By: Vincent Rumsey
As the years continue to fly by, our sport of bass fishing ages. If you keep up with “ICAST” or “What’s New at Tackle Warehouse”, you will notice that new baits are being designed and released every week. Due to the bombardment of new tackle that is impressed upon us, many pros and amateurs alike are forgetting some of the key baits that formed the sport of bass fishing which we have grown to love. One of these baits that must never lose its luster is the jig. The old-fashioned jig has been adapted and changed to fit in every possible scenario due to its great drawing power and ability to catch fish. Even though the many variations of this great lure are all called “jigs”, they are very different and are normally used on greatly varying tackle. There are 5 major types of jigs: flippin jigs, football jigs, finesse jigs, casting jigs, and swim jigs.
Flippin jigs are a very versatile jig that I have tied on throughout the whole of spring and summer. You can go to a flippin jig anytime you are fishing in thick cover or are around big fish. During the early spring and prespawn, you can catch some giant bass flipping shallow brush or docks with heavy cover. I will also opt for a flippin jig whenever I want an oversized profile. My favorite way to present a flippin jig in the springtime is to cast a heavy flippin jig (3/4 ounce) along chunk rock banks and secondary points. When doing this, I work the jig somewhat aggressively with a large trailer. My favorite trailers for this technique are the Strike King Rage Craw and the Missile Baits D-Bomb. This represents a large crawfish and will appeal to hungry pre-spawn bass. The flippin jig will often catch aggressive spawning bass. To catch these fish, use a wider trailer and a jig with a bluegill-like pattern. This can easily trigger spawners to react to your bait. Sometimes they will eat the jig immediately, but I normally must annoy the fish with repetitive casts to trigger her to bite.
Once summer comes along, post-spawn bass are hungry again and ready to eat. I often turn to a flippin jig instead of a creature bait for pitching to docks and brush. The jig’s added profile can be very impactful when trying to tease hungry summer bass. During this time, bass will move deeper and into heavier cover. To catch these fish, I like to target deep docks and especially those with crappie beds under them. Summer bass will often stage on the corner of the dock to catch unsuspecting baitfish. Even though a flippin’ jig normally is used on a crawfish pattern, a highly active trailer like a Yamamoto Cowboy can easily look like swimming bluegill.
Though many people turn to an oversized worm in the “Dog Days” of summer, this is not always the right decision. I feel this way because of the sheer amount to tourists and fishermen torment the water with the same baits making the bass very wary to big worms and plastics. To produce the same amount of action and appeal, I will often opt for a large jig with a Missile Baits D-Stroyer as a trailer. The 2 large curl tails on the D-Stroyer combined with the bulk of a jig will produce more vibration and drawing power than a 10-inch power worm.
I fish flippin’ jigs on a 7’6” Heavy power Lew’s TP-1 Speed Stick. I like this rod due to its sensitivity for light bites and the ability to use leverage on fish in heavy cover. A longer rod is essential for hard hooksets and heavy cover fishing. With more length on your rod, you can use leverage to set the thick hook often seen on flippin jigs. The stiff rod also allows for longer casts with heavier baits. I pair this rod up with a Daiwa Tatula 150 HS 7.3:1 with 50-pound braid and an optional 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Football jigs are often my first choice of jig when dealing with a rocky bottom. It is widely known that springtime bass are commonly patterned on chunk-rock banks and rocky tapering points around the lake. These bass will be looking for crawfish and small baitfish in the rocks. Even though these bass can be quite active, many fishermen make the mistake of fishing too fast. Football jigs have a wide head which allows them to not get stuck in the rocks. This feature makes the football jig a perfect option for covering water more thoroughly than a crankbait like an RKCrawler or 3XD. The slow movements of the jig gives bass more time to eat the bait and permits bass to come from farther distances and still catch it. A double tail grub or crawfish trailer is often very productive on the back of a football jig. I have also heard of some anglers using a brush-hog-style bait as a trailer. To fish a football jig, I will normally drag it across the rocks with some pauses between drags. I will also stroke or hop a football jig on occasion.
When the air heats up and the fish go deep, football jigs can be hard to beat. After the bass spawn, many of the big females move deep while the males stay shallow. These deep-water bass often locate themselves on offshore structure. My favorite structures to fish are points, creek channels, ledges, and bluffs. Due to the football jig’s large, heavy head and the power to kick up rocks and mud just like a crawfish makes them extremely effective in deep water. I fish these jigs with slow drags of the rod tip and try to feel the jig dragging over the rocks. To imitate darting crawfish, I will swim the football jig with a highly active trailer like a Missile Baits Craw Father, so the head of the jig barely ticks the top of the rocky bottom.
Due to the football jig’s wide range of uses and sizes, I use multiple setups to fish this diverse category of jigs. For larger, heavier jigs like the Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig, I like to stick with a heavier setup. I use a flippin’ stick with 20-pound fluorocarbon line. If you prefer to use a braid mainline, tie on a long, 7-8-foot leader. I use a long leader due to the fact that I am often fishing around abrasive cover like wood or sharp rocks. This long leader also allows invisibility when working the jig slowly. Since football jigs can be very heavy, a stiff rod will also help cast the weight of the jig. Even though most football jigs boast a large, thick hook, finesse-style football jigs are gaining great popularity. For these smaller jigs, I will use a 7’ MH casting rod with 12-15 lb. fluorocarbon line. Lighter line is much more effective on smaller jigs because on the slow pace that you fish them at.
Many times, throughout the spring and summer, fish get finicky and are slow to bite. In these times I often drop down to a finesse jig on a spinning rod. I have encountered many times in the prespawn phase when you must force bass to eat your bait. This can be due to clear water, sun, and cold fronts. During these times the bass will either move into extra heavy cover, or they go under docks and sticks. In heavy cover, a flippin’ bait is much more effective, but if bass are roaming under docks or are on flats the finesse jig can create great bite. The finesse jig is at its best in natural colors due to its slow-moving nature. A slow dragged finesse jig will sit in a bass’ face, slowly enticing it to eat. In the spring, I will pair my finesse jig with a natural trailer with little action. I will cast this jig along and under docks and parallel the chunk rock banks.
In the summer, most fishermen turn to plastic worms and creature baits. These fishermen also tend to put the jig aside. It seemed to dawn on me that many of the fishermen who stick to just these baits will complain of catching small summer bass. Even though I do use these plastic baits quite often, jigs will help me attract larger fish. If the fish are keyed in on a Texas rig pattern, I will make a switch to a finesse jig to provide a larger profile. The skirt will flare out into the water with an undulating, enticing action. I will use a highly active, crawfish trailer for summertime finesse jigging to add to the large profile that I am trying to create. In the summer, I will fish the jig much faster than I do in the springtime, and I will fish it on a fast drag or a hop and pause retrieve. To mix up your profile, try a Finesse jig this summer.
I will use both spinning and casting gear for finesse jig fishing. In winter and spring, I work the jig very slowly, calling for lighter line. For slow fishing, I will use a 6’6” to 7’ Medium-heavy Spinning rod. I pair this rod with a large 3000-4000 size spinning reel spooled with 15-pound braid. I connect the braid to an 8-foot leader of 8-10-pound fluorocarbon. This technique is great for slower fish, but when the fish go deeper or want a more aggressive presentation, I opt for casting gear. I use a 7 foot, Medium or Medium-Heavy casting rod with a 7.3:1 high-speed reel. I spool this reel with 30- 40-pound braid and a 12-pound fluoro leader. I will normally use this setup with heavier jigs that are still finesse cut or have a thinner hook.
When bass relate to deeper cover, rocky banks, or they need a slightly bigger profile than a finesse jig, a casting jig can be tough to beat. Even though rarely discussed in the fishing world, a casting jig can be a deadly secret for bass fishing. In the springtime, Bass will often be on rocks too shallow for ideal football jig fishing or in wood too deep to flip and pitch to. During these occasions, you can cast a jig to fish on structure to create a perfect crawfish profile and get through cover that fish hold on. When the bass move up on chunk rock banks and under docks, they often relate to a piece of secondary cover. To find fish in this secondary cover, I will cast a jig into a high percentage area and work it back. For spring bass, I fish my casting jig on a slow drag with pauses in between. I pair the jig with a smaller trailer like a rage chunk to fit the rather diminutive profile on the jig.
In the summer, casting jigs can be very highly effective. I will often cover water by casting parallel to docks in an attempt to find schools of bass or structure under the dock. This technique will also help catch bass that are tormented with bigger flippin jigs and Texas-rigs. When the sun is high and the fish become resistant to bite, I will often step up from the finesse jig to a casting jig to entice a big fish into biting. In similar conditions, I will flip and pitch a casting jig to light cover. Casting jigs are also key performers in tournaments because of their smaller profile and ability to catch both keepers and a kicker fish. I fish summer casting jigs on a fast drag or a hop-and-pause retrieve with a highly active trailer.
I fish my casting jigs on a Medium-Heavy casting rod spooled with 40 lb. braided line with a 15lb. fluorocarbon leader. This tackle allows me to provide large amounts of action to the jig with enough power to set the hook. Even though I normally use this tackle, I will often fish bigger casting jigs on a flippin stick and smaller ones on a spinning rod. These changes allow me to have the perfect amount of action and power to handle the diverse category of casting jigs. I choose what size of tackle to use based on the thickness of the hook and the cover I am fishing in. For example, some casting jigs are designed for wood, others for grass, and even more for rocks. The many variations of casting jigs allow them to be the BEST multi-purpose jig.
In the springtime, spinnerbaits and chatterbaits become very popular, but many people forget about the traditional swim jig. Swim jigs are designed to take on a baitfish profile without the added sound and vibration of other baits. This feature can prove to be highly effective when clear water is present, or the fish want a more finesse-style profile. In the springtime, bass will often be in moods where they are not looking for the flash of a spinnerbait or the sound of a chatterbait. This is often due to a large number of fishermen who fish for the big spring bass. In the spring, the swim jig can also be one of the first moving baits to leave the tackle box. I begin fishing my swim jigs when the water reaches 50-55 degrees. When fishing in colder water, I use a highly-active swimbait trailer that is effective when slow-rolling. My favorite springtime trailer for swim jigs is a 3.8-inch Keitech FAT Swing Impact swimbait. I fish the jig on a slow roll in colder water and fast in warm water. The swim jig is also often overlooked for spawning fish. Pausing and slow rolling over shallow cover is an excellent way to find and catch spawners.
When summer rolls along, I begin using bluegill-pattern swim jigs instead of shad patterns. This change is due to the large amounts of sunfish that crowd the banks to spawn. With such an influx of forage, bass are compelled to follow. The bass will often stage on the first breakline off of the bank. This breakline is normally from 3-5 feet of water to 6-8 feet of water. This area allows the bass to sit in deeper water with easy access to food and the shallows. I throw my jig across these breaks and the corresponding shallow banks and retrieve it on a varied retrieve. Even though I catch many bass fishing this way, it is not the only option with a swim jig. Other bass will tuck into heavier cover including shallow brush, aquatic vegetation, and fallen trees. I will parallel these cover types with a jig with a heavier hook and brush guard. This same technique is very effective around docks and boat slips in deep water. The great drawing power and action of a swim jig makes it one of the best baits year-round.
Swim jigs, like most other jigs, vary greatly in size, weight, and shape. This variation causes me to opt for multiple types of rods and line. On smaller swim jigs with a lighter hook, I use 14-17-pound fluorocarbon line on a medium heavy casting rod. I opt for lighter tackle on these jigs because I usually fish them around lighter cover and I don’t want to bend out the hook-on heavy line. When I am using a light jig with a slightly heavier hook, I will still use a medium-heavy rod, but I will use 30-pound braided line instead of fluorocarbon. The braided line will help keep fish pinned on a thick hook along with improving the hookset. I will pair this braid with a 17-pound fluoro leader. On heavy swim jigs, I step up to a flippin’ stick and 50-65-pound braid. The heavy tackle will allow for the ultimate hookset strength and the ability to bring fish out of cover. Even though there are so many new baits being released and newer techniques becoming very popular, you must not forget about the tried and trusted baits that have and will catch fish for many years to come.