December 07, 2022
It doesn't matter if it's a lake or a river system, when a bass fisherman launches his boat on a body of water, it is almost a guarantee that a jig will be rigged on one of his rods. The jig is a versatile lure that has morphed into many designs, and each has a specific purpose and application on the water. By having a better understanding of the various jig designs, you will be able to choose the right jig and get the most out of it, no matter the conditions you are faced with on a given day or the type of water you are fishing.
Those fall days that start cool but warm quickly as the sun comes out are the days bass anglers live for. The sun not only makes it more enjoyable to be on the water, it also warms the water and prompts bass to eat.
In fall, waterfront landowners begin pulling their docks for winter. The docks that remain become magnets for bass, as the overhead cover provides the fish with valuable cover to ambush prey, and the wood or metal structure emits heat it absorbs from the sun, making the water around it a tad warmer than other areas on the lake.
When I'm fishing boat docks in the fall, I like to use a standard flipping jig in a 3/8-ounce size that I can skip way back underneath a dock, which is where the big bass are most times. To aid in my ability to skip the jig, I use a very easy-casting, abrasion-resistant fluorocarbon line, like 17-pound Seaguar InvizX.
On rivers, the last of the green vegetation attracts bait, and, in turn, bass. A great technique for fishing this holdout vegetation is with a swim jig. A key component of a swim jig, and the reason for its name, is the 30-degree bend in the hook eye, which allows the jig to “swim” through the vegetation and not get hung up. A balanced head is important because you do not want your swim jig to roll during the retrieve; a rolling swim jig does not look natural and will not appeal to a bass.
The weed guard is another important component of the swim jig. You do not need or want the heavy weed guard that comes on a standard flipping jig, so it is important to trim the weed guard down to your desired thickness. It is crucial, too, not to flare the weed guard because doing so causes it to act like a keel and enables rolling.
Like with other jigs, you should experiment with the soft plastic you use as a trailer. I like to use a Zoom UV Speed Craw to give my jig lift and keep it up in the water column if I’m fishing shallow water or if the vegetation is thick. If the bass are holding in deeper vegetation, I opt for a 4-inch, soft-plastic, paddle-tail swimbait.
Unlike with my other jig-fishing setups, I like to use braided line when fishing a swim jig. It allows me to make longer casts to ultra-shallow, clear water, which is often what you’ll find in a river system in the fall. Braid also has little to no stretch, so when a bass inhales my swim jig, I can do a gradual sideways sweep set and know I’ll get a solid hook-up with my 40-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid.
On cold, windy days when the water temperature begins to drop and the bass are tight-lipped, downsizing your jig presentation is often the key to unlocking the bite. A compact finesse jig has the same benefits of a standard jig, but with a lighter wire hook and thinned-out weed guard. With a finesse jig, the angler can make longer casts to isolated weed clumps that are still present on a lake and not have to worry about having a low hook-up ratio.
I use my Humminbird MEGA 360 Imaging to locate an isolated clump of vegetation, drop a way point on the clump and then keep my boat back away from it to avoid spooking the bass. For these scenarios, I like to tie my finesse jig to 15-pound Seaguar TATSU Fluorocarbon, which allows me to get a good hook-up on a bass without having to worry about bending the hook.
When the vegetation on a lake is pretty much gone, or if a lake is normally barren of vegetation, and the bass are holding tight to rocks, gravel or other hard-bottom areas, dragging the bottom with a jig is a very productive technique. The football-head jig excels at crawling across structure without getting hung up, but be sure to use one that has enough weight to keep in contact with the bottom, but not so much that it will bury down into the rocks. You’ll typically want a football jig that has a strong, sharp hook. If you are making extremely long casts, opt for a lighter wire hook, which will help you achieve a better hook set.
Some football-head jigs come with a weed guard while others do not. I prefer ones with a weed guard when the bottom structure has brush on it. If the structure I’m dragging is rock, gravel or sand, I choose one without.
Identifying the sweet spot of a hard-bottom area on a lake is important to being able to dial-in a school of bass and make pinpoint casts time and again to a school of hungry fish. By idling around the area and looking at your side-imaging sonar, you can identify spots that have slightly larger rocks or precisely where that rock meets the sand.
Flipping & Pitching Shallow Cover
Bass Crash Course: The two things bass anglers should look for to identify the most productive shallow areas.
What someone tells you they caught a bass on a jig, he or she typically means some form of a flipping jig. Some flipping jigs are designed for flipping heavy cover and have stiffer weed guards; others have sparser weed guards and can be cast and fished around offshore structure.
Regardless, flipping a jig around stumps, laydowns, boat docks or vegetation allows the angler to put the bait tight to the cover on which the bass have positioned themselves. By changing the size of your jig and varying your trailer choice, a flipping jig is a very versatile option on any body of water.
When fishing a river system on a nasty fall day, I look for banks that have stumps or laydowns on them that extend out into the deeper water. The bass like the security of having deeper water close by, while also being able to ambush bluegills and baitfish while lurking below or along the wood.
My trailer choice is dependent upon the rate of fall the bass respond to on a given day. A bulky trailer, like a big craw or chunk, gives my jig a quicker rate of fall, thus triggering reaction strikes. If fish are suspended or want a smaller profile, I’ll use a small chunk or twin-tail grub.
As you prepare for your next fall bassin’ trip, be sure you have a variety of jig styles in numerous sizes and colors, as well as a range of trailer options, along to adapt to conditions. The fall jig bite is one you do not want to miss out on.