The Jig is Up!
The jig is one of the most versatile, effective and easy to use lures ever made.
Jig fishing is the go-to presentation for many bass anglers. Jigs are effective and easy to fish. Where I grew up in Louisiana, bumping a jig into a cypress tree trunk and letting it slide to the bottom is a staple of almost every angler. Jigs are versatile baits and can be fished in most situations and in most types of water. They are hard to beat for the previously mentioned presentation, but they are also a go-to selection when fishing during high pressure situations (weather, not tournament) when bass are very tight to structure or cover. Bumping or crawling jigs through a deep treetop, down a submerged trunk or through cypress knees is a great way to cause reaction strikes from otherwise finicky fish. I know anglers with so much confidence with jigs that they do not own many, if any, other lures.
Fishing a jig over broken bottoms such as gravel, rock, mussel, clams or scattered riprap is very effective and probably the situation where most anglers opt for a jig. Isolated cover in deep water is an excellent situation for using your jig to make a pinpoint presentation to structure that is too deep to reach with a crankbait or other presentation.
I use several different brands and for different reasons. Booyah, Stanley and the Bass Pro Enticer models are the ones that I use for most of my fishing. I also use a lot of custom-made jigs with skirts tied with fly tying material. Like all lures, there are several modifications that I make to improve the effectiveness of my jigs. I usually trim the weed guard before I ever fish the lure. I trim the length to keep it from interfering with the hook-set and trim the bulk unless I am fishing exceptionally thick cover. I add a thicker skirt or double up the skirt if fishing cooler water to slow the fall rate, as well as adding trailers to create a jig-and-pig. I used various trailers, but I am usually looking to accomplish one of two things. I am either trying to add bulk and slow the fall rate or add action by using something that will move freely at rest and create vibration while moving. I recently began using the Strike King Pure Poison swim jig and have had outstanding results. The slight wobble of this lure is an added bonus and can be increased by making the skirt thinner or decreased by doubling the skirt. I use this lure as an in-between presentation for standard jigging and cranking.
If I am going for an erratic presentation, I fish my jig by tying it on with a loop knot or by adding a split ring. Adding a split ring is also a good way to add a little extra “tick” or “clank” to the lure to help draw attention. Using sacrificial split rings will allow you to straighten the ring without breaking your line and reduce the time it take you to re-rig and get your lure back into the strike zone. Because you usually find fish in numbers when jig fishing, I regularly have two rods dedicated to the same style, shape, weight and color. I do this so I can immediately throw back into that spot if I get snagged after missing a strike. I simply drop the other rod in my lap or under my leg and go right back in there with the other lure. I do not place the rod into a holder because I want to be able to fish around it with the other rod since the throw-back almost always results in a hook-up.
Jigs are also very useful as the weight of a drop-shot rig and often draw strikes that you would have otherwise missed. I use a jig as the weight for my drop-shot rig any time that it is practical and doesn’t result in excess hang ups. (For an explanation of the drop-shot rig, see the Fall to Winter section in Chapter 8). Another technique that I have used very effectively is what I have termed the jig-and-twig. This is simply fishing a jig and tying a Senko or other style stick bait to the tag end of the main line. Tie the jig on with a Palomar knot and leave 12 to 18 inches to add the plastic trailer. Adding other soft-plastics would probably work, but the two most effective combinations for me are the Senko or a floating trick worm.
When bass are suspended just off the bottom, I like to use a jig that will stand up but not have a great deal of bulk. To accomplish this, I bend the hook just above the lead head and then open the hook up about 10 to 15 degrees with pliers or a small vise. I then remove the skirt and wrap the hook shank between the two bends with floating fly line. I then wrap both lines to secure it to the shank and coat with epoxy. After drying, I replace the skirt or tie in marabou or rabbit with a cactus chenille collar for applying scent. I love using jigs and tinkering with them.
The worst aspect of jig fishing is frequent hang ups. I picked up a trick for eliminating this from an issue of Bassmaster. The tip was in one of the quick tip sections. I recommended cutting off the weed guard and adding a screw-lock. It can be made nearly snag free by rigging a soft-plastic craw onto the screw-lock. This jig set-up has no affect on the hook-set and can be used to fish very thick cover.
Tip: When jigs or other lures get snagged, a plug knocker or other weighted retrieval device works great. I use a less intrusive method first called the “guitar pluck.” When a lure becomes snagged, use this tip before pulling harder and worsening the situation. Hold your rod tip out front nearly vertical. Grasp the line with the other hand and pull the line about six inches towards you and then let go. The rod tip snapping back will usually free the lure. Try it. It works!