FISHING JIGS, I CAN DO THAT!
Some call it a search bait, others a big fish bait. To some, it is a numbers bait. It is a proven tournament winner across this great land. In as much as it is the confidence bait of many, it is an intimidating bait to fish for many anglers. One thing is certain, if you have yet to develop the trust and confidence in fishing a jig for bass, you're missing out on a lot of bites and some really great fish.
As a guide on the California Delta, where the jig is a year round, deadly weapon on largemouth bass, I encounter many clients who choose me as a guide to help them build that confidence and learn how to jig fish. Before we even hit the water, there are three stead fast concepts I discuss about jig fishing.
Learn to Pitch and Flip
These two tactics, are by far the most deadly when fishing jigs, while targeting larger fish in close quarters, and or around cover. They are very similar and easy tactics to learn. Hall of famer Dee Thomas, introduced the flippen technique to the bass fishing world many years ago. Dee and another Western angler Dave Gliebe, exploded on the BASS scene and spanked a whole lot of professionals back in the 80's with the flippen technique. Later in the 80s, many of us caught on to what Hank Parker & Denny Brauer where doing and began pitching. Both of these casting techniques allow you to efficiently present a bait into tight cover and at specific targets, either from close up(the Flip, reel closed and locked) or from a greater distance(the pitch, reel open , ready to release line).
Many anglers struggle with these two tactics. Inevitably, it leads them to putting down that jig for another day. Their problems, all tend to lie in a few simple mechanical errors in their presentations. The flip and pitch, are derived from a natural swinging motion of your jig at the end of the line. They object is to use the strengths of your rod and reel to do all the work. Minimal body motion and interaction is required by the angler. Many anglers will use their elbow, arm, shoulder and hips to generate what they believe is the proper mechanics to send that bait flying towards their target. Inevitably, that's precisely what happens, your bait flies out there towards your target out of control.
Whether you are pitching or flipping, your bait should be hanging down right next to your reel when holding your rod straight up to 12:00. If you just use your wrist to dip the rod tip slowly to 9:00, you will notice a natural, pendulum swing of that jig. Once that jig is about 4 feet away from your body and starting it's upwards pendulum move, raise that rod tip to about 11:00. You will notice the trajectory remains low. At this point you either feather out the line from your opposite hand when flipping, or release your thumb from the reel spool so the force of the jig can take out line and direct itself towards your target. Do this over and over in slow motion, you will begin to get the picture. As you begin to get the hang of this simple motion, you can start to implement a 180 rotation of your wrist to gain greater force and distance when pitching.
Pitching an flippen is very easy, unfortunately it's difficult to explain in writing. You can go out to Westernbass.TV and see my recent video on the proper way to pitch and flip as I have explained.
Relinquish the fear.
Fishing a jig is easy, tell yourself that, over and over. Instill the positive thought in your mind, You Can Do It! You can fish a plastic worm right? You can chuck and wind a buzzbait or crankbait right? There's no reason why you can't learn to pitch and flip a jig, and catch fish on it. You can do it, I know you can. Just do it. Much like anything else in life, you must practice. So the next 5 times you go fishing, take nothing but 3 jig rods with you. Don't allow yourself the opportunity to fall back onto your old confidence baits. Start to build a new found confidence in this bait, you will thank me for this down the road.
Keep this in mind at all times, there is no right or wrong way to fish the jig. It's a very simple bait, one that has no built in action on its own. Jigs are very versatile, in that they can be dressed with a variety of trailers, to match many of the bottom dwelling forage that a bass see's in its day to day environment. Depending on the type of trailer you attach, whether it be plastic, pork or feathered, you can imitate a crawdad, a bait fish, small birds and mammals, even those of the amphibious type. All of which at some point in time during the annual life cycle of a bass, the bass will forage on it. The bass is an opportunistic predator. No mouthful sized critter in his world is safe from the jaws and bellies of our coveted quarry. Keep that jig moving, you will draw more reactionary strikes during this period than at any other time of the year.
In the fall and winter, select crawdad imitating trailers and color patterns. Crawdads, in most impoundments that have bass, tend to be a bass' number one preferred forage. They provide high levels of nutrients that help a bass get through the winter. So in the fall, bass are gorging on dads to fatten themselves, preparing the bass for those long, dormant winter periods. In the winter as a bass begins to transition towards their spawning phase in the spring, they will once again begin to gorge on dads as they come crawling out of their burrows. High nutrient content is important to the bass, especially the females as they begin long migrations shallow and start to develop and mature their eggs. Keep that jig moving. Hop, pop and jump it along the bottom from shallow to deep. Don't let it come to rest for any long period of time. You will draw more reactionary strikes, from larger fish, during this period than at any other time of the year.
During the spring and early post-spawn, a bass' focus is going to be more so directed at their spawning ritual, versus their feeding habits. This is when you can get really creative with your jigs by dressing them up with a variety of larger, gaudier trailers. Try using a 6-8" lizard, a 6" Cow's Tongue, a big Toro Tube or an 8" saltwater double tailed scampi trailer. A bass, be it male or female, is going to protect their nest at all cost. Any big, slow moving bait that comes to rest or disturbs the general vicinity of the nest, is likely to get attacked and be moved away. Dead sticking that bait, on or near a nest, will not be tolerated by a protective spawning fish.
Once spawning is completed, and all through the summer, start thinking bait fish. Bluegills, shiners, hitch, carp, catfish fry, baby bass, bream, the list goes on and on depending on the various forage in your local impoundment. Start using single tailed trailers, like a 5", 6" or 8" Yamamoto Grub. Try putting on a paddle tailed trailer, like a Sassy shad swimbait or a Swimmin' Senko. All of these trailers provide the tail action that imitates a bass' forage during this period. Baitfish swim and move around a lot, use that jig to do the same thing and imitate the household forage.
Be Prepared, your fishing for beasts.
Leave your noodle rods at home. You will be fishing for a different class of fish with a jig. You will inevitably be fishing around and in heavy cover most of the time. This is where the big bass hide and spend most of their time. You must have stout equipment when jig fishing. You must have the power to instantly turn their heads, gaining the advantage over them and get them heading your way, out of the cover and into the boat. You must be able to drive that big stout hook into them as fast as possible. You can't do this with a noodle rod. Don't pitch and flip a jig with anything less than a 7'6" Heavy action rod. My personal preference is a Fenwick Elite Tech ECFP76H-F. Very sensitive to feel that bite, fast tip to instantly drive that hook home and stout backbone to horse and get em in the boat NOW! Ya ever watch them Big Bass Posse videos with the swimbait guys? No noodle sticks, get em in the boat as fast as ya can!
Line choice is another critical aspect you don't want to cheat on. I prefer 20-25 pound Berkeley or Stren 100% Fluorocarbons most of the time. When I'm fishing tournaments, I go to my Yamamoto Sugoi for ultimate strength and sensitivity. Many anglers prefer to use braid when pitching and flipping. Under certain conditions, braid is acceptable. If you're fishing around rocks or clear water, braid is not such a great choice due to its visibility and its tendency to get frayed on the rocks. The Fluoro lines are invisible, they are much more abrasion resistant when fishing around rocks. I've also found Fluoros to be more sensitive when fishing on a slack line, the strikes are better felt up and through to my hands at the rod butt. This is one area where clients jump in my boat and don't listen to me. "Ah c'mon Cooch, I flip with 15 pound line all the time". "I'm very comfortable with braid Cooch, I don't ever break it off or miss bites." If there's gonna be a time when these fish prove me right and you wrong, it's when you jump in the boat for me on a day's fishing this Delta. Go with the best lines available, this is certain to eliminate failures.
Choosing a reel is a matter of personal choice. Whether it is one brand or the next, round reel or low profile, choose one that is no less than 6.3:1 in line take up ratio. I prefer the larger spooled round reels of ABU Garcia. I've got big hands and have used round reels since I was 8 years old. You want a reel that is comfortable in your hands, that has a lot of line capacity, with a high ration to take up line quickly. This will provide you the best winching tool possible.
Keep It Simple
Last but not least, keep your jig fishing simple, at least in the beginning until you develop the confidence to fish this bait day in and day out. Stick to three primary colors, a solid brown, black or white jig, each will work anywhere, anytime of year. Most anglers new to jig fishing, will go out and buy 25 different color patterns of jigs. Dood, that's not simple, and now gives ya way too much ta think about. Instead of having that many jig patterns, just take the three I mentioned, and use various colored trailers to get the desired effect to match the forage in your body of water. Three color patterns I use everywhere, for my brown or black jigs are solid purple, electric blue(blue or purple with blue flake) and black/blue combos. Sometimes I'll use watermelon red and green pumpkin, but typically that only happens when someone jumps in the back of my boat and is tossing one of those colors just to be different. If they start getting more bites than me, I listen to what those fish are telling us.
My 6 biggest bass ever, have all come from fishing jigs on this California Delta, and one came from Lake Folsom. These 6 bass were all between 13-14.85 lbs. In as much as we'd all like to have lakes that produce 15-25 pound bass that will chase down and eat a big trout bait, that's not a reality for most of us. Over the past 6 years of guiding on this River, between clients and I, we have logged well over 200 bass topping the 10 lb mark, all on jigs. During this time, I can't count the number of clients who didn't catch one that big while on a session with me, but sent me a photo and e-mail describing the one they caught using the above tips.
Jig fishing on this California Delta, really is not that difficult. All you gotta do, is read the tips above, tell yerself, "Whoa, that IS really simple, I CAN DO THAT!"
Keep a Tight Line!......... Cooch