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Keys to Your Jig Fishing Success
By Russ Bassdozer

Foreword

Chapter One. In Chapter One, we learn of the importance of jig color selection.

Chapter Two. We learn when to use a flipping head, football head and weedless Arkie style jig head, plus how to trim a fiberguard.

Chapter Three. There's no stopping us as we go on to learn how to use double tail grubs as jig trailers.

Chapter Four. We continue our jig fishing education with a discussion of skirt types and how to trim silicone and rubber skirts.

Chapter Five. We get into a pork talk reviewing all you need to know about pork trailers.

Learn to jig. It's hard work but rewarding. It's the sign of a master angler.


Jigs need trailers. For most of the season, a double tail grub trailer usually works best for me, and a crawfish trailer works well too. Try them both. Some experts still prefer pork frog chunks, but most anglers find them bothersome to deal with and store. Plastic versions of pork chunks are a popular choice due to convenience in storing them. The same effect as a plastic chunk can be achieved by trimming the tips of a double tail grub so they are straight rather than curly. You can see examples of how to trim them in the attached photo. Sometimes fish want this straight-legged trailer especially during winter, early spring or late fall when water temperatures make fish feel lethargic. In cold water, they prefer their meals to look as lethargic as the bass feels. 

Color is an important issue. First, there is the skirt color. Solid black, black/red, black/blue, brown, brown/orange, and dark watermelon skirts are staples. Black/chartreuse gets the nod in the dingiest of water or at night, and a purple skirt is also good in dark water or at night.

Next is the trailer color:

  1. A big black trailer on a purple jig at night.

  2. On brown jigs, a purple/blue flake trailer (164), smoke/purple flake (157), brown grape (198) or cinnamon/purple flake(221), smoke/copper flake (163), smoke pearl blue (240), or watermelon pepper (297).

  3. On black jigs, watermelon/red flake (208), black/red flake (051), black/blue flake (021), black/blue tip (520), or black/red tip (521).

  4. In the darkest water, try a black/chartreuse skirt with a big smoke pearl blue (240) or tomato pepper (155) trailer.

Jig weight is important too. A 1/4 oz jig can be used in the very shallowest of water, but the most common sizes are 3/8 and 1/2 oz for water from 3 to 10 feet deep. A 5/8 or 3/4 oz jig can get you down to the bottom in 20 to 30 feet of water, which is usually the lower limit for jig fishing. Regardless of depth, you need to be contacting some sort of cover with a jig. Don't fear losing it, that's why it has the fiberguard.


Keys to Your Jig Fishing Success

Chapter 2
The Head and Fiber Guard

Flippin' Head - Series 67

The Flippin' Head has an extremely strong hook for the biggest bass in the thickest weed and brush cover. The hook is thick high carbon steel, forged, needle sharp and suited for the heaviest baitcasting rod, reel and line. The hook is custom designed by Gary and made only for him by Gamakatsu. The head shape is custom designed by Gary to get in and out of brush and weeds, but NOT out of a fish's mouth without hooking it! As for tactics, use a heavy enough size to plummet through brush tops or break through the leafy upper parts of grass beds. In heavy brush or matted weeds, use the heaviest weights, and lighten up the weight for thinned-out cover. Depth of the water may have little to do with the size weight you need. For example, you might need a heavy 1 oz. to break through heavy matted weeds and pad-choked shallows in 6 feet of water whereas a lighter 1/2 oz. may be fine to jiggle through sparse brush in 15 feet of water, okay? You usually want to get your jig underneath the brushy or leafy zone. Underneath, there are open areas of only weed stalks or brush trunks - not leaves or branches like the upper layer of the cover. This open underwater area below the brush tops and weed mats is used by bass and forage species. With weeds, you may have several feet of open water under the mats. With brush, you often only have a foot or two of open water near the base of the trunk. Bass set up shop at the base of the trunk where they lie in ambush under the overhanging eaves of the brush. Your jig needs to get down to the open water under the branches - usually right on bottom - for best results. You will need heavy gear and strong line for this, and it is often best to move the boat in to get a big bass out rather than trying to pull the bass to you through all that grass and brush. This is an extreme but deadly form of fishing!

Weedless Football Head - Series 44W

The Weedless Football Head has an extremely strong, high carbon steel, forged hook and a stout wireguard cable suited to heavy rods, reels and line. The hook is custom designed by Gary and made only for him by Gamakatsu. The head shape is designed by Gary to make constant contact with rock rubble, chunk rock or gravel bottoms. The round face rolls the jig forward, flipping the skirt and trailer up as the head drags across hard bottom. The wide football shape resists getting lodged too deeply into cracks between rocks, and the wireguard ensures that only the head - but not the hook - gets lodged. You can usually position your boat right over a snagged football head, jiggle it and dislodge it due to the protective wireguard. However, a fish will easily depress the wireguard in its mouth, exposing the needle sharp point.  It seems that airborne, head-shaking bass dislodge football jigs easily when they jump, but Gary custom designed the Gamakatsu hook in this jig to foil that ability for bass to shake loose the heavy football heads when they jump, and the wireguard also tends to help keep the hook from unbuttoning. Football heads are also great for bottom-bouncing in flowing water. The stable design of football jigs tumble less than other jig designs in current. Cast upcurrent about 45 degrees. Let the jig hit bottom (your line will go slack and billow), then reel in semi-slack line so the jig barely glides above bottom, touching down 2, 3, or 4 times before it gets perpendicular to you. Pay  particular attention when the jig gets perpendicular to you. It does a 180 on the bottom as it begins to stem the flow. Bass will follow your jig as it glides downcurrent and belt you when the jig does the 180 and starts to stem the flow.

Weedless Jig Head - Series 66

The Weedless Jig Head has a thin yet strong high carbon steel hook by Owner. The thin hook and needle sharp point ensures deep, fast hook penetration using medium rods, reels and line. The head shape is blunted to smash into and bounce over logs, stumps, pilings, square-edged rock piles such as natural rock slides, man-made rip rap, bridge abutments, etc. The 90 degree hook eye also helps this head bounce off and over big stuff. This is also a good head to glide or swim slowly just above bottom, and it is well-designed to drag, troll or wind-drift behind the boat. Dragging, drifting or trolling a weedless jig head is a great way to cover large areas of water prospecting for bass that are scattered and hard to find by casting. make sure you have enough line out behind the boat so you feel a steady tap-tap as the jig drags along bottom. If you feel nothing at all, let more line off the spool because your jig is probably floating too high up off bottom. Let line out until it billows out slack (meaning you're back on bottom). Then engage the reel and drag it under trolling or wind power. Often, you'll get beaucoup hits when the jig bounces sharply off some irregular underwater cover. You're not as likely to get hit when it drags over featureless smooth expanses of bottom. 

Widowmaker Jigs - Series 45 & 46

The Widowmaker Jig features the same blunted head design and bayonet-style collar (to hold trailers) as the Weedless Jig above. It sports a medium wire bronzed Mustad wide gap, round bend hook. The skirts on Widowmakers are wrapped on with stainless wire to ensure bass will not tear them off. Series 45 sports a regular rubber skirt whereas series 46 has a fine rubber skirt. Fine rubber, often referred to as "frog hair" has more wriggle to it than regular rubber. Some anglers prefer fine rubber for finesse fishing closed-mouthed bass in ultra-clear shallow water or for winter fishing where you hardly move the jig - just let the rubber wriggle. Colors: Black (020), Brown (024), Brown/Orange (081),  Black/Chartreuse (066), Purple (004) 

Trimming Fiberguards

Something to keep in mind is that the longer your weedguard is the more weedless it is and thus makes it harder to hook fish. The shorter you make it the easier it is to hook fish but also makes it easier to hang. So you have to find the middle area where you can easily hook the fish but yet stay weedless. I trim mine just outside the hook point and I trim it so the end of the weed guard is parallel with the point of the hook.

I prepare a fiberguard first and foremost NOT to hook fish. Primarily, I make the fiberguard snagless enough to get my jig back out of some real nasty places bass use...downed trees, drowned brush, thick matted weeds, pad beds, pools hidden behind tall walls of reeds, craggy rocks, etc. Hooksetting becomes a secondary consideration to me if my jig is consistently snagged in the cover. If I have to go into the cover to unsnag my jig, then I'm just scaring all the fish off the cover...and wasting my time in the process! So, I want to get my jig in AND out of cover without having to go in to unsnag it and spook all the bass in there - that's the reason for the fiberguard.

Ideally, you want the fiberguard to be just stiff enough to allow you to get the jig back out of where you tossed it. Therefore, you make the fiberguard longer, shorter, more strands or less strands solely depending on the heaviness and type of cover you are fishing, okay? Of course, your rod, reel and line must also compliment the sturdiness of the fiberguard and the cover.

Jig manufacturers don't know where or how you will be using their jigs, so they usually make the fiberguards extra long and extra thick so you can always cut them shorter or thin out some of the fibers as you see fit. I kind of think of it like when you buy a pair of dress pants. The pants legs come untrimmed but the pants manufacturer never expects you to wear the pants like that! No, you are expected to trim and hem the pants to the ideal length for you. Same thing with a jig's fiberguard! The manufacturer expects you to thin them out and trim them down to suit yourself!

Here's how to make a jig that is just snag-resistant enough for you to consistently get it back out of the gnarly places you'll be throwing it:

1) Press the fibers back to measure them against the tip of the hookpoint and shorten them with a scissors or clippers. Never cut them shorter than just beyond the hook point. Better to trim too little instead of too much.

2) It's hard to envision snagging the hook point straight up dead center. Snags happen because the jig flips on its side and gets caught. Therefore, separate the fiber bundle into left and right halves with your fingers and spread them far to the sides of the hookpoint. In fact, it is absolutely perfect if the fibers form a vee well out to the sides of the hook with no fibers at all directly in front of the hook. Not only does this vee protect the hook from snags, but it also gives the appearance of a crayfish brandishing its claws above its head in a defensive posture just before it gets eaten.

3) Put your thumb behind where the fibers are glued into the jighead. Press at the base of the fibers and push towards the hook eye a few times until the fibers stand almost straight up. They also fan out a bit as you do this. Overall, aim to make at least an inch-wide safety zone as far ahead and out to the sides of the hookpoint as possible.

4) Now test the snag-resistance of the fibers by pushing back on them with your index finger. If too resistant, cut away fibers until you achieve your desired snag-resistance, a "feel" which only comes with experience. Cut them at the base of the stem, where they are glued or molded into the leadhead. You will rarely need the full 30-40 fibers the jig comes with fresh out of the package. Rather, most cover can be fished using 12-20 fibers. It's the pants hem thing again...manufacturers put a lot of fibers so you can trim a few off. Needless to say, if you are using oz jigs on a pool cue baitcaster with 80 lb. test braid, you can handle more resistance and leave more fibers in your fiberguard than if you are using 1/4 oz jigs on 15 lb test spinning tackle.


Keys to Your Jig Fishing Success

Chapter 3
Double Tail Grub Trailers

Trailer Tips

Any body can be cut shorter to make a stubbier, bulkier trailer body. You can use the 15 body to get a thin 4" trailer, cut the nose off the 16 to get a wider 4" trailer, cut even more off the 12 or 17 bodies to get a progressively fatter, slower-falling 4" trailer. As you add bulk, it slows the fall of the lure and vice versa. 

Tail Tips

Because many bass hit jigs as they are falling, the fall rate is one of the most important strike-triggering variables with which to experiment. Above, we discussed the body bulk as one way to vary the fall. The size of the tail is a second way. A longer, wider tail falls slower. A third way, of course,  to vary the fall rate is with different weight jig heads. In fact, I usually focus on the jig weight as the primary means to get the desired fall speed. I typically use variation in the body length, bulk and tail as the means to give me the trailer size and action that appeals to the mood of the fish on any given day. Once I get a feel for the size of body and tail that the fish seem to be eating best, then I will calibrate the fall speed by using heavier or lighter jig heads while keeping constant the body/tail size that seems to appeal most to the fish at any given moment.

Typically the series 15 tail is used for large numbers of small fish. The series 16 tail will catch fewer numbers of small fish, but a larger average size of fish from two to four pounds. The series 12 tail is best for bigger "kicker" fish and also best for flipping into tail-tearing cover. You see, the series 12 is extra-fortified with a wad of thicker plastic at the juncture where the legs meet the body. So the 12 tails tear less in grabby cover. The 17 trailer works best for the biggest bass of all, and it's a great night time trailer.

As we already discussed in Chapter 1, you can pare back the curved sickle-shaped tips of the legs to match the moods of the fish, and you can see some photos of trimmed tails there. Some days, bass desire lots of action from the tails. Other days they may only want a very subtle flapping action. As you experiment with trimming the tails, better to trim little by little instead of too much. As you trim down the double tail trailer, you can get any gradient of action you want from "double twisty" (uncut) to perfectly flat/straight (fully-trimmed). The best action can often be somewhere in between - and only gotten by careful trimming that will still leave some stifled flappin' action. As you look at the tails in the photos, try to envision different ways to trim their action. You will quickly realize that there are an infinite number of cutting angles - the ways you can trim are only limited by your imagination. Some days, it may not matter at all. Some days it may matter a lot! Just keep it in mind.


Keys to Your Jig Fishing Success

Chapter 4
Skirts

Skirt Types

Flat Silicone: The best features of silicone are the attractive color patterns that can be combined into a skirt. Silicone can be made in many hues of the rainbow. It can be made opaque, clear or translucent...with a living pearlescent sheen... with any colors of fine or coarse metallic flecks...with laminated cross-hatchings to resemble scales or barred baitfish patterns. An ardent tackle tinkerer can  blend any or all varieties of the above in longer or shorter lengths to customize a silicone skirt that rivals the realistic appearance of a flytyer's hand-tied streamers! As for commercial manufacturers, most produce basic stock colors for jigs...typically dark and drab...plus a few special patterns uniquely of their own design! It's worth it to do a little homework to compare and contrast the unique concoctions of silicone patterns across several manufacturers, in retail stores and mail order catalogs. You just may find that special pattern that's particularly appealing to the fish in your local waters!

Silicone skirts are usually held together using elastic neoprene bands to keep the flattened strands gripped tightly in place on the jig collar. Neoprene bands offer the flexibility to remove and change silicone skirts from one jig to another. 

Rubber: Typically available in two diameters - regular and fine hair - and usually only in solid opaque colors. Nevertheless, many jig masters prefer rubber because of its exorbitant movement in water. On the move, rubber wriggles more than silicone. When it is paused, rubber springs out as if opening an umbrella, and it waves all around even when the jig sits motionless on bottom in front of a fickle fish.

Rubber, being slippery and squishy when wet, usually does not stay in place under a neoprene band. Often, rubber is wrapped with wire to tie it rather permanently in place on a jig collar. This can be considered an advantage in that short-striking fish cannot pull the skirt off the jig collar. Once the skirt is pulled down, its illusion of life is lost. A short-striker typically will not pick it back up a second time unless the skirt stays in place in proper position.


Keys to Your Jig Fishing Success

Chapter 5
Pork Talk
All you need to know about pork trailers

Lots of guys have been asking me about pork frogs versus plastic lately. In fact, it seems to be a perennial debate as to whether to use pork or plastic as jig trailers on multi-strand rubber or silicone skirted jigs.

As for me, I do use pork, and I do adhere to most of the pork advice given by Denny Brauer as far as size and color. I use not only chunks on fiberguard jigs, but also wafer thin pennant-shaped strips from Uncle Josh on hair jigs (see Bucktail Hair and Feather Jigs), plus I use sinuous split tail pork eels from Uncle Josh to embellish spinnerbaits and certain soft plastics (see The Horror of Fishing Spider Grubs).

Pork is meat and it was alive once. Crack open a brand new jar of pork rind and sniff it yourself. It does smell delicious. Dip a fingertip in the juice and lightly touch it to your lips, it does taste good. Now sniff a bag of your soft plastic trailers and put one of them on your lip...smells like and tastes like plastic to me, and if you have sensitive lips, it may even leave behind a burning sensation. I wonder if plastic tastes and smells as caustic to the fish?

Salty and juicy. When I believe the bite is going better on pork rather than plastic trailers, I will replace my pork trailer every 20-30 minutes because I am convinced that the concentrated saltiness and juice coming out of the pork is like a "burst of flavor" that fish savor. After 20-30 minutes, I consider all the taste to be leached out, and I put it back in the jar to reconstitute itself for the next trip. Salt in living (or once alive) tissue is like that. It will rebalance itself so the salt level in both the pork and the salty solution will equalize given some time. What this means is that ultimately your pork solution will lose salt, so get a box of Kosher salt and add a partial teaspoon of it to your pork solution every couple of trips. You really only need to add a few grains of salt.  It's crusty and corrosive stuff, so make sure it only gets into the jar and it doesn't coat the jar's rim like a Margarita glass. If it does, you're going to have salt stains and corrosion all over your tackle box.

Whittlin' on Pork. I know a lot of people who will trim some meat off the fatty side, slice, dice, whittle channels in the pork belly, split the "claws", and otherwise cut or carve up various parts of the pork. Yes, I do use softeners like glycerin to emulsify stubborn pork that is too thick or hard to use, but I do not modify pork. Modifications have never resulted in more bites FOR ME. There's so much effort that goes into fishing, and so many other little bait modifications that I make, but the task of slicing and dicing pork is not something I think is necessary TO ME, Unless of course, you outfish me with it. THEN I'll be the first one slicing and dicing when we go out together next time. But left on my own, I'll not put a knife to my pork. This is my modus operandi with all baits anyway...I spend so much time fishing and preparing for fishing that I basically avoid modifying any bait if at all possible.

What someone else says. I've just mentioned what I DON'T do, and I've also mentioned what someone else (Denny Brauer) has been said to do. Now, here's an original and unusual pork set-up that I do like. I haven't seen too many other people use it. It involves a Strike King Bo-Hawg Leech. This is a chunk-headed, fish-shaped pennant of pork. I often use this on lightweight fiberguard bucktails in shallow cover - but it will work on any silicone jig as well, especially if you trim the silicone way short. But how I like to use it is as a total ALTERNATIVE LOOK to a standard skirted jig and chunk. So, I use deer hair - not silicone or rubber on this specialty set-up. White hair/white Bo-Leech or black hair/black Bo-Leech. I tie a very short, very sparse, tightly flared bucktail - only enough to imitate a bait's gills breathing. The chunky part of the pork leech resembles an egg-filled sway-bellied baitfish TO ME. The thin, tapering pennant part of the leech's tail completes the illusion of a baitfish's fluttering tail IN MY EYES. I have no idea if the leech's pork chunk head signals a pregnant belly to the bass, but I do believe that bass instinctively realize that gravid female fish are full of high energy content roe. This may also be the reason why orange-bellied baits are successful, because they simulate the appearance of egg clutches of some aquatic creatures.

Why? Because pork or plastic chunks will eventually cause you to lose something - BIG BASS. The pork or plastic chunk will ultimately fold over your hook point, and prevent the hookset from penetrating the maw of THE BIG ONE. Even your heaviest flippin' stick can't drive your sharpest hook through a pork chunk. Trust me, it will happen to you...it's not a matter of if but when! Not so with the fat, feisty double tail grubs. You thread them all the way up onto the hook shank, and lock 'em on with a little shot of superglue. The body is much more compact than the fleshy pork chunks (or plastic pork), and the double tail grub can't get in the way when a fish bites. The most commonly used size is 5" for largemouth on heavier flipping jigs, and 4" for smallies on small to medium jigs.

Anglers rarely use the bulkier 6" or 7" sizes of double tail grubs at all, but they can effectively be pinched down to from a squat, bulky trailer. Once pinched short, it can be threaded up onto the hook shank and held in place with superglue...or you can also just impale it on the hook bend like you would a pork chunk. Just slip a toothpick into the plastic sideways ahead of the hook to help prevent bass from tearing it off so easily. This option is not at all unlike rigging a pork or plastic chunk, but without as much risk of losing your bass of a lifetime because the grub body is more compact and interferes less than a bulbous chunk during the hookset.

On the double tails, either threaded or impaled, I rig it "flat" for the illusion of crayfish claws or for more "lift" as I swim the lure. Surprisingly, I also rig it "straight up" which you will rarely see people do with a double tail. I think it more closely imitates a wide-bodied shad, shiner or bluegill when the double tail is rigged straight up, and the grub body pinched down really short so the tails barely extend past the jig skirt strands! Why not try it yourself?

In cold water I have noticed the active movement of the twister legs on a lure such as a double tail grub may discourage some lethargic bass from attempting to pursue the lure. It gives the illusion that the bait is too agile and discourages the bass from pursuing it. In these cases, trim back the curved sickle-shaped tips of the lure legs to produce only a very subtle flapping action. Better to trim little by little instead of too much. In a certain sense, you are converting the twister tail to behave more like a plastic chunk.

When I trim down the legs of the double tail grub trailer, I can get any gradient of action I want from "double twisty" (uncut) to perfectly flat/straight (fully-trimmed). However, the best cold water action is somewhere in between - and only gotten by careful trimming that will still leave some stifled flappin' action. If you look at the tails and try to envision different ways to trim their action, you will quickly realize that there are an infinite number of angles - the way you trim is only limited by your imagination!

Pinch it short. I trim not only the curved tails in cold water, but I also have flexibility to pinch the body shorter too. What I mean is, I can use the 4" BODY unpinched to get a thin 4" trailer - or I can pinch the tip off the 5" BODY to get a wider 4" trailer - or pinch even more off the 6" to get a bulky 4" "pig". THEN I trim down the twister TAILS to get more or less action out of them, okay?

 
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