I have seen a real trend away from live minnow to using artificials over the last 3 years for jigging. In fact I would say I now try artificials first and only in super tough bites do I have to switch to live.
Jigging in particular is suited to artificial tails. Since you put all the action on a jig there really is no need for a live minnow. What you do need is an artificial tail that is flexible to give it good action when jigged, has a good scent that the fish hold on to, and has a good profile and color.
For me, the 3″ Berkley Gulp! Minnows normally fit the bill. They have great action in the water, look almost like real minnows (Black Shad, Rainbow and Smelt colors), and have a scent walleyes like (I know this because I have intentionally let walleyes swim around with the bait for long periods of time).
A big advantage of artificial tails is their longevity. Because they are more durable than real minnows you can jig them more aggressively. Sometimes a quick pop of the jig off the bottom will trigger fish, the problem with live bait is that you can pop it off – not so with Gulp!.
Secondly, artificial tails sometimes give you a second chance. A fish tries to bite the lure, you set the hook, but miss it. With live bait you would be reeling up to re-bait. With artificials, you simply drop it back down and keep jigging – often provoking the same fish to bite again.
One other example of the success of artificials is Bob Propst Jr. He won the PWT Chamberlain event last year pitching 3″ Power Bait Minnow – Realistics – up on the bluff and felt like they got more bites than real bait.
Good stuff! First stuff on my jig!