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Jigs for Dummies: An Introduction To The Jig
on Friday 12 August 2011
by Eric

Earlier this year, I decided to dedicate myself to throwing jigs.  I concentrated on only throwing them for a few months before I started to add them into my normal fishing routine.  Although I do not consider myself an accomplished jig fisherman yet, I certainly no longer call myself a novice.  Hopefully the following post will help in demystifying the bass jig to some of the other anglers that rarely use them.

So, what is a bass jig?  What is it supposed to imitate?  How do I use this odd combination of lead, steel, and silicone?  If you ask 10 different people, there is a good chance that you’ll end up receiving 10 different answers.  There are no absolutes when it comes to a jig.  They can mimic a crawfish moving along the lake bottom, or a small baitfish that is swimming right on the surface.  In fact, the same jig can do both.  Over the short time that I’ve used them, I’ve really started to understand just how versatile a jig really is.

You can drag them, hop them, twitch them, and pause them.  You can swim a jig, yo-yo one.  In fact, you can cast one out and do absolutely nothing with it, and still catch a fish.  I have yet to find a situation where you can’t use a jig.  Now, thats not to say that the jig is the end all, do everything bait.  There are times when other lures are a better choice.  I personally wouldn’t start covering water with a jig unless I knew that there were fish in the area.  This is where your typical search bait would probably be a good first choice.

Now I’ll go into covering the actual meat and potatoes of the jig.  How do I choose a jig?  What color(s) should I use when?  How do I actually use the jig once I’ve determined what to throw?

Choosing a jig:

One thing that I think that newer anglers get confused with are the myriad of choices of jig head styles.  You have grass, football, arkie, swim, etc etc.  The jig head that I throw 85% of the time now is the standard or arkie style jig head.  This is a head style that doesn’t excel at any one area.  It can work in almost any situation.  If I were to pick one head type, this would be it.  I’ll use a flipping jig only when I find myself in cover that is heavy enough to warrant it (i.e. very thick vegetation, submerged brush).  The only other type of jig I find myself throwing is a football head jig.  I use the football jig in situations where I find myself in sparser vegetation.  I find that they are fantastic on muddy, rocky bottoms.  When crawling them along the bottom, the wide football head tends to dig into the ground just enough to stir up the silt.  Picking a jig weight can be very difficult at times.  There are several different factors that will change the rate of fall through the water besides the head weight.  Thickness of the skirt, trailer size and shape, as well as line size can all be a factor.  As a general rule of thumb, in calm conditions I’ll use an 1/8 ounce of weight for every 10 feet of water depth.  Obviously this will need to change if there is a strong wind blowing, if I’m using a jig with a very thick skirt, or a trailer with a lot of flapping appendages.  In those case you may want to go to a heavier jig to increase the rate of fall.  This is where experience and time on the water will really help you.  Play around with different combinations to find something that works for you.

Color selection:

Does anybody actually know what color lure to use when?  Probably not.  In all honesty, I’ve completely given up the quest to find a color for every situation.  I tend to concentrate on shades of colors and contrast more than anything now.  The primary colors in my jig box are greens, browns, and blacks.  That’s not to say that I don’t have additional colors like white, or chartreuse.  I’ve just found that those three primary color choices are able to be fished effectively in any water condition that I encounter.  I probably throw a jig somewhere in the green color family more than anything else.  The lake water that I fish in for the most part is semi-stained, with a green tinge to it.  Most prey species will tend to blend in with their surroundings to some degree.  If I’m fishing in greenish water in lighter vegetation, I don’t want a black jig that is going to stick out like a sore thumb.  It just won’t look natural.  I’d much rather pick something that will stand out just a little but not overtly.  I want the action or noise of the jig to draw the fish in, not just a visual cue.  Think of the other colors on a jig as accent colors.  I’ve yet to find a situation where a green pumpkin jig with a few strands or orange in the skirt will out fish a green pumpkin jig that has a few strands of chartreuse in the skirt.  I’m sure that there are people that have run into that situation, but I personally haven’t.  If you’re just starting out, stick with some basic colors in the green and brown family.  Just remember, the darker the water your fishing in, the overall darker shade you want to use.

Selecting a jig trailer:

No jig is complete without some type of jig trailer.  You can certainly fish a jig without one, but I believe that your chances of catching more and better fish are far greater with the trailer on.  Many people would like you to believe that trailer selection should be based a lot on water temperature.  The warmer the water, the more action the trailer should have.  Recently, I’ve discovered that this isn’t necessarily true.  I’ve lately become a big fan of trailers like the GYCB Fat Baby Craw and the Gene Larew Salt Craw.  If you’ve ever watch bass actively feed on crawfish, you’ll notice that they generally will attack the smaller craw that can’t defend himself as easily.  Larger claws on the crawdad equate to a meal that may be harder to eat.  I’m not entirely sure if this is just coincidence, or if it actually holds merit.  Time will only tell as I continue to experiment.  You can use a full sized trailer threaded completely on the hook, or a chunk just threaded onto the end of the hook.  I think a lot of this is personal preference.  The chunk will also give you a bait that has a larger profile.  If you subscribe to the theory of bigger baits equal bigger bass, then you may want to use a chunk style trailer.  I generally try to match my trailer color to the jig color.  Although, there are plenty of times when I’ve mixed colors and had equal results catching fish.  Feel free to experiment here.  You may be surprised with what happens.

Using the jig:

So you’ve picked a jig style, a color, and a location that you want to use it.  How do you actually go about using the jig?  Lots of times after the initial cast, pitch or flip, the lure will get hit while the jig is falling.  This is why you must make sure that you have a semi slack line while the lure is falling.  Watch for the line twitching, or moving off to one side.  If that happens, set the hook.  A fish probably grabbed the lure as it was dropping through the water.

What happens if the lure hits the bottom though?  There are several schools of thought here.  Some would say drag the jig along the bottom to imitate a crawdad that is walking along the bottom.  Others say that you should twitch the rod slightly to make the jig take small hops back to the boat.  I’ve found that a combination of the two is the best choice.  I’ll usually drag the jig for a moment, then I’ll sharply twitch the rod.  What this is supposed to look like is a crawfish that was walking along the ground and then suddenly took off to flee from danger.  I’ve found that most of my hits have come on the hop using this technique.  Again, this is an area that will require a little bit of personal experimentation to figure out what the fish in your area like.  Fortunately for me, I’m blessed to live in an area that for 95% of the year the water is fairly warm.  The guys up north that deal with ultra cold water have to learn how to fish very differently.  I’m no expert on cold water techniques.  As far as I know though, during that time of the year, you need to slow down for the most part.  The fish become quite lethargic in colder climates.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m definitely no expert on using a jig.  I hope that this will at least help the beginning jig fisherman learn a little bit more.  Jigs are constantly thought to be this mystery lure that only a select few people really know how to use.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.  If you just dedicate a few trips to fishing them, you’ll be on your way to learning a new and very versatile fishing lure.





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