Learn to Fish the Jig and Put More Bass in the Well

By Tyler Torwick

There are several lures in bass fishing that are indispensible and that every angler should have tied on. No matter your skill level, where you are fishing, or what time of year you are fishing, this lure can be deadly. From shallow water to deep rockpiles this bait can be fished effectively. The colors they come in, the sizes you can fish, and the trailers you can use are endless. By now you’ve probably guessed it, but the lure we’re talking about is the jig.

While each manufacturer has their own proprietary jig head shapes, there are a few main staples for jig fishing. Football jigs, flipping jigs and swim jigs are the most common shapes and can cover nearly every situation you may find yourself in on the water. Becoming a skilled jig fisherman is no different than any other sport; it takes practice! To keep things simple let’s cover the three types of jigs mentioned above and go over how I like to fish them and how you can be more successful your next time out on the water.

A football jig is one of my favorite baits for covering water and locating fish when the conditions call for something a bit slower than your traditional crankbait or spinnerbait. When water temps drop, or weather fronts create pressure zones that affect the bite, sometimes slowing down and going as natural looking as possible with your bait is what the fish want. A football jig is a great crawfish imitation.

Savage 3D Craw

The possibilities of what color skirt you can chose are endless, but I like to limit myself to a few standard colors until I figure out what the fish are keying in on. Brown with green pumpkin, brown and black with some red in it, and blue and black are my three favorite colors. I have yet to find a body of water that one of these color combinations wouldn’t work on.

Chose a jig heavy enough that you can feel it on the bottom but not so heavy that it gets caught up on the bottom or snagged between rocks. Equally as important as choosing the correct jig color, is choosing the proper jig trailer. Typically a jig trailer will try to resemble the head, body, and claws of a crawfish. My personal favorite is a Savage Gear 3D Crawfish. You can even fish this bait by itself on a jighead. As I mentioned I like to “match the hatch” and go as realistic as possible; there is nothing on the market more realistic than this bait.

Football head jigs are best fished on the bottom around structure, such as rockpiles, submerged bridges, brush piles or stumps. Fishing a jig is very similar to fishing a Texas rig; you don’t need to over do it with too many jumps or twitches of the rod. Drag your jig while maintaining contact with the bottom, every so often twitch the rod tip to make the jig hop, or slow it down and pause the jig. Sometimes pausing can be more effective than an aggressive jerk of the rod, so don’t be afraid to let that jig sit on the bottom for up to 10 seconds or so. During the winter, slow your presentation down – I’m talking dial-up internet speed slow. In cold water fish slow down their metabolism and are less likely to go chasing after a fast moving bait. During the summertime you can speed up your retrieve, but ensuring that you still maintain contact with the bottom is important.

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Next up is the flipping jig. Football jigs are football jigs, not much can change, but flipping jigs are designed to move through cover easier and not get hung up. When selecting a jig I advise looking for one with a strong, high-quality hook. Fishing around heavy cover requires heavy line and the ability to pull a fish out of anything they can tangle themselves in. The last thing you want is a straightened out hook.

With a flipping jig I like to use the same colors and trailers as with my football jigs, but with one exception. Sometimes I will try to imitate some of the native baitfish in the lake I am fishing. For example, I will try to imitate a bluegill or crappie to attempt to mimic a bass’ normal prey. For this I may choose a flipping jig with a skirt with some blue, green, and orange in it. Small details like the red or orange that is on the side of a Bluegill’s face can make a big difference.

When fishing this kind of jig, cover is the name of the game. After a good rain when lake levels are high, I like to fish submerged brush with this jig. Boat docks and submerged trees are also a great place to fish this bait. Look for any abnormalities in the cover you are fishing as well; a different kind of tree, or a different species of plant. Anything that you might think a bass would use as cover is a place to pitch your jig. The benefit of this technique over that of a Texas rig, is that you don’t have a weight sliding up the line getting caught in the cover.

Swim jigs are very different from their bottom-bouncing counterparts. Swim jigs are fished very similar to swimbaits, but have some other benefits. Swim jigs have a weed guard that allows them to be fished through thick cover. When bass are keying in on baitfish and are feeding around heavy cover, this is a technique I love to use. I have seen several tournaments won by anglers fishing swim jigs alongside weedlines and in stump fields. Major lakes such as Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn in Texas are notorious for this pattern.

As you would expect, for this type of jig, I try to imitate baitfish rather than crawfish. With so many skirts available to choose from you can customize your jigs very easily to copy anything from a Threadfin Shad to a Bluegill. The trailer you use is very important, small swimbaits and skinny dippers make very good trailers and add a great swimming action to your jig.

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The last thing you should know before hitting the water is what rod and reel to use. For jig fishing typically you want a casting rod around 7 feet in length. Long enough to allow accurate casts, short enough to get a hard hookset, and a tip sensitive enough to tell the difference between a rock and a bite. I recommend an Okuma Helios HS-CM-701H rod. For the reel you typically want a low profile baitcaster with a strong drag and around a 7:1 gear ratio. My jig rod has an Okuma Helios Air reel on it. What line you spool up with depends on the lake you’re fishing, but a standard set typically has 15-17# fluorocarbon line or 30# braid.

Learning to fish a jig well can be the difference between filling your live well and an empty weigh bag. Next time you are at your local tackle store pick up one of each of these jigs and start experimenting. Good luck out there!

Tyler Torwick is President of the Baylor Bass University Fishing Team.

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