Jig Fishing Techniques
By Steve VonBrandt
Today's soft plastic lure market is booming with new styles and colors of baits, but when you are looking for the biggest bite of the day, the fish that consistently win tournaments; then anglers in the know go to the bait that has been proven over time to catch the biggest bass; the venerable jig-and-pig.
20 years ago, this bait was reserved for the sluggish bass, or for fishing in the heaviest cover, or for bottom fishing techniques. Today, this bait is being used at all times of the year, in a variety of different fashions.
This bait has remained relatively the same over the past 30 years. It has gone through some cosmetic changes, such as better hooks, livelier skirts, and a broader spectrum of colors and sizes, along with plastic trailers, which enable a wider variety of color options, but this bait, dressed with either plastic or pork, continues to catch bigger bass when other baits fail. Because of the popularity of the flipping technique used by most of the veteran anglers today, the jig has remained among the most popular baits in many anglers tackle boxes. Because of so many recreational anglers concentrating on the flipping technique, the jig's universal effectiveness has been overlooked.
Many people have forgotten that casting a jig is an effective technique also. The jig can be presented at a lot of different depths and around a variety of structure. You are really limiting yourself if you only focus on the flipping aspect of it. Many times during the summer months, we have come in behind other anglers flipping obvious targets, or casting more traditional summer lures, and we have caught bass making roll casts, looking for isolated pieces of cover that other anglers have missed.
Jig sizes have changed in recent years, along with skirt material and colors. The 3/8 ounce size remains the most popular, with smaller versions are being used more and more with great success. The smaller finesse type of jigs are much more effective in clear water, while the heavier, bulky versions are great for fishing stained to muddy water. Not that the heavier jig isn't effective in some shallower, open water, but a more compact 1/2 ounce bait is more effective. This is especially true when fishing some of the finger lakes of New York State, or any of the waters where smallmouth bass are also present. The heavier jig is more effective when the bass are aggressive, as it allows you to fish it faster and cover more water. When the fish are suspended, or you need to keep it in the strike zone longer, the lighter jig is more effective. We always keep experimenting with several sizes, letting the bass tell us what they want. In the summer months, when we swim the jig around boat docks, we opt for the lighter 1/4 ounce size, with a plastic trailer, to imitate a crawfish or baitfish. Swimming the jig is a very effective technique that is overlooked by many weekend anglers. Most small jigs don't have a big enough hook to handle quality bass, which is why we use a Strike King Bitsy Bug. We have been using this bait since 1998, when we had great success with it in several local tournaments in cold water as well as in the summer. The Bitsy Bug has a bigger hook than most, and it handles larger bass well. In warmer, clear water, we like to use a grub or swimming worm as a trailer, this is very effective when you are trying to imitate a crawfish. In colder, or more stained to muddy waters, we like a bulkier trailer, as they displace more water and make it easier for the bass to home in on the bait.
The design of the jighead is another thing you have to think about. They need to be matched to the type of cover you are fishing. A jig that has a head that is more pointed, with its eyelet coming out of the front rather than the top, is going to pull through weeds better than a broad shouldered jig. We like to use a Jungle Jig, by Northland for this. This is one of the jigs that helped us win the Big Bass World Championship several times. It was very effective here in the Northeast, in some of the heavier, weedy cover. When we fish around rocks and wood, we use a jig with more shoulders to help stop it sometimes. Many companies make this type of football or stand up jig, which is great for these situations. When you pull it over an object, the jig tips, adding more action. We have used these jigs effectively on many of New Jersey's reservoirs such as Spruce Run. You must also match the size of the line to the size of the jig hook you are using. A heavy-duty jig hook requires a stronger hook set, so you need heavier line to handle it.
Of course, it helps to know when you're getting a bite. Big bass really thump a jig with the same vigor they do a plastic worm, and many other strikes are felt simply as spongy sensation, or just like you're dragging weeds. That's why it is important to set the hook on anything that feels unnatural, it could be weeds, or it could be a 7 pounder! JIG COLORS
While a black and blue jig seem to be the favorite, we like to match jig colors to the water conditions. A dark colored jig with a big crawfish trailer, moving on the bottom, does a great job imitating a crawfish, but a white jig swimming over cover and around boat docks does a good job of imitating a baitfish. This is great when bass want a slower presentation, or when you can't fish a crankbait or jerkbait with ease. Many times when bass are feeding on shad, but want a slower presentation than a spinnerbait, this is the best choice. It can also catch the bigger bass, that are ignoring the spinnerbait. We like the plastic trailers in the summer months, and the pork in the winter. Pork is more pliable in cold water, while plastic gets stiff. In places where many anglers cast tubes or small finesse worms, such as clear water flats, we cast jigs in neutral colors, and catch bigger bass. Many times when bass ignore other baits, the jig will trigger a strike. This is also a great bait for night fishing.
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