Bass Fishing's Most Versatile Lure? Tips for Fishing With Jigs
Many bass anglers consider jigs the most consistently productive of all fishing lures
Jigs can be used to catch bass inalmost any type of cover or structure. They perform under a wide variety ofwater and seasonal conditions. When other lures fail, jigs often produce.
A jig is simply a piece of leadwith a hook molded in it. The earliest versions were made centuries ago byprimitive fishermen who fashioned crude renditions from bone or shell. Moremodern types hit the bass-fishing world earlier last century and quickly becamerenowned for their excellent fish-catching ability. Anglers use them withexcellent results for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, thejig’s reign was supreme. But when fancy new plugs and soft plastics showed up,many jig fishermen turned their attention to these contemporary creations. In ashort time, the simple, age-old jig was all but forgotten—a loss for the fisherman, a gainfor the fish. True, newer artificials do take their share of bass, but leadheadjigs remain as effective today as they were 50 years ago. And in recentdecades, they’ve regained a loyal following. Today’s bass anglers know the jigis a dependable lure they can call upon year-round to catch fish.
Which Jigs are Best?
The biggest problem confrontingmodern jig fishermen is selecting from the many versions now on the market. Today’sjigs are available in thousands of sizes, styles and colors.
Some jigs are large—up to several ounces in weight. Othersare miniscule; it may take 100 or more to weight an ounce. Those used by bassfisherman typically weigh 1/16 to 1 ounce.
The lead heads are made in anarray of shapes: round, slanted, keeled, bullet-shaped, coin-shaped,oval-shaped and other variations too numerous to mention.
Jigs are also available with avariety of built-in body dressings, including marabou, hair, rubber bands,floss, tinsel, chenille and innumerable other materials. You can add your ownbody dressing as well, in the form of trailers made from pork rind or plastics.There are jigs with curly tails, ripple tails, broad tails, and triple tails;jigs with spinners and without spinners; weedless jigs and those that aren’t;and all this in the colors of the rainbow.
When you consider the innumerablecombinations of size, style and color that can be contrived, the selection ismind-boggling.
To help you decide which jig isbest for a particular fishing situation, consider these factors.
Weight & Shape
Heavier jigs, and jigs that arebullet, ball or keel-shaped, sink quickly, but are more prone to hang up. Lighterjigs, and those that are flat or coin-shaped, sink more slowly and are moreresistant to underwater snags. Thus, choosing the right shape and weight for a jigoften depends on the depth you’re fishing and the likelihood of encounteringsnags.
For example, when fishing deepwaters with mud, sand or flat-rock bottoms, you may want to use heavier jigswith bullet, ball or keel-shaped heads. When fishing, shallow waters wheretimber and other dense cover are present, it’s smarter to fish lightweight jigswith flat heads.
Selection of a certain head sizemay also depend on seasonal considerations, or water and weather conditions. Extremetemperatures make bass sluggish; it takes a slow-falling lure to make themstrike. Consequently, in the very hot or very cold water you’re likely toencounter in winter and summer, lighter jigs are likely to outproduce heavyversions.
When water temperature is closerto optimum for bass (50-75 degrees), they feed more actively. In thissituation, a heavier jig may be best, because it allows you to cover morewater, and your casts will be more accurate.
The jig should be heavy enough toreach the desired depth, but not so heavy it sinks too fast. Bass usuallyprefer a slowly falling lure to one plummeting toward bottom. As a generalrule, allow 1/8 ounce for every 10 feet of water. For example, a jig of atleast 3/8 ounce is needed to reach bottom in water 30 feet deep. If there’scurrent present, allow additional weight.
Color choice is often determinedby water color. Off-colored or turbid water dictates a black or dark-coloredlure. In clear water, lighter brighter colors are used. In some situations,anglers prefer a combination of light and dark colors. Some bassers make aspecial effort to match the color of the predominant forage in the body ofwater being fished.
Another rule of thumb is to usedark colors on dark days and bright colors on bright days. Unfortunately, likethe aforementioned rule of thumbs, this one doesn’t always hold true either.
Perhaps the best rule to followis this: carry jigs in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, with a variety ofdifferent colored trailers that can be changed. If what you’re trying isn’tworking, keep switching until you find something that will.
Fishing With Jigs
Only your imagination will limitthe many ways you can fish a jig.
One of the most common techniquesis casting the lure, then retrieving it in short hops along the bottom. This isespecially productive when fishing for smallmouth and spotted bass on rock- andgravel-strewn bottoms of mountain streams. Cast your jig past fish hideouts,then pay out line as the jigs sinks. When the lure hits bottom, your line willslacken. Tighten the line with a turn of the reel handle, then twitch the rodtip to hop the jig forward. As the jig sinks, lower the rod tip slowly, keepingthe line taut. Keeping a taut line is important here, because bass will usuallyinhale the lure as it falls. Continue hopping the jig throughout the retrieve.
A productive variation of thistechnique is swimming the jig slowly above the bottom. The key word here isslowly. Cast, let the lure sink, then begin a slow, steady retrieve back to theboat. Don’t try to make the lure hop or stop; just swim it straight back on atight line.
This tactic will foollargemouths, especially when they’re suspended in treetops or other cover. Thejig is cast and counted down to the proper depth, then retrieved so it swimsthrough the fish zone. The key is getting the lure in that zone, which usuallyrequires using a sonar unit to pinpoint bass first.
A swimming jig is also useful forcatching summer bass suspended near schools of baitfish in open water. Again,pinpoint the fish with a depthfinder, then lower the jig to the proper depthand retrieve it through the fish.
When fishing heavy cover inshallow water, flipping or pitching are the techniques preferred by most jigfishermen. As you move the lure through the stickups or timber, you can feel itstart up over a limb. As soon as it stops coming up, lower your rod, lettingthe jig drop straight down again. If there’s a bass near the tree, it will grabthe jig as the lure drops.
The best jig fishermen have ahigh level of concentration, a fine-tuned sense of feel and quick reflexes. Ifyou fail to pay constant attention, if you aren’t accustomed to recognizingsubtle strikes, or if you don’t set the hook immediately upon getting a taker,you’re not likely to catch many bass. To improve your jig-fishing skills,remember these tips:
- Keep your line taut at all times, especially when the jig is sinking.
- Don’t, however, keep the line so tight that it interferes with the lure’s action.
- Watch your line closely to determine the jig is falling normally following a cast and when retrieving. If the lure stops sinking unexpectedly, a bass may have struck.
- Always watch for twitches or sideways movements of the line indicating a bass has inhaled the jig. Wearing polarized sunglasses and using fluorescent monofilament line make line-watching easier.
- Set the hook at the slightest indication of a strike. Bass can inhale a jig and spit it out again in a heartbeat. Don’t hesitate or you’ll miss fish.
- Always tie your jig directly to your line, without snaps, swivels or other connectors. Using a loop knot allows a jig to swing freely, maximizing its action.
- Improvise and experiment. If one tactic doesn’t work, try another. Go to a different depth or a different retrieve; try a different color. Come up with the right one, and jigs will usually produce.
Finally, remember that jigfishing isn’t some magic method for catching bass. To be good at jigging andconsistently catch fish, you’ve got to work at it—long andhard.
If you work at it, though,throughout the year, you’ll find that, when properly fished, there’s nothingmore deadly for bass than the ever-versatile jig.
Some Pros and Cons
Regardless of the type lure you’re using, it’s always good to know its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons of jigs:
- The rapid sink rate of most makes them an excellent choice for reaching the bottom in current or for fishing deep water.
- Because they have compact bodies, they are ideal for casting into the wind or for casting long distances.
- When fished using a vertical presentation, jigs can be worked slowly, with a great deal of control, so they work especially well for sluggish summer and winter bass.
- Jigs can be tipped with a variety of attractors, including plastic eels, grubs and frogs; variously shaped pork-rind trailers; live bait like minnows and small eels. This enhances the lure’s fish-catching ability under a wide array of conditions.
- Many anglers have problems detecting strikes on jigs. Bass seldom slam these lures as they do a crankbait or surface lure. Instead, they inhale the lure gently, usually as it sinks toward bottom. You must be a line watcher or you won't notice the strike.