on Illinois River and Lake
• Guest Speaker
• at Various Events, Clubs.
Illinois River Fishing
What we will cover..
• Where to launch?
• Wind Direction/Current
• Jigs / Bait
– Vertical Jigging
– 3 Way River Pullin
– 3 Way River Trollin
• My Gear
• Where to fish?
• Favorite Web Sites
Where to launch?
• Best launch Spring Valley
• Baitshop a block before the launch
• Plenty of parking
• Free launch
• Sheltered harbor
• Maintained by the Spring Valley Walleye Club
• Site of the MWC Opener at Spring Valley
• Peru Launch is ok too, though no docks.
• Starved Rock is ok too, though no docks.
• Hennepin is great, though not much parking.
• Henry is good too.
Wind Direction and Current
• Wind and Current are your friend
• Wind will tell you where the fish are
• No wind can make it tough to pinpoint the fish
• What for creeks or shallow areas that blow off
from back lakes on the Illinois. These spots hold
fish on the edges. Wind makes them active.
• Its tough to stay vertical when the current is
moving downstream, and the wind is pushing you
upstream. Be sure to point the nose in the wind
(down stream) and pull yourself down.
• Be safe. Wind creates some terrible conditions.
• Use 8-2 Fireline in Crystal or my favorite
• Tie directly to jig with Palomar knot. Be sure to
have the knot at a 90 degree angle.
• Check line often as snags occur.
• Use 6-8 lb. Gamma/Mono line while pitchin jigs.
Be sure to have the knot at a 45 degree angle.
• Fireline is great for feel. If you feel a “tick”, or
anything strange, set the hook.
• Gamma Co Polymer is something I have been
trying. Love the feel and strength
Jigs - Part I
• Use ¼ to ½ jigs bare, with plastic or hair.
• Depending on fish, I may go to same size jig
but longer shank hook.
• My Favorite Presentations
– 3/8 oz short shank Northland Fireball in Pink/Yellow
with a fat head minnow.
– ¼ oz long shank Hutchie Glitter Jig in Blue or Silver
glitter with a Ring Worm
– A 3/8 oz Hutchie Hair Jig in Blue/Orange with no bait
• Bright days use bright jigs, bright or clear
• Overcast days use darker colors.
Jigs – Part II
• As usual give fish what they want.
• Change often, with a control color.
• Orange/Pink/Green jigs are good as are hair jigs in
your favorite combinations.
• Fireballs are great jigs, no doubt about it. Love
parrot and sunburst too.
– Let the fish tell you if a stinger is needed
– Tie your own if you like
– Stingers catch snags and small fish
– Cold water let the stinger “dangle”. Fish may not have
enough power to suck in the bait, but it will suck in the
– 3 to 4 inch Fatheads are tops. The bigger the better.
Stay away from the Black (Male) fatheads.
– Rosy Reds, Shiners, and Shad also good
– ½ a crawler is plenty and sometimes even too much
– Best bait around Big Jims in Ottawa off Rt 72,
3 blocks behind BP Amoco
– Munchie Plastic in chartreuse, orange or clear
– Ringworms in dark colors like purple and blue as well
as light colors like chartreuse and clear.
– Gulp! 4 inch Minnow in white or orange
– Yum 4 inch walleye grub in orange, pumpkinseed
Technique: “Slipping the Current”
• Point into the current or Point into the wind
(sometimes not the current)
• Trolling motor on low, slowing your slip
• Trolling motor on high, “burst” to correct
• “Follow the line”
• Vertical jig down the river, Pull upriver.
• Vary cadence, ie hop, hop, hold. Pop, hold. Pop, pop,
hold. Drag, pop, hold. Pop hard, then hold.
• Vary bait presentation, ie lip hook minnow, tail hook
minnow, hook minnow and “stomp” it, light lip hook
for vibration, deep hook for scent.
• Use plastics. Double hook a gulp! Tournament
minnow in 4 inch so you have two tails.
Technique: “Pullin 3 way rigs”
• Point into the current
• Trolling motor on med @ .5 to 1.2 MPH
• 1 to 2 oz pencil weight on bottom, with a 8 inch dropper, to a
swivel. Have the guy up front with the heavier weight and
shorter line out.
• Mainline to another swivel, then tie to dropper
• 24 to 48 inch lead of mono/fluoro, sometimes longer up to 8 feet.
• Use a floating jig head, ie Northland gum drop, single hook with
red or yellow bead. With gum drop, put hook through nostril.
• Small crankbait, ie, Rapala F5
• Slowly “pull” bait forward and let is slip back
• 45 or more degree angle in the water, always feeling the bottom.
• May feed line, then set hook. Not a jig hookset snap.
• Pull line “forward” not up.
Technique: “3 Way River Trolling”
• Point into the current, Trolling motor on low, for steering
• Kicker motor on low, 1.5 to 2.5 up river…Vary Speed
• Same as 3 way pullin but a longer leader, ie 4 to 5 ft.
of Fireline tied to a snap/crank. Fluoro or mono ok.
• Use a 3oz to 4oz bell or similar sinker with a dropper. Use two
barrel swivels NOT a 3 way swivel
• “Drag” the weight in the mud/rock
• Short rod inside, long rod outside
• Use standard cranks, ie, #5 Shad Rap, #7 shad
raps, etc. in Firetiger Glow Orange, Silver/Blue,
#5 in Shad, F5 or F7 Rapala Floaters
• Always be sure where you are on the depth
and check your lines for debris. Especially after heavy rainfall.
• Hutchies tackle and Brian Gorski of Lincoln Jig Company, has
some outstanding custom painted crankbaits.
• Tack the current, wind and river channel
My Gear – Part I
5’6 St Croix Avid with Medium w/ XFast Action Tips
– Gander Mountain Guide Series Light Reel
– 8 lb Fireline Crystal or Smoke
– One reel left handed, one reel right handed.
– Use the thigh to spin the reel if needed
• 3 Way Pullin
– Daiwa Pro Guide Series 7 Ft. Medium Rods with
Daiwa baitcaster. “Flippin” switch is a nice feature.
– 8 to 10 lb Fireline
– 1 oz to 3 oz pencil weights
My Gear – Part II
• 3 Way River Trolling
– Daiwa SG27LC Accudepth
– Sheels 5 ft “Shorty” Trolling Rod
– Bass Pro 9’6” Trolling Rod
– Fireline 12 Lb
– Daiwa SG47 Sea Lines or Cabelas Depthmaster II
– Sheels 5 ft “Shorty” Trolling Rod
– Bass Pro 9’6” Trolling Rod
– 18lb Cabelas Lead Core – Full Lead
– 8 lb Fireline leader as long as rod, ok to be shorter, ie 4ft.
– G3 185F Angler with 200HPDI/T8
– Lowrance 334IGPS (Bow)/334C Dash
– Scotty Rod Holders, Trollmaster
Where to fish? – Part I
• Best map around Phil Traeger
– Key fishing areas from past MWC’s
– Seasonal locations
• Key seasonal spots – Spring – Jig/Troll/Pull/Lead
– Starved Rock Dam Area : Jig
– Plum Island Backside and Channel Side:Jig and Pull
– Peru Clam Beds: Leadcore/ Troll
• Key seasonal spots – Fall - Jig/Troll/Pull/Lead
– Channel area near Plum Island: Jig
– Hennepin Bridge: Jig/Pull Floaters
– Clarke Island: Leadcore/Troll
– Henry Bridge Near Big Sandy – Jig/Troll
• Key seasonal spots – Winter - Jig
– Snag Hole by 351 Bridge- Jig
– Deeper holes around bridges - Henry - Jig
Where to fish? – Part 2
• Vertical Jigging
– Early mornings, start shallow, ie, 7 – 9 feet
– As the morning goes on, ie gets brighter, go deeper.
– Vary color and cadence, move along breaks up/down
– Vary bait. Don’t be afraid to try a crawler or leech.
– Aggressive fish go plastic, neutral or passive fish go
• 3 Way or River Trolling
– Flats around Hennepin and Peru
– Channel edges near Lake Senachwine
– Rocky rip rap near bridges
Tips – Part I
• Keep hooks sharp. Especially after working out of a snag.
• Wash those hands. Scent is a killer. I play it safe by washing my
hands with deer scent killer bio degradable soap.
• Keep the line tight. When jigging, especially verticle jigging, a tight line helps
tremendously. With every change in feeling, set the hook.
• Use quality gear. Now is not the time to play it cheap. A high quality IM7 or IM8
rod in 509' to 6'3 is ideal for jigging. Be sure to have an extra fast tip and medium
action. My Mr Walleye Gary Roach Rods and St Croix Avids are a couple of the
• Use lively bait. Minnows, leeches and crawlers not lookin their best have a tough
time attracting fish.
• To give the minnows an extra "kick", drop a couple of capfuls of hydrogen
peroxide. Gives them a nice "boost".
• Be sure to keep the line knot at a 90 degree angle when verticle jigging. Always
check after a fish, snag or miss. Thats the 12 o'clock position. When pitching jigs,
keep the knot at 9 o'clock position.
• On cloudy or overcast days, use baits that resemble the natural forage of the lake
such as perch colored baits, baby bass baits, or baits that resemble gizzard shad.
95% of a walleyes diet is perch/shad, so try to match the hatch.
Tips – Part II
• Move often to find active feeding fish
• Avoid the crowds. Fish the other side of river of an active group
• Change the your bait often
• Re-tie often
• Replicate what works. Use a control bait.
• Magic temp for Sauger 44.5 degrees = Spawn
• Above 40 degrees = meat, below = plastic
• Winter is a GREAT time to fish the Illinois!!
• Jig and minnow. Dark colors on dark days, bright colors on bright days, slippin the
• Keep an eye out on the depth and replicate throughout the river. 12 feet here, will
hold fish 12 feet there.
• Consistency. Remember your cadence when jigging. Is it pop, pop. Or snap, pop,
snap. Or slow up and down. Or drag.
• Get comfortable with two jigging rods. Have them set up the same, ie reel, line and
rod. I love the 5 '9 Avid with extra fast action.
• Put a left hand reel on one, right hand on the other. Use the thigh for a quick turnup
• For listening to my seminar
• I hope it was informative and learned something
• Be safe on the water
• Be sure to take a kid fishing
• Want to prove your mettle?
Illinois Walleye Trail is on.
• Cell= 630.542.1168
• Questions or Comments???