Jigs are one of the oldest, and most productive lures ever made. They catch pretty much anything that swims, anywhere it swims, all year long. If you could only have one fishing lure, this would be it. They can be fished vertically, reeled in, fished with a stop-and-go technique, rigged in tandem, or even with other lures.
A jig is just a hook with a weight in the front of it, usually molded to the hook. Modern jigs have the hook eye bent up at a 90° angle so that it is on top of the jig. This lets you fish the jig vertically while it maintains a horizontal attitude. The hook can be dressed with bucktail, or squirrel fur, feathers, a rubber shirt, or any number of various soft plastic bodies. They can even be tipped with minnows, worms, or real grubs. To change jigs, many times it is only necessary to pull the body off the hook, and replace it with a different color or style….less than 10 seconds, tops. In reality, a spinner-bait is just a jig with a wire molded to it to attach a spinner. There are clip-on wires and spinner blades available to instantly convert any jig into a spinner-bait in seconds.
How To Use Jigs
Jigs are the most versatile lure you can use. They can be simply cast out, allowed to sink to the depth you want, and just reeled straight in, or just under the surface. Or you can let them sink and retrieve them in stages by raising your rod tip and reeling in the slack, making the jig ‘hop’ over the bottom. Jigs are very weedless, so they can be cast very near cover and structure.
Another deadly method, particularly in winter when fish are holding in deep water, and don’t want to move very much, is vertical jigging. This can be done from a boat, dock, through ice, or anyplace you can get your rod over where the fish are. Just drop the jig straight down…no casting, flipping or anything fancy. Just hit the line release on your reel and let ‘er drop. Once the jig hits bottom, reel in a crank or two so that is suspended just off the bottom. Now, periodically raise your rod tip 6 inches or so, and then let the jig drop back down. Do this every 30 seconds or so, and keep repeating it until a fish bites. You can move the jig around a bit to locate them, and almost put it right in their mouths.
Jigs can even be rigged under a float, for precise depth control. Just work them in like you would a top-water lure.
In faster water, especially in tail-races below dams, nothing is deadlier on bass and crappie than a double jig rig under a float. You just tie on a yellow jig on top, and a white jig underneath, in tandem, and put on a float. Cast the whole rig upstream and let the current, or wind, carry it down. Then, after it gets downstream a bit, reel it in and start over. Anytime the floats stops, bobs, or goes under, set the hook. It’s not uncommon to hook 2 fish at a time like this.
The Jig & Pig Technique
Another great technique is called the, “Jig & Pig”. Pork strips (available at most tackle shops) are colored and shaped to match many bass foods, such as frogs, crawfish, and so on. Just take one out of the jar, and stick on the hook. Pork strips are made from real pig skin, and bass love them.
The Great Marabou Jig
No article on jigs would be complete without mentioning one of the all-time greatest jigs ever made….the Marabou Jig. They are just like a bucktail jig, only instead of bucktail fur, they are dressed with marabou feathers. If you didn’t know, marabou feathers originally were the soft, downy under-tail feathers of the Marabou Stork. But in modern times, we use the same feathers from commercially produced turkeys.
Marabou is like no other material in the world. When it is in the water, it moves like it is alive. Nothing else on the planet mimics the sensuous movement of marabou in the water. Marabou jigs look so good submerged that sometimes I want to bite them myself…… Marabou jigs in the smaller sizes are the textbook crappie lure. In larger sizes, 1/4 oz and up, they work so good for bass at times, that it almost feels like cheating.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on jigs. Entire books could be (and have been) written about fishing with them. The only limit to how you can fish with jigs is your imagination. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and if it works, please share it with the rest of us…