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Jigs are some of the most versatile lures available, and every angler’s tackle box should hold a few. Although they are extremely popular among those seeking largemouth bass, jigs elicit strikes from a variety of species, including smallmouths, trout, walleye, panfish and an array of salt-water fish. You can retrieve jigs in a variety of ways, but strikes are often subtle, so laser-sharp hooks and a focused mind are imperative for success.
Attain the best results by using a suitably sized and configured jig for your target species. Select rubber-skirted jigs in the 1/4 to 1 ounce range to catch largemouth bass, but smallmouth bass often prefer hair-tipped jigs. If you are targeting small trout or panfish, choose a 1/16 to 1/8 ounce hair-tipped jig. Large jigs, weighing an ounce or more, are good for large species, such as pike, muskies and stripers. Jigs rigged to catch bass are often tipped with a soft plastic bait, while anglers targeting walleyes or perch often remove the skirt from the jig and replace it with a minnow or soft plastic bait.
Rod, Reel and Line Selection
Use a rod, reel and line that is appropriate for the jig you intend to use. Small jigs work best with a lightweight spinning set up, while a medium- or medium-heavy-action bait casting combo works well for large jigs. If you are targeting sharp-eyed trout or panfish in clear water, use a very thin monofilament or fluorocarbon line to avoid spooking your quarry. By contrast, braided lines work best for targeting largemouth bass in heavy cover. Use a 6½-foot rod or longer so you can cast well and maximize your leverage when setting the hook.
In its simplest form, working a jig involves casting the lure and then retrieving it slowly, while bouncing it along the bottom. In deep water, some anglers simply drop the jig into the water and move it up and down to attract the attention of passing fish. Other anglers cast their jigs over flats and “swim” them back to the boat with a steady retrieve. Experiment with different techniques until you find the one that yields the most strikes. No matter which technique you perform, keep the line taught at all times, especially while the lure is sinking. Watch your rod tip and pay attention to the feel of the lure. Set the hook immediately when you feel the slightest bump or slack in the line.
Weeds and Wood
Even when fish – especially largemouth bass – are not in a feeding mode, jigs often tempt them into striking. But to do so, you must get the lure into the types of places where bass lay low, such as weed beds and flooded timber. Because jigs often feature hook-guards, they rarely snag inanimate items and are excellent for such applications. Many anglers “pitch” or “flip” their jigs into such areas by using an underhand cast, which allows the lure to enter the water more gently and spook fewer fish. Once in the weed bed or brush pile, twitch the lure by raising and lowering the rod tip. Be patient, work the lure slowly and be ready to set the hook the second you feel the strike.