Fishing For BIG bites
by Massimo Zanetti Kick'n BassŪ Pro Staff
The jig & pig is a very simple and subtle bait. It doesn't catch the eye of a fisherman when hanging on the tackle shop shelves but it catches lots of big fish in the hands of a skilled bass angler.
So you want to catch some huge largemouth's! Jig has become one of my favorite lures to fish just because it's big bass appeal. Not many lures, if any, have caught all the large bass the jig has caught in the hands of a skilled fisherman. And not many lures have won all the tournaments the jig has won! Plus, the jig has a great hookability: it's hard for bass to spit out that skirted lure! Not to mention versatility: a jig can be tossed everywhere you feel there's a bass swimming and every time of the year! The bad thing about jig is that often you don't catch as many fish as with other lures but since they are big fish, who cares?
When I fish a jig, I try to imitate two kinds of prey: a crawfish or a baitfish. I'm always trying to be the most accurate I can on the choice of colors because I want my lure to mimic the color of the bass prey it's supposed to imitate. Since crawdads down here have lot of purple in their shell I often use black/blue/purple skirts to fool the bass. In another body of water, I know that crawdads are dark brown with orange spots (see them in my livewell after bass regurgitated a few) so my color of choice is a black/brown/orange jig. I also use plain black, black/blue and black/chartreuse, the last one in very dark or muddy water where I want that old big bass to see my jig. To imitate a baitfish, I tie to my line white/dark olive green, silver shiner and watermelon or avocado skirts. I like to have a few green or blue tinsel strands on these jigs, just to mimic the flash a baitfish emits in the water. I feel this give me an edge to catch that elusive big bass!
According to what my jig is suppose to imitate and where I'm fishing it, I choose size, technique, trailers and finally the right tackle. My main techniques to fish jigs are object-related. I fish the jig mainly around cover, specially dense heavy cover: the heavier the better. Jig really comes to shine in heavy cover since it is more weedless than a lot of other lures. One tip: fish it SLOWLY when you're into heavy stuff. If you retrieve it too fast, that jig will loose its appeal and you'll get snagged with ease. Take your time when' you're fishing a jig, shake it, let it stand still on the bottom, shake it again and slowly retrieve it through cover banging it on every tree limb, stump or whatever you're fishing and hesitate every time for a few seconds after your jig has touched something. Repeated casts at the same spot often help to catch fish. I remember a trip where I was pitching my jig into some wooden cover under an overhanging tree: I caught my first bass after seven presentations and another three on the very next three casts. The fish were ganged up to the wood. When you get the first one to strike, you can get the others too!
With the time you'll acquire the skill to detect what your lure is doing under water. It's very important to develop this awareness especially with the jig because it's one of the hardest lure to fish. It's very difficult to detect a bass bite, specially when they're big: they vacuum the jig into their cavernous mouths and all you feel is a mushy feeling or something strange. The more you fish with the jig, the more you'll learn, just like with every other lure. Remember though, that jig fishing requires 200% of your concentration. To detect the subtlest bites you got to know perfectly how your jig feels underwater. A suggestion a beginner could get is to use a heavy jig (1/2 oz.) but personally, I feel that the slower fall of a 3/8 oz. NORMALLY gets more attention from the bass rather than a heavier one that sinks fast to the bottom. I learned to fish the jig starting with the 3/8 oz. model. Switching weights quite often doesn't help to develop a jig awareness, it's kind of confusing even for the average jig fisherman.
I have a few tricks that have helped me to greatly improve my bait awareness. First one is to count how many seconds your jig needs to reach the bottom: this way, if a bass bite on the fall and don't move, and I assure you that this is a very common occurrence, you'll know that something has stopped your lure on its way to the bottom. Reel in the slack and set the hook hard! The same goes if you feel that the lure is sinking too fast or there's too much slack on your line: probably there's a bass on the other end. Jerk! Another trick is to grip the rod above the reel and keep the line between your thumb and forefinger. Anyway, to get the best from jig fishing you got to be a "line-watcher". Let the jig fall on semi-slack line and observe if the line suddenly twitches, jumps or does anything out of the ordinary. Anytime you're in doubt on what your lure is doing or where it is, jerk!
Jig fishing is very demanding and after a day on the water spent flipping and pitching jigs you are a tired son of a gun. That's because jig fishing require the dedication other lures don't. Sometimes it's hard work but the prize normally has a very large mouth!!!
Coming back to techniques. I pitch/flip the jig most of the time. Skip it under overhanging cover a great deal and cast to submerged structure from time to time (not my favorite jig technique actually). When pitching/flipping, the size I use the most is a 3/8 oz. Oldham Ultimate jig teamed with a 3" or 4" Snakebite Flipping Craw when I want to offer to the bass a big silhouette or a small 2.5" Ricky Worms "The Frog" when I feel the bass wants a smaller bait. I always match the color of my trailer to that of the jig I'm using. With the black/blue/purple (J10) I use a black, blue or purple trailer (or a combination of these colors), with black/brown/amber (J09) I switch to a black or brown trailer. Snakebite sell a color called Witches Tit which has worked very well with my brownish jigs. I almost never use bright colored trailers with the jig because I'm firmly convinced that its great subtlety is the ticket to catch big bass! When fishing into thick cover I want my lure to emit a sound, that's why I use rattlers on my jigs almost all the time. Bass is a curious creature, is attracted by sound and when it find that the source of the sound is one of it's favorite meals - crawdad - it hardly resist. When I pitch or flip, my jig is supposed to imitate a crawdad so I use the colors I mentioned above. I use a strong 7'6" flipping stick teamed with 20# test mono when I have mainly to flip while I rely on a 6'6" rod with 17# mono when pitching is the main technique. To skip a jig under cover I use the M&N Ultralite Bass Jigs (1/16 to 1/8 oz.). When skipping I want my jig to imitate both a crawfish and a small fish. I let the bass tell me what it likes the most for lunch! For skipping I use a 6' MH action spinning rod and 14# test mono. If I want to mimic a frantic baitfish I adopt a fairly quick retrieve mixed with frequent pauses. I normally match my clear colored jigs with a 4" Yamamoto single or double-tail grub clear w/large silver flake (136) or watermelon w/large red and green flake (222), and with a 4" white, smoke or watermelon Snakebite Mega Curl. When I want to imitate crawdads, I match to my jig a small 3" Snakebite Mega Craw, one of the best trailer I've ever used for Ultralite Bass Jigs!
Sometimes, in special places where the bass feeds heavily on frogs, I team a 1/4 oz, watermelon or brown jig with a Yamamoto double-tail grub. I think this trailer mimic the kicking legs of a frog better than any other trailer on the market.
I sometimes fish 1/2 oz. and 3/4 oz. jigs but only when I fish in strong current (like in tidal rivers), deep water or hard-to-puncture cover .
All my jigs sport a heavy-duty Gamakatsu hook. I believe there's not a better jig's hook on the market today.
As for WHEN to fish a jig, my answer is quite predictable: always! Jig is a year-round lure. There are times when it works better, like early spring, fall and winter but I'll tell you that past July (18th) I got a 2nd place and big bass honors in a tournament and I've caught the biggest bass at 11:00 AM when the water and air temperatures were HOT! Looking at my log book, I've noted that, except the three of four fish I've caught on other lures, ALL of my T's bass in the past 1 1/2 year have come on a jig, no matter the month, the weather and time of the day the tourney was held. And I got all top-ten finishes!
One thing that I feel is of great help on my jig fishing is the use of a good fish attractant. I use the best on the market: Kick'n BassŪ, both in Garlic and Crawfish flavors. When that big bass bite on my jig, I want to get all the advantages I can!
To sum it up, a jig is a great lure to fish but there are times when other lures work better. I tell you this because when you're on the water you've got to be open-minded and versatile. Give the bass what it wants, don't be hard-headed. One more thing I almost forget: when times are extremely tough, the jig is your best choice!
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