Bob Propst, Sr. loves to tell stories; his son, Junior, not so much.
But, the younger, quieter Propst has inherited an important trait from his
famous walleye-fishing dad. Like his father, Bob Propst, Jr. has a knack of
finding walleyes in huge Western reservoirs even if they're schooled up on a
spot the size of a bathtub.
What's his secret?
"He keeps it simple, I'm simple," said Junior.
"A lot of my buddies are technical," he said. "But, I don't put a lot
of thought in to make it more difficult than it is. I go fish. A lot just seems
to come naturally."
There's a bit of rebel in both of the Propst generations. They don't believe
everything they see in magazines, which works out well for them because
walleyes don't read either.
"He goes against the grain," Bob Propst, Jr. said of his
Learns From Father
While still a teenager, the younger Propst learned to trust the elder ... even
at times when he seemed to be fishing nowhere at all in particular with little
rhyme or reason.
"He'd stop the boat, and we'd ask, 'What are you doing?' Then, we'd
start catching fish. My father taught me so much," Junior
Bob Propst, Jr.'s willingness to learn helped him to follow in Senior's
footsteps at an early age. Junior was guiding by the age of 14 and competing in
fishing tournaments before he could drive. Now 39, he has a long resume of top
finishes in professional tournaments. They include two wins during Professional
Walleye Trail events at Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River system in South
Dakota in the past two years. In keeping with the family's, "keep it
simple" theme, he won them both with jigs, one of the simplest fishing
tactics there is.
He prefers jigs for a couple of simple reasons. First, they work -- that's
especially true when walleyes are tightly schooled in spring and fall. Jigs also
work in summer, particularly when the wind is blowing. But, clients are often
uncomfortable using jigs so he tends to use bottom bouncers during warmer
weather to cover water faster and ensure limits of eating-sized fish, he
His second reason for using lead heads; they're more fun! He loves feeling
the thump of a strike and the throb of a walleye through the line.
His third reason -- it's the method he learned first. When his dad was out on
the boat earning a living, Junior and his friends were pitching jigs from
"I get a charge out of pitching jigs," he said.
Use Simple Gear
For gear, he uses a medium-action spinning rod and reel for the technique. Propst uses a
6-foot long Fenwick Techna rod. The reels are Abu Garcia or Mitchells that are
matched in size to the rod. For another choice, try a St. Croix Legend Elite
EX68MXF paired up with an Avid AS2000 reel.
But, the key is the line.
"I'm a firm believer in high-vis, super-braided line," he
There are two reasons for that. One is the color lets him line-watch. A jump
in the line is the first sign of a strike. Setting the hook right away is the
difference between fish or no fish. The other is the no-stretch quality
transmits the feel of the strike faster than common monofilament, he said.
"A lot of customers say, 'I can't fish jigs.' But, when you are using
high-vis line, it's easy," he said. "Once you get the confidence,
that's all you need."
He said 1/8-ounce, round-style jigheads, such as a Lindy Max Gap, work great
for most conditions. Step up to a 1/4-ounce if the wind is blowing -- and
it often does early and late in the year. Downsize to a 1/16-ounce in rocky
areas to avoid snags.
Try leaving live bait at home. It slows you down and it isn't necessary, he
said. Bob Propst, Jr. likes plastic, the 3-inch kind, to add bulk and to add
color. He uses scented minnow bodies.
"Fishing plastics is a weird deal. A lot of people don't have confidence
in it, but very seldom do I have bait on the line any more," he said.
Color? You can have a tackle box full of them.
"All my buddies change up all the time," he said. Not him. He uses
pearl/white or chartreuse most of the time.
The technique is usually a matter of pitching the jig, letting it fall to the
bottom and lifting the rod tip about a foot, reeling up, and lift/reel, lift/reel, back to the boat. If fish are finicky, he'll lift the rod tip two feet at
a time to let it fall farther.
You should know by now not to expect a complex answer when you ask where he
fishes in those big Western reservoirs he was raised on.
"I think I'm a lot like my dad. I go fishing every day and if it feels
right, I stop and fish it," Junior said.
Well, yes, but for those who still believe what they read in magazines, can
you give some advice? That's when he starts telling stories.
The first focuses on his 2006 PWT win at Lake Francis Case. The month was
May. Ironically, he never thought he'd be the one to win there despite
his long experience. Jigs generally produce smaller fish. He was used to seeing
people who troll lead-core catch a big kicker fish that put them on
Pitching Jigs To Shore Produces
Not this time. Pre-fishing with his dad, they found a pattern where pitching
jigs on a stretch of shoreline produced fish just under the slot of 20
inches. The trick was to bounce the jig right on the shoreline rocks and
bring it back into the water. If you cast into the water first, smaller fish
was the result. The wind was howling. He had to step up to a 3/8-ounce
jig. Dressed with plastic, others might have thought the bait would be too
"They inhaled it. It was unreal," he said.
Lead-core did catch larger fish -- but not as many. Junior won with a
five-fish limit each of the three days.
A year later, PWT officials moved the event up a month earlier. The first
day was canceled when temperatures refused to budge up to double digits. With
wind gusting to 30 mph on Day 2, Propst made a 40-mile run to the creek arms on
the southern end of the reservoir where walleye spawn. He was forced to fish
deeper, 25- to 50 feet down, but jigs were still the ticket. He caught a
five-fish limit. When Day 3 was canceled because boats were stuck to trailers,
he was declared the winner.
Propst has two more bits of advice for success with jigs.
1) Jigs are inherently slow, so don't waste time. Try a section of shallow
water near spawning areas in rivers or bays with feeder creeks. If you don't
catch anything, move on, and;
2) Trust that jigs will work
"One of the biggest things is confidence. Without that you probably
aren't going to apply yourself and do well," he said.
For a fine assortment of fishing gear, click here.
Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson write a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Ted has many fishing achievements, including a victory at the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later.
(Ted's sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle Rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu and Nautamatic TR 1.)