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.