WE WERE trying to explain how to detect the difference between a weed and a walleye while working a jig and minnow combination when suddenly, out of nowhere, our guest set the hook.

It was an early-morning outing on the Three Lakes Chain, on a weekday, and we pretty much had the lakes to ourselves prior to the big holiday weekend.

It was a fishing trip with the girls again, this time daughter Melissa and daughter-in-law Jalonna, so there was no big surprise that one of them came up with the first hook-set of the morning.

But Jalonna doesn’t fish that often so we were doing some coaching on fish detection when she suddenly was doing battle, right at the boat, with a nice walleye.

She was so darn excited about getting that fish into the boat that by the time the net arrived, the walleye was tail-dancing on the surface. She had nearly pulled it out of the water completely.

Somehow we managed to get a net under that fiesty 18-inch walleye, which grabbed a chub in less than four feet of water. That’s a place where you can find post-spawn walleyes feeding in weeds and sticks this time of the season.

Luckily we had overcast skies and a light chop on the water, because those are the conditions that bring walleyes extremely shallow this time of year.

Many of them are back in the weeds on a post-spawn feeding frenzy, most likely chasing minnows and other prey species into the kind of shallow weeds that can protect them from predators.

On the cleaning table, we discovered the walleyes were filled with minnows, wigglers, hellgrammites and other larvae. It seems a lot of things are happening at the same moment in the weeds, as water temperatures quickly rise under summer-like weather conditions.

I mentioned weeds are one place you can find walleyes this time of year because it’s not the only place, for there always seems to be walleyes on the rocks, in the sticks and just hanging out on the mud flats in deeper water.

But the scribbler likes fishing walleyes in the weeds with jig and minnow because my family learned that craft decades ago from the late Tommy Newcomb, a well-known walleye guide in Boulder Junction.

As it turns out, the son of the famous Dr. Kate Newcomb somehow ended up teaching in Wisconsin’s farm country, in Marion, where he was my sixth-grade science teacher and basketball coach.

Teaching was the best profession for a guy who spent every summer guiding clients in northern Vilas County, his service based out of the old Newcomb homestead on Rice Creek.

There’s no big secret to fishing a jig and minnow in the weeds, but there are some basics that produce better results. Go with the lighest jig you can to avoid falling through and hooking every weed you fish.

When dragging a jig through heavy weeds, long slow pulls are best for determining what is a weed and what is a fish. Watch your tip, because tip movement in the opposite direction you are pulling at just about any point means you’ve got more than a weed.

You can get fancy of course, flashing the jig and minnow after pulling off a weed to better attract nearby fish. And there’s all sorts of debate over the right color for a jig head, and whether it should be dressed with hair, feathers or a rubber grub as part of the package.

But with live bait, pretty much it is the minnow that provides all the attraction you need. In fact, sometimes you can just cast into the weeds and let a fresh minnow wiggle around to get the bites you want.

Some anglers don’t even use a painted jig head in May, opting for the dull silver color of the plain lead-headed jig. They claim it’s the minnow that does all the work anyway.

Presentation matters and you have to try different methods until it is clear that one works better than another. Sometimes they like a slow retrieve, almost a slow drag, but other times a fast, flashy retrieve is best.

Case in point: friends of mine were fishing deep wood on the Bond Flowage a couple of weeks back, and one boat was doing exceptionally well despite the fact that they were all using the same jigs and minnows.

It appears that the boat that was casting fresh minnows and doing nothing for a length of time — just leaving the minnow wiggling on its own — had the most strikes and keeper walleyes by far.

That method was also working in the weeds last week. Aggressive fish were finding and eating the live minnows on our jigs before we could even begin to retrieve, or jig, the bait.

This might sound a little crazy, but sometimes it’s easier for another person in the boat to detect a “walleye drag” on somebody else’s rod. Fellow anglers have a better angle, without cranking their necks, for seeing the tip of your rod as you are jigging — often with the tip straight above your head.

Newcomb always told me that half the time, he knew before his clients did when a walleye was hanging onto their minnow. This is a fish that often just swims along, right at you, at about the same pace you are jigging. That can make detecting a bite a challenge.

Pull on their head slowly and look for tip movement, I tell me fishing partners, because that’s the sure way to quickly differentiate betwen a fish and a weed. If a slightly weighted object comes with you on the drag, it might be a fish.

I’ve tried floating jigs, a sinker/hook combination, slip bobbers and all sorts of other live-bait presentations. Nothing seems to work better for covering territory and attracting fish than the lead-headed jig.

Even people who don’t fish a lot, such as my daughter-in-law, have proven the effectiveness of the jig and minnow.