So you want to start bass fishing?

Article by Jeff Banko

I was lucky enough to have a father that was a pretty serious fishermen who showed me the ropes when it came to tackle and equipment needs as I was starting out at a very young age.  Many of you are not lucky like I was.  All too often I see people that would really love to get into fishing especially for bass but become very frustrated and give it up because they are improperly outfitted.  Because of this I decided to try and share some of the knowledge I have gained in my 28 or so years of fishing and write something on the needs of a fishermen trying to get into bass fishing.

Rods and Reels

The first thing a person who wants to get into bass fishing will need to do is get themselves some rods and reels.  As a beginner my advice is to keep this as simple as you can.  I know you will see many seasoned vets, myself included, out there with a whole boat load of rod and reel combos but since you are just starting you don’t need to go that far.   I would suggest you do the following:

1)      Decide how much you are willing to spend but don’t go overboard.  You can buy quality reels for around $30 dollars and quality rods for around $30 – $40.  These reels will be good enough for you at this point, by no means garbage, and will easily serve you as you are learning to love the sport.  It won’t make sense for you to spend the big dollars on rod and reels right now because frankly I don’t think you would be able to notice the difference and appreciate them with a beginners  skill level.  Be patient buy the good stuff when you are good enough to really judge what you want.

2)      Get yourself one Spinning reel.  Look for a reel that will hold an ample amount of 8-10 pound test line.  Usually these will be in the 30 or 3000 series of  a reel for example I use Quantum, Catalyst 30PTi reels that will hold 160 yards of 8 pound test.  Have the reel spooled with 8 or 10 pound monofilament line.  Do not skimp on the line.  This is the one area where as a beginner you need to spend money.  Cheap line will make your life a nightmare with tangles and broken knots, etc…

3)      Match the spinning reel you choose to a rod of 6 or 6 ½ feet in a medium action graphite rod.

4)       Buy yourself a decent casting reel.  I prefer low profile design reels but you will have to make the choice of low profile or round body yourself.  In bass size reels you usually won’t have to make a decision on the line capacity for a reel.  The one thing you may see are different retrieve ratios.  Common ones are 6.1:1 or 5.2:1, what this means is the rate at which the reel brings like in.  A 6.1:1 reel will bring in line quicker than a 5.2:1.  Since you are a beginner go with the 6.1:1.  I believe it will be the best suited for your needs.  On the casting reel line with 10 to 14 pound test monofilament.  See my comments above about cheap line.

5)      Match the casting reel to a 6’ Medium action rod.

6)      Once you have your rods and reels practice your casting, especially with the casting reel/rod combo, in your yard or any open area.  Nothing will be more frustrating to you than trying to learn to cast while on the water where there are lots of things for you to snag.  I am not going to go into the details of casting a spinning reel or casting reel as there are plenty of places to go to find that out.  I will however pass on this piece of advice on setting up your casting reel before you cast.  On the reel there is a cast control knob, usually located behind the handle.  This knob controls the spools ability to spin freely.  To adjust this tie on whatever you are going to cast then hold the rod tip up a little.  Click open the reels spool release.  Whatever you have tied on should begin to fall.  If it does not then loosen up the cast control knob until it does.  If it does then proceed to the next step.  To set the knob right let your lure or weight to fall to the ground if the spool continues to spin once the lure hits the ground then tighten the knob slightly.  Continue to do this until the spool allows the lure to fall freely but then stops as soon as the lure hits.  Set the knob like this and it will help you avoid, not eliminate, some of the backlashes you are going to encounter.

Lure Selection

Now you have your rods and reels and they are all lined up to go, what kind of tackle do you need?  As with the rods and reels keep it simple.  Usually as you fish for bass more and more you will find techniques and tackle that you will like to fish more then others and you can specialize your buying toward that.  Right now since you are just starting it is a little harder because you really need to cover quite a few bases to find out what you like but still keep it simple.  Essentially lures can be broken down into a few categories:

  • Hardbaits (Crankbaits, Lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, etc…)
  • Softbaits  (Plastic Worms, Senkos, Lizards, etc…)
  • Topwaters   (Buzzbaits, prop baits, poppers, jitterbugs, etc…)
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Jigs
  • Terminal Tackle

You need to attack this like the old daily food group thing where you were supposed to have items from each group.


For hardbaits I would look to get the following

  • 1 crankbait that will run 4 – 6 feet deep in a shad or bluegill pattern i.e.  Rebel Wee R,  Rapala DT6, Bomber model A, etc…
  • 1 crankbait that will run 8 – 12  feet deep in a shad or bluegill pattern i.e.  Rebel Wee R,  Rapala DT10, Bomber model A, etc…
  • 1 lipless crankbait, ½ oz in a shad pattern i.e.  a Rat L Trap, or Rapala Rattlin Rap, etc…
  • 1 long minnow type bait (jerkbait) in a natural pattern i.e Rapala Husky Jerk, Smithwick Rogue, Bomber Long A, etc…


For softbaits look at:

  • Plastic worms with a ribbon tail in 6” or 8”. Need a few colors, pumpkin, watermelon, Blue or Blue Black, Red shad.
  • Senkos or similiar bait in same colors.
  • Lizards in same colors.


For topwater:

  • Buzzbaits, one with a white skirt and one with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse w/white skirt.
  • Something like a Rebel Pop R.


For Spinnerbaits:

  • ¼ oz with combo blades (1 willow leaf, 1 colorado) with a white skirt and one with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse w/white skirt.
  • 3/8 oz  with combo blades (1 willow leaf, 1 colorado) with a white skirt and one with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse w/white skirt.


As far as Jigs for a beginner I would not go there.  Jigs are great for catching really big bass but in general you will not catch nearly as many.  Since I am writing this for a beginner my biggest concern is to suggest what will catch more fish.

 Terminal Tackles

  • You will need hooks for rigging your softbaits.  Get yourself some 3/0 worm hooks they will cover your needs for now.
  • Weight – Buy an assortment of bullet weights ranging from 1/16 oz on up to ½ oz.


The above selection is obviously not all inclusive but I think it would definitely give you a good selection of items to get you started on the right track.

Where to learn what to do?

Now you have your rods and reels, where can you go to learn how to fish for Bass? Your lucky in that aspect.  This sport has taken off and because of the there is just a wealth of information out there.  Here is what I would do.


1)      Search the web, there are plenty of sites, like mine where you are reading this article, that can provide you great info on how to fish for bass.  A few notables are:,,,  These sites provide info. For all levels of bass fishermen.  Also most of them have forums, as does this site, where you can interact with other fisher persons.  Do not hesitate to go to the forums and ask your questions?  That is the beauty of bass fishing, most of us will help another out without question.  Don’t hesitate to try and get to fish with some of the people you meet on forums.  A lot of more advance anglers like to help new fishermen out so take advantage of that.

2)      READ.  There are a lot of books and magazines out there that cover Bass fishing topics.   As a beginner I would tend to go more to books.  The magazines are great but cater more to advanced angler.  If you do go for magazines some of the ones that are not bass fishing specific  may be better for you as a beginner as they will cover things more general.  Check out Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, and mags like that.

3)      Go to your local tackle shop and talk to the people there.  One thing about us bass fishermen is we love to talk about out sport.  Take advantage of that and go pick the brains of your local experts.

4)      Watch fishing shows on TV.  I know it may seem like watching paint dry but you can learn a lot from doing this.  What you need to do is make sure you watch the shows with the mind set of you are going to learn.  Really pay attention not only to what the people on the show say but also to what they do.  You can learn just by seeing things like how they cast, etc…


That is all I have for what you need to do to get started.  Check back on the site often as I will be adding tactics whenever I can and one last thing….

Advice for Bass Fishing

Article by Wayne ‘CajunBass’
Just rambling about fishing.  I’m no “expert” but I have been bass fishing for a long time.

No matter where you’re fishing think in terms of “breaks.”  A break is something different.  A dropoff is a “break.”  So is a log in the water.  Both will attract fish.  A log that has fallen on a drop-off is a “break on a break.”  Even better.

A “break” can be anything.  A place where two types of grass come together.  A place where the shoreline changes from big chunk rock, to gravel, or gravel to sand.  You get the idea.  The bigger the change the better, but the more subtle they are, the less likely they are to have been seen by other fishermen. Fish relate to these places the same way you relate to road signs.  They tell them where they are, and how to get where they’re going as they migrate from deep to shallow and back.  A long flat area of mud for example doesn’t give a fish anything to relate to, but if you put a couple of stumps on that same flat, suddenly the fish have a “hangout.”  These are the kinds of places you’ll be looking for with your electronics, your crankbaits, your Carolina Rig sinkers.

When fishing a lake, a good tip is to observe the terrain around where you’re fishing.  Try to imagine what it looked like before they flooded the lake.  Is the land around flat?  If so it’s probably flat out under the water too.  If it’s steep and drops off suddenly, the same thing probably extends under the water.  A gully above ground is probably a ditch under water. If you see that the shoreline changes from pea gravel to chunk rock, you can figure that it extends out into the water also.  Watch for those types of places as you fish.

When fishing a river, remember that current is another key.  Think of current as wind.  In cold weather, you want to get out of the wind.  Fish are no different.  In cold weather they like to get out of the current so that they don’t expend any more energy than they have to.  In the summer it’s just the opposite.  Moving water is cooler than standing water.  Fish seek out current then.  Current is also a break.  Anyplace where the direction and speed of the current changes, or where two currents meet is a potential hotspot.

In tidal rivers, the same thing applies, but the water runs both ways. Outgoing tide pulls water and nutrients out of areas and into the main river.  As the water falls, baitfish and other forage are forced out of their hiding places.  Bass and other predators will “gang up” anywhere the water runs out of those areas.  Where a creek meets a channel, where a feeder creek meets a creek, and so on down to a place where you see a trickle of water no bigger than a pencil running across a flat.  Baitfish will come out and hold right along the waterline.  The predator fish will usually be right on the first breakline waiting for forage to make a mistake and wander over the deeper water.  Sometimes they won’t wait, they’ll run up into the shallow water and break up the schools of bait.

Incoming tide has the opposite effect.  Baitfish can move back up into the flooded areas and scatter.  This makes it much harder for the predators to find them.  The predator seems to understand that hunting is tougher at this time, and they tend to “shut off” during incoming.  You can find some places where baitfish are forced to congregate, and if you find one, you can bet that predators have already found it too.

The best techniques I’ve found for incoming tide is to simply put your trolling motor down, and cover ground.  Fish can still be caught but you have to work harder and cover more area for them.  I like to find pads or grass, and throw something like a rattle trap or a buzz bait.  Make lots of casts, always casting up the current and bringing your bait back “downstream”.  Keep your boat pointing into the current so the current won’t carry you along so fast that you can’t control the boat.  You want to be able to turn your trolling motor off, and have the boat drift back from the area you’re fishing, not drift over top of it.

Spinnerbait Techniques

Article by Jeff Banko

The spinner bait has to be one of the best and most popular bass baits out there but when I watch people fishing them I often notice that they are not getting the most out of them.  It seems to me to many of us just get hung up in the easiest way to fish this bait which is to just straight retrieve it at a constant fairly rapid speed in shallow water over weeds or around other cover.  You will catch fish this way but probably not as many as you could.  In order to have more success you have to start to think out of the box.  Next time you are out and you feel like a spinner bait might be what you want to fish try doing some of these:

 The Slow Roll

Really the name tells it all.  To slow roll a spinner bait just retrieve it at the slowest possible speed you can where you still can feel that the blades are working.  What this does for you is allows you to work the bait on or really close to the bottom. This tactic can be deadly when used over deeper weed beds or if you have found some deep structure such as hump.

Change the Pace

Instead of just retrieving at one speed mix it up.  As you reel the bait in speed up and slow down your retrieve as you go.  A lot of times the fish will hit as you speed up.  It must trigger an instinct that the bait is getting away or something.  Anyway if you think about this it makes sense as if you watch bait they rarely are swimming at one constant speed.


You can do this technique combined with any of the above.  Just add a yo-yoing motion as you go through your retrieve.  To do this as you reel you can drop your rod tip down.  Then as you continue to retrieve lift the rod up this will cause the bait to rise and fall as you retrieve.  I have found this works really well combined with a slow roll over deeper water.

Kill It

Do any of the above retrieves or combination of retrieves but every once in a while just stop and let the bait flutter down. You can vary the amount of time you let the bait flutter to very short to long enough to let it come to rest on the bottom. When restarting your retrieve just give the rod a quick pop upward to get the blades spinning again and then continue on with your retrieve.  This works really well when you are retrieving past cover like stumps, retrieve until you are near the cover and then “kill it” and allow it to flutter down along the cover.  I know someone who employs this tactic and who catches some real hawgs by doing it.

Jig it

Rather than going with one of the retrieves above you can actually jig it.  Cast then allow the bait to fall all the way to the bottom.  Then sweep the rod up quickly.  Then slowly reel in retrieving line until the bait flutters back to the bottom.  Just keep repeating until you bring the bait all the way in.

There are really infinite possibilities you can employ when fising a spinner bait.  Just use your imagination.  That is what makes this such a fun bait to use.

The Charlie Brewer Slider Worm

Fishing the Slider Worm

Article by Cajunbass

Anybody ever use Charlie Brewer Slider worms? This is a technique that will help you catch more fish, and help you learn more about fishing at the same time, than anything else you can do.

For those of you who don’t know, a Charlie Brewer Slider worm is more than just a lure. It’s an entire method of fishing. It is probably the original “finesse” style of fishing. It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it catches fish. What more could you ask for?

You’ll need some simple tackle, most of which you probably already have. A med to med light, or I’ve even used an ultra light spinning combo, but I recommend a medium action rod actually. Whatever length you’re comfortable with, and a reel to match. Spool it up with 6 to 10 lb test line. I use 10 lb BPS Excel most of the time.

Now you’ll need to get your hands on some Charlie Brewer slider worms and the slider jig heads. I know you can get them at Greentops, but most well stocked tackle shops should have them. Go ahead and get the bags of 20. You will find them packed 4 to a card, but they’re a rip off that way. Get the bag. Then pick up some slider jig heads. I prefer the 1/8 oz “Super Slider” head. It looks like a Texas rigged worm rig, with the sinker molded to the hook. That’s really what it is. You rig the worm up “Texas” style so it’s self weed-less, and cast it out.

Now is where the fun part comes in. You just reel it back. That’s all. You don’t hop it, you don’t bump it, you DO NOTHING but reel it straight back to you, holding the rod at about the 10 o’clock position. You can’t reel it too slow. That is the key. Reel it so slow you think you’re going too slow. When a fish bites you, you’ll feel a weight. Just keep reeling until the slack is all out of the line, then set the hook with a snap of your wrist. You don’t need to “cross his eyes” or “jerk his lips off”. The little slider hook is very sharp, and of course you should have made sure it was even sharper. (right?) Make sure your drag is set properly, (Personally I tighten my drag down and back-reel, but most people will do better with the drag)

Give this a try. I think you’ll find it a very effective method. You will hear that “Sliders don’t catch big fish”. There maybe some truth to this, the biggest I ever caught on a slider was 6 lbs, but you will not find a better method to catch numbers of fish.

The Weedless Wacky Rig

Article by Jeff Banko with special thanks to Wayne Purdham

This is a technique that was taught to me by a fellow Virginia Bass fishermen, Wayne Purdham.  Wayne and I both fish Briery Creek Reservoir quite often and this is a tactic that works excellent there.

First off, in case you don’t know what a wacky rig is let me give a quick description of that technique.  The wacky rig has been around for quite some time (some say since the 70s)  but has recently gained huge popularity with the advent of soft stick baits as the technique works especially well with them.  The basic wacky rig is quite simple.  All you do is take a soft plastic bait such as a soft stick bait, or finesse worm, and hook it through the egg sac like in this picture.


To fish the wacky rig all you do is cast it to the location you expect fish to be holding on like a grass edge, stump, dock, etc… and allow it to sink to the bottom.  Hooking the bait like this causes the bait to have a unique wobbling motion as it drops which just slays the fish.  Quite often the fish will hit the bait on this initial drop so be prepared. If the bait is not hit on the initial drop to the key is to work the bait slowly.  Pick up the rod tip ever so slightly to raise the bait off the bottom and then let it drop again.  When it drops to the bottom patience is definitely a virtue here as many times the fish will pick the bait off the bottom after it has set for several seconds.  I have had days where I have let the bait sit as long as 30 seconds although most days between 5 and 10 seconds will suffice.  Continue to work the bait as long as it is still near the cover you wanted to fish.  For docks and stumps this may only be a few short lifts and lowers.  If you are fishing a grass edge or weed edge or open water channel, etc…you can work the bait all the way back to you.

Now what is the weed-less wacky rig.  Essentially it is the same rig and is fished the same way.  The difference lies in the type of hook used and how it is placed in the worm.  It is really an improvement on the normal wacky rig that addresses to flaws.  The first flaw is that baits rigged wacky style can be hard to keep on a hook as the soft plastic tends to tear when hooked this way, you will go through a lot of baits using this method.  The second flaw is that the rig will get hung up on weeds and other debris fairly easily as the hook point is exposed, even with wire guard weed-less hooks this seems to be a problem.  The weed-less wacky rig solves these problems quite well.  So how do you set it up?

How to Rig a Weed-less Wacky

Take a hook and insert the point into the worm at the front of the “egg sac”.  Thread it through the “egg sac” and bring the point back out on the back end of it.  It will look like this picture:


Now continue to pull the hook through the worm until the eye of the hook is just about into the worm.  At this point rotate the hook 180 degrees so that the hook point is pointing back towards the worm body.  Then continue to pull the hook through the worm so that the eye becomes imbedded in the plastic of the worm.  To finish push the point of the hook into the worm.  I prefer to push it all the way through and then back it into the plastic.  The finished rig will look like this:


Hook Choice

I use Gamakatsu’s Octopus hooks in sizes 1/0 to 3/0.  Any similar hook will work.  I also find that the new red colored hooks i.e. “bleeding bait’ seem to work really well.

Adding Weight

I generally prefer to fish my weed-less wacky-rigs weightless as the slow fall seems to be what tantalizes the bass.  There are some case when I will add weight though, like if it is a little windy.  To add weight use finish nails or a “nail” weight.  You can insert it into the end or ends of the worm and fish it that way.  If you want the weight to fall a little bit head down add weight to the front of the bait.  If you want to maintain the “flat” fall then add weight to both ends.  The picture below shows how to insert a weight.


Once again thanks to Wayne Purdham for showing me this rig.  Tight lines.

Catching Monster Blues

Article written by Bill Hunt

Monster blue catfish that is. If you are interested in landing some really big citation fish, year round, blue cats on the lower James are your ticket. According to the VDGIF, in 2004, only 3 citation large mouth bass were reported from the lower James. In contrast,  995 citation blue cats were reported. So many in fact, that on January 1st, 2005, the VDGIF raised the citation weight/ length requirement from 20 Lbs, 34 Inches to 30 lbs, 38 inches. There are still plenty of fish in the 30 lb plus range, with 60 lbs not uncommon and a whopping 83.5 lb fish caught in late 2004 . Blue cats were introduced into the tidal James River in the mid 1970’s. Some fish biologists believe that under the right conditions, blue cats can live 30 years. That would put those 1975 fish at there biggest ever right now. That all being said, I will share with you my tips and tactics on catching these huge fish.


One of the best things about cat-fishing is, you don’t have to spend a lot on tackle. Just buy good quality at good prices. Start with a 6′ 6″ Medium/Heavy rod. Use round, level wind, bait-casting reels. The kind designed for heavy fresh or light salt water fishing.  Shakespeare and Okuma have never let me down and they are very reasonably priced.  Spool them with Berkley Big Game 30 lb test. It has very good abrasion resistance and chances are, you’re gonna need that. Now just Carolina rig it. I use a 5 oz. weight on a big snap swivel that has the plastic tube slider to protect your line from chaffing. Use a glass bead and then a good quality 1/0 or 2/0 barrel swivel. Then tie on about 2 feet of 50 lb mono leader and an 8/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. I only use Gamakatsu circle hooks and that’s because they work so well. With the heavy line and tackle, I can’t tell you enough how important it is to make sure that you have perfect knots. Without going into the art of knot tying, suffice it to say that nothing’s worse than losing a good fish to a bad knot. It’s happened to me, learn from my mistakes.


The first thing to do is forget about every kind of catfish bait and catfish bait system you have ever seen in a fishing department. Yes, dough balls, stink baits, dip baits and the like  work fine if you want to catch eating size cats in a pond or reservoir, but that’s not what we are fishing for here. We need big fresh bait for that big hook and the big fish. Are you starting to see the pattern here? If you want to catch big fish you have to fish for big fish. I have caught small fish on big bait, but I have never caught big fish on small bait. The best possible bait to use is fresh shad from the river. There are plenty of them in the barge and spray pit areas of the James, but you wont catch them on hook and line. They are mud feeders with small mouths. You need to be able to throw a cast net with some proficiency or know someone who can. You will want to net whole fresh shad in the 8-12″ range. Next, scale them, and expose the brain to maximize scent. Cut them in half, using the head for one 4-6″ bait and the tail section for a second. Now, if you don’t have access to a cast net you do have a couple of other options. You can go to a bait store and buy a few of the biggest eels that they have, then cut them in 6″ lengths and butterfly them open to present a big bait. You can also just stop by a fresh seafood store like B&B Seafood and buy several of their biggest, fresh, whole white perch. They are cheap and if you tell B&B that its for bait, they will usually even knock the price down a little more. Fish the perch just like you would the shad. The last citation caught in my boat was on white perch.

Tips and Tactics

Blue catfish are big river fish. You wont find many above the James fall line or in ponds or lakes. Big, deep, reservoirs are an exception. Blue cats are active and will bite year round. In the heat of summer the biggest are often caught at night. The rest of the year, any time is a good time. I’ve had my best month in December and in the middle of the day. You don’t have to be out at the crack of dawn for these fish. I  fish the lower James river from Dutch Gap landing down river to the Jones Neck loop area and all in between. Its close to home and all the fishing grounds I need.

For a couple of years, I made two very big mistakes trying to catch trophy size fish. One of the mistakes I made , and one I still see cat-fisherman doing, is to look for the deepest hole you can find on the river and sit on it for hours waiting for a big fish to come by. The second mistake I made was using bait that I thought was big enough, but the fish didn’t. I learned from experience.

Now that you have your tackle and bait, lets fish. Instead of deep holes, we are looking for current breaks. Think a little like a bass fisherman. A 60 lb fish needs to get behind something to break the current while it waits for dinner to come by. Look for favorites like old wing dams, blown down trees, bridge or dock pilings, sunken barges and creek channels into the river. All will be relatively close to shore and you will probably be fishing no deeper than 12 feet. Anchor up current of the cover, within casting distance. Cast out as many rods as you can handle, in a fan pattern, as close to the up current side of the cover as you can. Place them in rod holders and engage the reel with the drag set at around 10 lbs. When the catfish smells the bait he will swim up current to find it. Once he picks it up, he will turn with the current and head straight back to cover. Don’t pick up the rod yet. Let the rod load up and do the work. This loading will set that circle hook right in the corner of his mouth. Now grab the rod, crank down some more drag and try and keep the fish out of the cover he so desires now. Do not give the fish any slack line, as they can sometimes dislodge the hook if you do. Now be ready with a big net and hopefully you have your citation.  A couple of more pointers, when you get a big cat near the boat, they often dive, or roll. Be prepared. If your fish of a lifetime does get back into the cover, branches, logs etc., don’t give up. Remember you are using heavy line and tackle. Try pulling, try giving, try moving the boat around, or just do nothing for a minute or two. I had one wrapped in a downed tree for 30 minutes once before it finally came up. And lastly, don’t fish a piece of cover  for more than 20 minutes. If a big fish is there, they will let you know pretty quick. Usually within the first 15 minutes or so.

And finally, if you are new to big cat-fishing, I hope this will save you some of the countless hours it took me to learn it. Good luck out there!

Fishing the Jig and Trailer

Article written by Jeff Banko

Jig fishing is a tried and true method for producing big bass.  In general you will not catch as many bass jig fishing as you will with some other tactics but for some reason the quality of the fish the jig will produce is usually better.  There is just something about the the jig that gets the big ones to hit.  This is one reason that you will find jig fishing as one of the mainstay tactics that anglers targeting trophy fish will use.

Oddly enough, even though most bass fishermen have heard of jigs and most bass fishermen would love to catch that “trophy” bass it seems that the majority of fishermen have never ventured to try them.  I was one of those fishermen until recently. I had always heard of how great the jig was for producing big fish but it also seemed like there was some mystique to the bait.  It just came across to me as a hard to fish bait that a lot of pros and hardcore bassers were able to catch fish on but not one that was that great for the average weekend basser because it would take too much time to learn how to fish.  How wrong I was.  Through good fortune I was able to hook up with two fishermen that fish a jig quite often.  Watching them fish the jig while I fished my soft plastics I learned a lot most importantly that it really was not that hard to do.  Anyway I decided to try it for myself and now I am sold.  I am so sold that I decided to do this tactics page just so others might become inspired to try to fish the jig themselves and see how great this bait really is.  Now to the good stuff the info on jigs.

First let me start with a quick description of the bait.  The jig is a very simple bait.  In a nutshell it is a lead headed bait that has a skirt of feather, hair, rubber or silicone on it.  Depending on the method you fish and the color you fish it will most closely resemble a minnow or crawfish.

Usually A jig will be fished with a “trailer” of pork or rubber.  The trailer just adds a little more movement to the bait and helps to make it look more lifelike it can also affect the sink rate of the bait as it adds bulk to it.   A lot of people ask about the differences in materials for the trailer.  A lot of what you use depends on personal preference but here is a quick summary of both.

  • Pork:  More lifelike feel to it.  Very traditional bait.  May have a more natural look to it. Very durable to fish.
  • Rubber:  More colors available.  Can use trailers that are bouyant to adjust the sink rate of your jig more than you can by just adding bulk.  Come in wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Pictures of pork and rubber trailers are below.


Jig Fishing Methods

I’ll start with the easiest and move on to what I perceive as harder methods.  Really all jig methods are relatively simple.  It is just that some will require you to be able to make specialized cast such as flipping, pitching, and skipping.

Swimming a Jig

The easiest method I have used.  Essentially all you do is cast out.  Let the bait sink to the depth you desire and then retrieve.  A few things to note.  First when swimming a jig it is very useful to have an idea of what depth you are fishing the jig at.  You can of course let the jig sink all the way to the bottom and then retrieve it so that it stays close to the bottom but quite often I have used this tactic to target bass that are suspended somewhere off the bottom.  The first thing I do everytime I tie a jig on is determine how long it takes for that jig/trailer combo to sink.  I generally try to find a depth of around ten feet.  I then pull a lot of line off the reel while holding the jig in my hand.  When I am ready I will throw the jig into the water.  As soon as it hits the water I will start counting 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, etc… I can then use the count that it took to reach bottom to reasonably predict what depth my bait is at.  For example if the bait takes 10 counts to reach the 10 foot bottom it will be somewhere around 5 feet after 5 counts and somewhere near 15 feet at a 15 count etc…This is useful because lets say I am marking bait on my LCD at 12 feet I know how long to count before beginning my retrieve every time I cast.  From the example below i would simply cast, as soon as the bait hits the water begin counting and when I hit 1012 start my retrieve.  How to retrieve for swimming can vary quite a lot and will be determined by what the fish want.  The basics are to just straight retrieve the bait, straight retrieve the bait but vary the speed as you do so the bait slows and speeds up intermittently, straight retrieve while pumping the rod up and down slow the bait moves up and down in the water as you bring it in, and finally to use a stop and go retrieve where you reel the bait then stop and let it sink for a 1/2 second to a second and then retrieve again.

Hopping and Crawling

The simplest method for fishing a jig.  Simply cast the jig out and let it sink all the way to the bottom.  Then work it slowly back along the bottom.  You can just straight drag the jig, or drag the jig and hop it every once in awhile by giving your rod tip a short jerk up.

Flipping and Pitching

Flipping or Pitching a jig is probably the most popular method these lures are used.  Flipping and Pitching are specialized casting techniques that I will at some point try to explain in another tactics page.  For this article I will assume you are familiar with these casting methods and just explain how to use a jig with them.

Jigs are especially useful flipping and pitching lures because they are probably the most weedless lures you can fish if you fish a jig with a weed guard.  This makes them great for fishing pockets in heavy weed cover.  All you have to do is work weed areas and look for pockets or cover that you feel may hold a fish.  Then simply flip or pitch your jig to the area and allow it to sink.  Many times you will get bit on the fall.  In this type of fishing bites often are subtle so be a line watcher.  If the line moves side to side or stops sinking before you thought it hit bottom, strike.  When fishing cover like this you just don’t have the luxury of allowing the fish to move off until you are sure so strike early just in case it is a fish.  If you did not get struck on the initial fall you can shake the bait a few times on the bottom to try and draw a strike.  If no fish hits just retrieve and move on to the next likely spot.

The weed-lessness of the jig combined with its weight also make it very useful for flips and pitches to trees whether they be upright in the water or laying down or just a stump.  Fish them the same as you would in a weed pocket.  The big advantage with these baits is that while others may get hung up on braches and never make it to the targeted fish the jig with its high weight to relatively small size will usually be able to get down where the fish are.

Skipping a Jig

Skipping like pitching and flipping is a casting technique that I will at some point try to explain in an article.  Jigs are especially useful for skipping because of the high weight to small body size.  Use jigs to skip under branches or bushes that overhang the water or skip them under docks.  Then you just have to use one of the previously described methods, I usually opt for crawling and hopping it.

Equipment for Jig Fishing


Because of the way you will fish this lure it is usually best to use a high strength line.  For most applications line in the 12 – 20 pound test class are preferred.  I will generally use a low stretch line so that I lose nothing in my hook set.  I have recently been using flouro-carbon lines a lot because they are less visible than others.


The type of reel you use is kind of open to personal preference.  For me I use three different types depending on what I am doing.  If I am swimming a jig or crawling and hopping a jig I will use one of my high speed 6.1:1 ratio casting reels.  In the open water that I usually fish these methods the high speed retrieve seems to be best.  If I am flipping or pitching I will switch to one of my lower speed casting reels 5.2:1 ratio.  Since these methods are in heavy cover and I am usually relatively close to the fish I am targeting I find the winching power of the slower speed reel to be better.  Finally if I am skipping a jig I will go to a spinning reel.  I just find that for skipping I have a lot less hassles with spinning gear.


For swimming and crawling I use a Medium Heavy Casting rod, 6 1/2 feet, Fast Action.  This rod gives the best combo of castability and fish fighting.  For flipping and pitching I jump up to a Heavy Casting Rod, 7 foot, Fast action.  This gives the most accurate rod for this technique while giving me the backbone to get fish out of heavy cover.  For skipping I use a medium spinning rod, 6 1/2 feet, moderate fast action.  This gives me enough whip to give me good skipping speed on the lures whiel still allowing me enough backbone to get fish out from under bushes and docks.


That is all. Hope this helps some of you out and inspires you to try the jig.

Winter Time Fishing in Virginia

Article written by Jeff Banko

When December rolls around many of us in Virginia just pack up the fishing equipment, winterize the boat, and hunker down to hide from the cold but that can be a mistake.  One of the great things about our state is that there are some great opportunities for fishing through the winter, and I don’t mean through a hole in the ice like some of our neighbors to the north.  This article is intended to point out some of the more prevalent winter fishing opportunities out there in our state and maybe inspire you to try and get out and catch yourself some fish rather than sit on the couch waiting for spring.

The Lower James River

The tidal portion of the James River below Richmond offers excellent prospects for those fishermen that venture out on winter days.  Available species to catch are Blue Catfish, Striped Bass, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Bream, and even the occasional Smallmouth Bass.

Blue Catfish

These months are the time to catch the giants.   On most bearable days you are sure to see the catfish guides and catfish die-hards cruising the river around the Dutch Gap area, barge pits, spray pond, and all the way down to the Appomattox looking for one of those giants.  Preferred tactics are to find deep holes or deeper areas with cover in them and fish live or fresh cut eels, shad, or herring on a large circle hook rigged below a fish finder rig and heavy (4 – 8 oz) weight.

Striped Bass

Fishermen will hit most of the same areas the cat-fishermen will be in, even using most of the same baits.  There are two major differences in the tactics though.  First for Stripers most of the fishermen seem to like to suspend the bait below a float rather than pin it to the bottom with a heavy weight like in cat fishing.  Second while cat-fishermen will anchor in a spot, fish it for around a half hour, and then move on to their next spot, those fishing for stripers will often drift fish to cover a lot of water in search of their quarry.

Largemouth Bass

The key for largemouth bass is to look for areas of the river where the current is slower then anywhere else or look for places that have warmer water then the bulk of the river.  Popular spots are the barge pits near Dutch Gap, and the Spray Pond at the end of the old River Channel in Dutch Gap.  These areas are warmed by the discharge from the Dominion Virginia Power Plant so they stay a lot warmer than the main river areas.  Also check out any of the many “pits” areas on the river, you can find them on any good map of the river.  These “pit” areas are not nearly as warm as the first two areas but due to the openness of them and their relatively shallow, slow flowing waters, they tend to warm from the Sun more then the rest of the river so they can be good place to target, especially on sunny days.  Many tactics will take fish in the areas mentioned, try slow rolling a Spinner-bait around deeper structure and cover, or fish the same with a crank-bait.  My personal favorite is to pitch a jig or creature bait into cover and work it real slow.


Crappie are found in most of the same areas the large mouths are.  I have actually caught several near citation and citation class fish on my offerings to the largemouth.  Other than that use typical crappie baits, small shiners on floats, small jigs and spoons, etc…

Buggs Island

Buggs Island can mean good wintertime fishing for Blue Catfish, and Striped Bass, also Largemouth Bass and Crappie can be had if you can locate the deep-water haunts they are in right now.

Blue Catfish

For Blue Catfish, try fishing fresh cut bait around channel drops near the middle portion of the lake.  Also channel drops on some of the bigger creeks like Rudds, Grassy, and Bluestone can be good areas to look.   The fish will concentrate on deep holes in these areas so use your fish finder or graph to look for them.  When you do locate concentrations of fish drop your baits down on fish-finder rigs with 2 – 3 oz weights and 7/0 or 8/0 circle hooks, remember Buggs is where the current 94 ½ pound state record Blue comes from so be prepared for big fish.


For Buggs winter Stripers, the area around Clarksville seems to be where good concentrations of the line siders will roam.  Trolling live bait rigs or buck-tails around the mouths of some of the creeks can work well or you can always use the time proven method of looking for a flock of birds feeding on the water surface.  If you do encounter birds feeding try to approach the area as stealthily as possible, you can then cast buck-tails into the area where the feeding is going on.  Allow the buck-tail to sink a few feet and then use a jigging retrieve and hang on.

Largemouth and Crappie

Look for deep-water structure along main river channel bends where there are quick changes in depths or on some of the various bridge piles.  Fish these areas with bait or small jigs for crappie or with Jigging Spoons or C-rigs for bass.  This action will be sporadic so don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch fish every trip.

Lake Anna

Wintertime on Lake Anna means two things.  Great striped bass fishing on the main lake and very good largemouth fishing on the “warm side” of the lake.

Striped Bass

On Lake Anna your tactics are going to be basically the same as they are on any of the lakes in our state where you can catch stripers.  You can drift live bait on float rigs in areas you have found schools of baitfish or you can look for the tell-tale feeding birds and then cast buck-tails or swim-baits to the area to try and pick off a few of the feeders.  Look for stripers to be in the upper end of the main lake around the “splits”.

Largemouth Bass

On Lake Anna you can catch them on the main lake during the winter if you target structure on areas where there are good quick drops like along old channel edges.  Fish these areas with slow presentations like a jigging spoon or c-rig and be prepared to not catch anything as this is some tough fishing.  That said you can catch good numbers of fish on Lake Anna if you are lucky enough to have access to the private “warm side” of the lake.  The warm side of the lake is comprised of 3 cooling lagoons that are used to cool the heated water that is discharged from the Dominion Power North Anna Nuclear Plant’s reactors.  The water in these lagoons is significantly warmer then in the rest of the lake, which can make for some awesome wintertime fishing.  For example a friend of mine and his partner, on a recent January outing, caught 40 largemouth in the 1 ½ to 2-pound range.  That is just awesome.  As for tactics a lot of things will work on these fish as the water is so warm so don’t be afraid to try out your favorite tactic.

Virginia Smallmouth Rivers

Many of the Old Dominions smallmouth rivers can provide good smallmouth fishing in the winter.  The James, New, and Shenandoah, are good places to try out.  Keys to this winter fishing are to first try to get to them after we have had a several day warming trend.  The warming does not need to be huge, just a few days of slightly warmer weather can have an impact on the water temp and put the fish on the feed.  Second look for areas of the rivers that are deeper.  There are many pools on these rivers that will run 10 feet or more deep and these are where the fish will concentrate.  When you do have the right conditions and find the right spot try slow rolling a spinner-bait, or working a tube or jig on around and available structure.

Virginia’s Tidal Rivers

The James is not Virginia’s only Tidal River that can have some good winter fishing although it is the best.  You can also try the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nottoway and Potomac for wintertime bass and catfish.


For catfish fish the same as you would the James, look for deep holes, especially those with structure or cover and drop your lines.


For bass fishing on the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Nottoway try to get to the river after a few day warming trend then fish slow with jigs, c-rigged ringworms, and slow rolled spinner baits.  You will usually be able to pick up a few largemouths on these rivers.  Also if you fish up closer to the fall lines on these rivers you can catch smallmouth bass that have moved down from the upper reaches of the river for the winter.  On the Potomac and the Rappahannock fish them just like the James.  Look for back areas, bays and flats that have warmer water then the main river and then fish them slow.




Hopefully this article has shed some light on the many opportunities that await the Virginia fishermen during the winter.  Now go out there and try some of them out and as always be safe and tight lines.

Nottoway Lake Resource Page

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Lake Regulations

Outboard motor use restricted to 10 HP or less.

The following are prohibited on this property: swimming, open air fires, trapping, trotlines, littering, sailboats, camping.

Hours of use: 24 hours per day.

Largemouth bass – no fish between 12-15 inches, 5 per day
Sunfish – no size limit, 50 per day
Crappie – no size limit, 25 per day

Largemouth Bass

The current fishery supports a healthy population of largemouth bass due in part to a 12 ? 15 inch protected slot limit in effect since 1990. The slot limit was imposed to allow harvest of ample numbers of largemouth less than 12 inches and still provide an opportunity to catch quality fish. Good numbers of largemouth bass in the one to three pound range are abundant with a few bass in the seven to ten pound range caught occasionally. Growth rates for largemouth are very good compared to the state average with most fish reaching catchable size at age 3 and growing out of the slot limit just after age 6. The spring spawn is the best time of year to catch a trophy-sized fish. Spinnerbaits, plastic worms and crankbaits are best suited for bass from April until early June. During the summer months and on into the fall, jigs work best when working deep water where fish congregate these times of the year.


Bluegill and redear sunfish offer anglers in the spring a fantastic bank fishing opportunity. Spawning fish congregate in the spring on the shoreline along the dam where they are easily accessible. There are abundant numbers of both species weighing up to ? pound and the number of larger fish has been increasing over the last several years. This trend is expected to continue. Overhanging trees and submerged structure offer the best cover around which to find either of the sunfish species. Live bait, jigs and small crankbaits are the best lures for catching in the spring and summer months.

Crappie & Catfish

Black crappie and channel catfish provide fishermen with a good change of pace when fishing. Numbers of crappie in the lake are low, however the average size of those fish is excellent. Small minnow plugs and live minnows are the best bet for catching these tasty fish. The catfish fishery is sustained by stocking fish every year. Natural reproduction is not successful enough to maintain good numbers of fish so the department releases about 15 fish per acre each year.


Blackstone Chamber of Commerce

Nottoway River Resource Page

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Fishing Outlook

I’ve fished quite a few rivers across Virginia and if I had to choose a favorite, I’d have to pick the Nottoway. Actually, if I had to pick a favorite fishing spot, lake, or river, I’d pick the Nottoway. Sure, there are places where you can catch more fish, places where you can catch bigger fish, and places that may be a bit more scenic, but if you like catching fish, with some variety in sizes and species, plus have a little scenery tossed in as well, the Nottoway is worth checking out.

The Nottoway River is located in south central and southeastern Virginia. The river’s length is approximately 130 miles. It begins in Prince Edward and Lunenburg counties and flows southeasterly, forming a boundary for Nottoway-Lunenburg, Brunswick-Dinwiddie, and Greensville-Sussex counties, then meanders across Sussex and Southampton counties to its confluence with the Blackwater River at the North Carolina line, forming the Chowan River.

Above the Route 619 bridge on the Greensville-Sussex County line, the river is generally shallow, clear and fast flowing. There are numerous small rapids that prevent the use of outboard motors and large boats, but canoeists will find some nice float trips. Below Route 619, the river slows, deepens, and darkens as numerous swamps in the Coastal Plain join it. This part of the river, particularly in Southampton County, is large enough for bass boats during normal flows.

For anglers, the river’s fishery could also be divided at the Route 619 bridge. The upper river has numerous redbreast sunfish, smallmouth bass, and Roanoke bass. Below the bridge, bluegill, largemouth bass, black crappie, and channel catfish are more common. In the spring, anglers can catch blueback herring, American shad, striped bass, and white perch migrating upstream from North Carolina.

The fun part of fishing the Nottoway is you never know what you might catch. In one season of sampling fish and angling on the river, I saw 51 different species of fish. It’s not unusual to catch six or eight different species of fish on a given day on one lure. If you want to have some fun, switch lures and baits a couple of time and see how many species you can catch in a day. Every time I fished the river with someone, we ended up having a contest to see who could catch the most species, the most fish, and the biggest fish. The Nottoway is that kind of river. It’s not really a place for trophy fish seekers or those wanting to bring home dinner, though you certainly could. It’s the kind of place where a couple of fishing buddies can have a good time catching and releasing a wide variety of fish. The numbers aren’t bad either. If the water’s clear, you can shoot for catching a hundred fish in a day.

For anglers who don’t have a boat or can’t find a canoeing partner, there’s always wading. The Nottoway can be a great river to wade and fish in the summer and fall. You might want to avoid wading in the spring, because spring flows are typically a little strong, and the river can get muddy after a good rain. In the summer and fall though, the river is typically low and clear. Head for one of the bridge crossing accesses along Rt. 40, or better yet, head up to the Rt. 619 ramp and jump in! On a hot July day, nothing beats standing waist deep in a cool, clean river, catching Roanoke bass and smallmouth bass on an ultra-light rod. If you go wading at the Rt. 619 ramp, don’t worry if the water seems too cold when you step in. You are actually feeling the little spring creek that flows in next to the ramp, which is a lot colder than the river. Once you venture a few feet out into the river, the water’s perfect.

The Nottoway River is a four-season fishery. With its southeast location, the winter isn’t too server on the lower river, and anglers can catch some nice fish. Winter is a great time to fish the lower Nottoway River around Courtland for one pound and larger Roanoke bass. Find the deeper holes and fish on the bottom with small, live shiners. In recent years, a greater number of striped bass have been caught in the winter around the Rt. 258 bridge. To catch these angler favorites, use larger minnows, shad, and jigs.

In late February or early March, depending on water temperature, American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring, and alewife migrate upstream into the Nottoway on their annual spawning run. Southampton County is a good fishing spot early in the run, but most of the bigger American shad head upriver into Sussex County to spawn in the faster flowing water there. Peter’s Bridge Landing (Rt. 631) is a good place to launch a boat and drift shad darts and small spoons for shad. White perch and yellow perch also run up the river in the spring and can provide some good angling. Hungry striped bass will follow the shad and herring schools upstream and add some excitement to a quite day on the river. By late spring, largemouth bass and redear sunfish are active in the backwaters downstream of Courtland and are targeted by many anglers. The lower Nottoway River is an excellent location for one-pound plus size shellcrackers. Lily pad beds along the shore and in backwater sloughs hold some of the bigger fish.

The summertime offers good fishing throughout the river, but anglers will typically head either further upstream or further downstream depending on their preferred species. As the river gets warmer, many species will head upriver to find cooler, flowing water, while other seek out deep, quite pools in the lower river. Around the Fall Line, waders and canoeists can cast small spinners and floating crankbaits to entice smallmouth bass, Roanoke bass, and redbreast sunfish. Downriver, where channel catfish are biting well, bluegill and bass fishing can still be good. Longnose gar school in the pools and can be caught easily on live minnows. Gar will also hit slow moving surface lures in the summer. Fishing in Sussex County is especially rewarding at this time of year because you can catch a little bit of everything.

In the fall, fish will be fairly well distributed throughout the river. Water levels can be low and fish will have found the deeper pools to hang out in. The lower river provides better action as the water cools and fish start moving down to their winter pools. Basically, Nottoway fishing works on a cycle. Start the year far downstream; follow the shad upriver in the spring; go further up for the summer; and then come back downstream as water temperatures fall again.

There are a half dozen paved ramps and about a dozen canoe access areas along the Nottoway, providing boaters and anglers with a wide variety of float trips. There are more access sites and more water in the lower river. The upper river is sandy and shallow, so it is more suited to wading than boating. The first public boat access on the river is at Nottoway Falls on Route 49, south of Crewe (downstream of the Fort Pickett military reservation, the river is deeper and rockier). Canoes can be launched at Rt. 613 and each bridge downriver (except I-85) in Dinwiddie County. In Greensville County and further downstream, there are more public ramps and parking areas for anglers and boaters to enjoy the river. Give the Nottoway a try and I’ll bet it becomes on e of your favorites too. The scenery is nice and the float is very easy. The river is deeper here than upstream, so anglers can use small motors to cut the float time, allowing them more time to fish the good spots. This transition area from the fast flowing waters upstream and the slow, swampy areas downstream provides anglers the chance to catch a little bit of everything.

Fishing Limits

Black Bass (smallmouth and largemouth)

  • 5 per day in aggregate
    No length limits

Roanoke Bass

  • 5 per day in aggregate with rock bass
  • No Roanoke or rock bass less than 8 inches


  • 50 per day in aggregate
  • No length limits


  • 25 per day
  • No length limits

Channel Catfish

  • 20 per day
  • No length limit