By Lawrence Euteneier
Captain, Blind Fishing Boat.Com
Fishing Bass may be as close to hunting as it gets due to the visual connection often made with Bass prior to their being caught, or not. The fact remains however, we spend a lot of time and money selecting rods, reels and lines that represent the latest in innovations developed to enhance our sense of touch. This article will delve into the finer points of using touch when fishing jigs for Bass.
Jigs are one of the most efficient means of positioning your lure close in to where fish are generally found, and for fishers of Bass, the technique has evolved into a wide variety of jig innovations and presentation styles. No wonder then that many are uncertain or even slightly intimidated about the many manifestations into which this historic lure has evolved.
Given the simplistic design of jigs, it’s up to fishers to impart action to the lure by jigging, dragging, swimming, hopping or twitching the jig. The degree to which action is imparted depends mostly on the mood of the Bass; the more actively fish are feeding, the faster one can move the jig and cover water. Jigs can also be manipulated in ways that entice Bass that might otherwise not be interested in striking, just as a cat can be lured to attack a ball of yarn.
Normally, Bass are most likely to bite during the descent of a jig through the water column. Jig weight, skirt bulkiness and trailer size all influence fall rate. In clear warm water Bass are more likely to hit on a rapid descent, where as in cold or murky water or following a severe weather event, a slower descent to keep the jig in the strike zone longer may be necessary.
To determine fall rate, start by letting out as much line as your rod is long. Quickly drop your tip to the surface of the water and count how long it takes before you feel your jig reach the end of your line. Divide the rod length by the time it took and you will have a good approximation of how much your jig sinks per count.
Determining the right jig weight requires taking into consideration factors such as water clarity and temperature, weight required to penetrate cover, current and boat movement, and the mood of the Bass. As with life, weight selection generally involves making compromises. The jig should be substantial enough to provide the fisher with both the resistance necessary to properly impart action to the jig, and to serve as a sounding device for discerning bottom structure. If conditions are such that your jig is passing by fish without their responding, then slow things down by going lighter. However, if fish seem eager and willing, one can always experiment with increasing jig weight to reduce time taken to return your jig to the strike zone.
Tungsten weighted jigs excel at getting your presentation into the strike zone quicker with less weight, and for relaying tactile information to the fisher. Their 50% smaller size compared with led jigs means they can sink faster due to decreased water resistance, which translates into less weight needed to efficiently reach the strike zone, and a harder knock upon contact with structure. The higher density of Tungsten is also better at passing on distinct vibrations to the fisher’s hand when the jig head collides with different underwater objects.
Lift and Fall
Cast out your jig and allow it to sink to the bottom before taking your reel off cast. This will avoid the jig pendulumming back before coming to rest providing better coverage and a more natural presentation. A spinning outfit is best for fishing deep water or light-weight presentations as the jig can easily pull line from the open spool. With a baitcaster you may want to pull line off the reel as the jig sinks, or try finishing the cast with the rod in the 12 o’clock position so you can follow the jig down with your rod tip. Don’t feel awkward about stretching out your arms to allow the jig to finish its descent naturally, or even to bough to the jig to give that last couple feet.
It’s important to maintain light contact with the jig as it descends in order to detect bites. Not with a taught line as this will create an unnatural presentation, but with a semi-slack line making occasional contact with the jig to check for light takers, which will also impart subtle twitches to the jig giving it a more life-like appearance.
Retrieve the jig by raising the rod tip from the 9 to 11 o’clock position, and then lower the rod tip to follow the jig back to the bottom. Because the jig is being pulled horizontally more than vertically at the beginning of your retrieve, you won’t need to lower the rod nearly as much as you raised it to follow the jig’s descent. Once the jig comes to rest, drop your rod tip back to 9: o’clock while reeling up slack and repeat. As you get closer to the end of the retrieve, the amount the rod needs to be raised and lowered will decrease as the jig begins moving vertically more than horizontally due to the angle of your line with the bottom increasing. 90% of your bites will come on the fall.
Snap, pop or ripping jigs for Bass is ideal for fishing weed flats. It’s a technique intended to coax a reaction bite rather than a feeding bite as it awakens the Bass’s “cat-like” personality. Use jigs that are slightly heavier than what you would use for a more traditional lift and fall presentation. Jigs with a weed guard and a pointed head with the eyelet near the front are best as they will snag fewer weeds. A sharp rip will often clear jigs of vegetation.
Cast out the jig and allow to sink to the desired depth. Quickly rip the jig up and then allow to fall while reeling in slack, and repeat. If you aren’t feeling the jig contact weeds on occasion, you aren’t close enough to the cover. Bites will come just as often on the rip as the fall.
Swimming a Jig
Steadily retrieve the jig close in to cover with occasional pauses to trigger strikes. If you are getting too many weeds, either speed up your presentation or go with a lighter jig. To slow the retrieve, pump the rod while reeling, but don’t stop reeling if a Bass starts to follow.
Always swim the jig above suspended Bass. In rivers, swim the jig down stream as Bass are generally pointed up stream to intercept food. If a Bass has taken a swipe at your jig but failed to grab hold, continue reeling steadily without pausing.
Vertical jigging is ideal for covering large stretches of deeper water with significant structure. However, given that your jig is following the boat, it’s not recommended in water where you can see bottom as the bass will be spooked by the boat. A vertical presentation reduces hang-ups as it’s possible to lift the jig over structure rather than dragging the jig through. Select a jig that is heavy enough to sink vertically taking into consideration your drift rate or any current. Once you have located significant structure, keep up a steady lift and fall action so fish don’t have a chance to examine your jig and conclude it’s artificial.
Football jigs are designed to deflect off rocks and timber while levering the hook point clear of the snag. When fishing around timber spread the weed guard out to each side. When you find your jig hanging on submerged timber, before slowly reeling the jig up and over, let it hang while imparting subtle action. It’s often more than Bass can stand.
Bass staging around standing timber or brush piles are known to grab hold of their pray and move off into more open water before completing the task of positioning their meal for swallowing. They want to be well clear of cover and other Bass to avoid their pray taking cover or being stolen should it temporarily slip their grip. When a Bass bites your jig it’s therefore possible to apply steady pressure and lead the bass away from structure prior to setting the hook. The Bass will eventually clamp down and resist which is your signal to set the hook.
Stand-up jigs are designed to land on bottom with the hook bend in an up-right position. This serves to present your trailer in a more life-like posture. Football jigs are also well suited for dragging bottom. When the jig encounters significant structure, use the obstacle to impart a stationary rocking motion to emulate pray in search of cover. Dragging jigs is also an excellent means of searching out promising deep-water Bass habitat.
Ideal for pin-point fishing when you need that little extra time to entice Bass to bite. Cast your jig so it comes to rest on the bottom next to significant structure. Impart the subtlest of action through a semi-slack line by gently squeezing the handle of your rod, which will also prevent your moving the jig out of the strike zone. Lighter jigs and the need for a vertical descent close-in to the targeted structure means spinning gear in most cases.
Pitching / Flipping
A form of vertically presenting jigs in heavy cover, this technique is probably responsible for more tournament-clinching kickers than any other. Allow the jig to sink vertically in and around heavy cover. Once the jig has reached bottom, let it rest for a moment and then impart several slight twitches before retrieving the jig with a vertical ascent. The thicker the cover the more vertical the presentation to avoid snagging vegetation. Get to know exactly how the weight of your jig feels and the time it takes to descend. Any variation likely means a Bass has intercepted your offering.
The next time you’re on the boat fishing jigs for Bass make a conscious effort to expand your awareness to include feedback from all your different senses. In short, pay attention to what you’re feeling.