Jigs: Versatile and Reliable
Fall marks a time when bass begin to feed heavily in an effort to build up the body fat to carry em through the winter. It is a time when they are forever gorging themselves. During this period in October and November, the larger bass, with in most of the Northern California watersheds, will tend to stray away from chasing the smaller shad food sources, but in fact key on the nutritional plusses of gorging themselves with crawdads. It is also during this period that our lakes are being drawn down in preparation to store the heavy rains of winter. It is during this time that the lakes are so low, that we reach the lower base of the lakes bottom where it is predominantly silt and mud. And it is in this mud at this time of year that crawdads tend to reside as they too are preparing for their winter migration into their burrows.
This is my absolute favorite time of year to fish a jig. To me, it is by far the most productive and reliable of crawdad imitating baits we have available. It is also extremely versatile in that the bait has absolutely no limits to the action that the angler puts into it. And being creative in how, where, what and when we toss the jig, is the beauty in its productivity. Out of the box, a jig has virtually no action built in. But with the wide variety of plastic and pork trailers available today, we can create and develop a wide varieties of bait presentations, to which we can show the bass in our lakes, many of which, they have never seen before. I think the jig is the most under utilized bait in our tackle boxes today. That trend is changing and Im gonna help to change your thinking in sharing some of my tricks that work for me.
First and foremost, at this time of year, we must keep in mind the prey and forage we are trying to imitate, the crawdad. Color selection is important, especially on our clear water impoundments. At this time of year, I recommend to stick to a variety of solid brown colors. Dont concern yourself with multi colored skirts. At other times of the year, when the water is warmer, you may be imitating other bait sources besides craws, using various colors at this time could be critical to catching fish during the spring and summer. In the fall, stick to browns. Use the color of your trailers to add and enhance the coloration and hues of your jig to match the hatch. And you should be using a trailer that has two moving arms, legs or curly tails. A craw has two claws, this only makes too much sense. And the last thing is to start using heavier jigs. Ill not use less than a 1/2 oz and as heavy as a 1 oz jig at this time of year.
Lets first discuss the weight of your jig and why I choose the heavier weights. Again, remember we are imitating a craw. And at this time of year, craw are digging and scooting around the bottom in very erratic fashion. In doing so, when they move, little puffs of dust are sent up off the bottom as they move. These heavier jigs will simulate these little puff of silt as they hit and drag around the bottom. These heavier jigs will also allow you to stay in contact with and feel the bottom at all times. This is very important, especially when your bouncing on a silted bottom and come across a small portion of rocks. You will be able to detect this change in the bottom. It is here that I cant emphasize enough the usage of fluorocarbon line. The added sensitivity only makes this tool in your hand all the more effective. Bottom contact is so important, you have got to feel and visualize exactly what that bait is doing down there, anticipating its every next move and motion. Inevitably, when you go from a soft mud bottom and intersect with some rocks of any sort, 99% of the time, it is here that you are gonna git bit. Knowing the difference in the bottom texture and being ready for that KERTHUNK to follow, has you prepared for a quick strike and hookset.
These heavier jigs allow you know to stay in contact with the bottom and fish that jig down the bank, with little short hops, very fast. I believe a jig is really a reaction bait. It is not very often, that we find the majority of the fish in a body of water in a positive feeding mode for very long. When they are in this mode, they are gonna clock that jig on the fall. Its when they are in a negative feeding mode, that we need to learn ways to trigger strikes. Fishing a heavy brown jig, hoppin and poppin down a bank poofing little dust clumps, triggers very violent reaction strikes from bass when in a negative feeding mode. This is quite contradictory to what weve been taught over the years in how we should fish a jig. Weve always been told and have read that as the water cools, so does that of the metabolism of a bass, hence we should fish slower and allow the bass the time it needs to come git our baits. Thats a myth folks. Sure, youll git strikes from time to time fishing it at a snails pace. But ya also give that bass the time to slowly come up on yer bait and use one of his most keenest senses, his smell, to determine if its worthy of eating or not. When yer fishing faster, you force that bass to trigger and commit right now to eating your bait. You want that bass to think this crawdad is getting away. A bass will not allow that to happen to a fast moving bottom bouncin' crawdad. He's gonna eat it right now. This is one reason why I like to throw the OneTon Hula rig on lakes like Oroville and Shasta up on the sheer walls. Or the dam of ANY lake. The fish will suspend in the cracks and ledges along the drop, toss that heavy jig right up against the wall and let it free fall straight down. They will come running out of those cracks and off the little ledges to chase that bait. This heavy jig works extremely well as a drop bait, not just a bottom bouncer.
Remember, creativity and versatility is key here. Use the bait in ways that a bass is used to seeing its natural prey. Youve got to put yourself in their environment, think like they do, think like their prey. This game we play is us against the fish. You have got to put yourself in their shoes. If you were a crawdad, would you want to git eaten? Are you gonna just sit there and wait for the crushing end thats sure to come. NOT, yer gonna git the heck outa Dodge as fast and in any way you can. There is no wrong or right way to imitate this picture of a craw fleeing for his life, as long as your bait appears to be fleeing.
And last, one of the things that I have learned over the last few years with my jig fishing, is the importance of me switching to Sugoi Fluorocarbon resin line. This line alone has enhanced and increased my jig fishing success ten fold, especially during the fall and winter months on our lakes. First and foremost is its sensitivity. It allows me to remain in complete contact and control of my bait, even on a slack line. Secondly is its invisibility. This property allows not only that the fish cant detect the line, but to use a heavier line test in the process without giving up line diameter. I prefer the 16# Fluorocarbon for most of my jig applications on lakes. The diameter of this line is about the same as that of most 12-pound monos, which in turn enhances the jig's rate of fall. And last, the low stretch of Fluorocarbon allows for very fast reactions to hooksets, especially in deeper water, as your rod loads up much faster.
And last but not least, one of the most key ingredients to jig fishing is to use a lot of scent applications. The larger fish you tend to catch on jigs got bigger cause they are smarter than juvenile fish. They do use their sense of smell more than most anglers think. Not only does your hoppin and poppin jig leave a trail of dust, but in that dust it can leave a trail of sense that may very well catch the attention of a near bass. And once that bass grabs that jig, ifn he gits a taste of something natural, hes gonna hold on to it just a little bit longer, that or give you a much greater indication that hes got the bait. Which in the long run, allows you just that much more time to detect the strike. Every little advantage you can concoct when jig fishing, is an advantage we should take in our pursuit of catching bass in the fall.
Keep A Tight Line!
Andy "Cooch" Cuccia