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Jig No Pig!

By Russ Bassdozer

Hold the Pig. Most anglers today continue a long bassing tradition of using pork frog chunks with their jigs. Some advantages to pork are its saltiness and its fluid, life-like movement. Heck, it was alive at one time. Pork has to be stored in a bottle of brine solution, otherwise it dries out, gets rock hard, and you have to use a hacksaw to get it off your jig. Uncle Josh has been making pork frogs that have been bagging big bass forever. Stike King is the new kid on the pork block and their "Bo" chunks are perceived by some as the newer, improved model pork chunks. Some super sharpies put a few drops of glycerine into the brine solution to tenderize their porks, thereby making them more supple and fluid. But the glycerine also shortens the shelf life of the pork - unless you freeze it between trips. The problem here is if you are like me and forget to take it out of the freezer. Unfortunately, pig chunks are not what this article is about, so you may not read any more about pig chunks in here.

Stop Hurling Chunks. Some non-traditionalists hold off on the pig chunks and substitute with copycat plastic chunks that imitate the pork frogs in shape and size. Some advantages of plastic chunks over real chunks are that the plastic does not dry out or need to be kept in a brine bottle that leaks corrosive salt stains all over your tackle bag. Importantly, manufacturers can get pretty creative with the plastic shapes and colors. Anglers like that and buy many shapes and shades of plastic pork! Manufacturers like that! However, plastic chunks of any shape or size are just not what this article is about, so you may not read any more about plastic chunks here. Just one last thing though, there is a general feeling among anglers that pork chunks work best in cold water, like deep winter fishing, and that plastic chunks work best in summer time. You figure it out and maybe you can write about it, okay? But not in this article.

What's it all about? This article is about neither pork nor plastic chunks, although they both produce plenty of big bass. This article is about fishing big bass jigs with twin tail grub trailers instead of hurling chunks. The article will feature the best I know, which are the double tails available from Yamamoto Custom baits. But before we get into the twin tail trailer, let's review the basic anatomy - and the variables - of the jig itself.

What are the Variables? There is a long list of variables to be decided upon in selecting a jig to use, such as: 1) the lead head (shape, weight, color, collar) 2) the hook (bend, wire gauge, plating, etc.) 3) the fiber fanguard 4) the skirt and skirt collar, 5) the trailer, 6) the rattle. In ther next few sections, let's take a closer look at each of these variables.

The Leadhead. Concentrate your bass jigging efforts on ¼ ounce, 3/8, and ½ ounce weights. You will find much less of a need for lighter or heavier weights. As far as the color of a jig head, it’s really not too important. I fish all my leadhead lures (jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits) unpainted. THE BASS THAT I CATCH COULD CARE LESS. If you make them yourself, as I do, then you know the painting process is the most laborious step in making jigs. Just skip it. It took me years of inhaling paint fumes to learn this one simple truth: jigheads are just molded hunks of metal. Believe me, I used to make some real art museum pieces with up to 7 colors and eleven coats of paint, eyes, sparkles in the clear coat - the works. Unfortunately, the jighead is not the attraction, the jighead is the tool that delivers the skirt/trailer. It is the skirt/trailer that provides the allure, the attraction, the seductive come-hither. The jighead shape and weight are far more important than its color. The shape of the jighead must be expertly designed in order to present your skirts/trailers to fish at the most receptive angle, depth, fall rate, and ANGLER-IMPARTED MOTION. This shape needs to snake through grass, bang through rocks, bounce through wood, stand up on the bottom, and through it all, AVOID SNAGGING OR FOULING WITH DEBRIS. It is a very desirable quality for the jig head to stand up on the bottom. That way you can keep the jig in place, yet still activate it with a life-like rocking or shaking motion imparted with the rod tip. Personally, I am not too interested if the jig “kicks up bottom debris” though. Most of the time, I am on bottoms where there really isn't anything to kick up – I just want it to shake or rock in place. Drop many jigs to the bottom and they will land and want to lay on their side, not upright, especially with a big trailer attached. This laying on their side is often what gets jig heads snagged too! 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. So your mission is to find a head design that places the center of gravity at the bottom of the head, so it lands upright every time. Also, it must have a pointy leadhead nose so that it is far more weedless than other head shapes. It doesn't have to be an elongated nose either; it can be a snub nose.The important point is that there is absolutely no crevice where weeds can lodge between the eye of the hook and the nose of the jig. And, when some weeds do get caught on the line and travel down to the jighead, the nose design must allow you to snap the rod tip crisply to easily shed off any debris that may have collected on the jig. So, try to find a jighead with a short, streamlined pointy nose – and an underslung, wide, flattened or roundish belly section. Also, recognize that this wide belly is the center of gravity as the jig falls through thick weeds, drops through drowned tree limbs and such. So, it will drop horizontally – belly-first rather than nose-first – which means to drop weedless and snagless. And don't forget to stay alert for bites as it drops - you will get most of your hits on the drop, especially the initial drop when you first cast, or on subsequent drops, as you lift the jig and let it fall, lift the jig and let it fall.

The Hook Itself. Look for a medium wire gauge hook for spinning (¼ & 3/0; 3/8 & 4/0; ½ & 4/0) and a heavy wire gauge hook for baitcasting (¼ & 4/0; 3/8 & 4/0; ½ & 5/0). Note the repetition of “4/0” in the preceding sentence. Because many people use pork frogs or plastic chunks, most jig manufacturers today use a wide-gap, round bend hook . The wide, round bend seats the frogs and chunks better than any other hook style. The very strongest hooks will be forged, although these are rarely found in the round bend models. Many jig manufacturers today are using jig hooks that have the line tie eye bent horizontally as opposed to the traditional jig hook which has a vertically-aligned eye. There are even some claims that the horizontal eye imparts better motion, or makes the jig more snagless, or makes for a better hookset. Personally, I make and use them both ways and I can't tell any difference. Can you?

Flipping vs. Casting Jigs. If you look through lure catalogs, you may notice manufacturers making a distinction between what they label flipping versus casting jigs. The only material difference should be a thinner wire diameter and sometimes a smaller casting jig hook size. Sometimes the shape of the casting head is slightly different than the shape of the same manufacturer’s flipping jig head.

  • Flipping jigs have heavy gauge wire hooks to be used on stout baitcasting rods/lines to flip or pitch a jig into thick cover (weed beds, wood jams, reed berms, rock piles, etc) at fairly close quarters. You usually pull the boat right up on these spots and flip or pitch from a few feet up to about 20 feet away at the most. When you get bit, you bear down on the gear and haul with great intensity, and you depend on the heavy rod/reel/line to hold together and drag the bass out of there. Sometimes, you can’t even drag them out, and you must bring the boat to the fish instead! I would not want to use the thinner wire hooks on CASTING JIGS with such heavy gear, but even still I do not think the hooks should bend easily, even on an decent fish. Maybe a monster bass could bend the CASTING JIG hook mismatched on heavy baticasting gear, which is reason enough not to use them on heavy baitcasting gear!
  • Casting jigs are designed with thinner gauge wire hooks. They are favored by bank fishermen with spinning gear, who need to cast out to reach heavy fish-holding cover that they cannot get close enough to on foot. You should still be tossing them into nasty cover as usual, but because you are on the bank - you cannot get close enough to flip or pitch with heavy baitcasting gear. You ideally use heavy spinning gear with 20 lb. test line. Casting jigs are also used by boaters whenever you cannot get a boat close up to fish-holding cover, or whenever you are jigging water about 20 feet or deeper, such as deep submerged bushes and sunken roadbeds in man-made impoundments and deep rocky bottoms in natural lakes. You basically use lighter, longer lines in these deepwater jigging applications, and the thin wire of a casting jig allows easier hook penetration on lighter, longer lines. in fact, it would be downright difficult to hook fish in these situations with heavy wire jig hooks designed for shrt range pitching and flipping.

The Fiber Fanguard. The reason to use a fiber fanguard is the desire to get your jig back out of some real nasty places bass use, including downed trees, drowned bushes, thick matted weed and pad beds, pools behind tall walls of phragmites or tulles, etc. 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  Ideally, you want the fiberguard to be just stiff enough to allow you to get the jig back out of where you tossed it. Trimming the fiberguard doesn't have anything to do with how the fish are eating the bait - that gets addressed during the hooksetting phase which we discuss further down. Rather, you make the fiberguard longer, shorter, thicker or thinner solely depending on the type of cover you are fishing.

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 against the hookpoint and shorten them with a scissors. 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.
  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. Needless to say, if you are using ½ oz jigs on a pool cue baitcaster with 80 lb. test spiderwire, you can handle more resistance and leave more fibers in your fiberguard than if you are using 1/8 oz jigs on 12 lb test spinning tackle.

As I mentioned already, I leave the jig head itself unpainted, but I do make use of the fiberguard to add some color accents. On store-bought jigs, you can usually only get clear or black fiberguards. However, do-it-yourselfers can order other colors like red, orange, green, blue, chartreuse, brown fiberguards from the mail-order component catalogs. For instance, I make two tone black/red or brown/orange fiberguards to match skirts of the same colors. And I make tri-tone fiberguards out of blue, orange and clear fibers when I am using jigs that match the crayfish in some lakes that at times appear to be smoky gray with bright orange, powder blue and white markings on their claws and the lower parts of the carapace. If you want to learn more about how to make your own jigs, I recommend the following book that you can order online: Lure Making : The Art and Science of Spinnerbaits, Buzzbaits, Jigs, and Other Leadheads.

The Silicone Skirt. The best general purpose skirts I know are the flat silicone skirts made by Z-Man, who acquired the former RM Industries. Call them at (843) 747-4366. During the 1998 season, there has been a renaissance move back towards round rubber skirts. Now years ago, all jig skirts were made out of rubber before silicone was recognized as a skirt material. The disadvantage rubber has is that it leeches chemicals that cause the skirt to melt over time or upon contact with other reactive plastics, wood varnishes, boat finishes, etc. However, many anglers claim the round rubber skirt is more lively than the flat silicone skirt and therefore catches more and bigger bass. Therefore, round rubber is "hot", reactivity and all. Due to the round rubber rage, two other options have been produced recently. One is round silicone skirts and the second is silicone-treated round rubber. As for the bass I catch, they like flat silicone just fine, and I like the fact that the silicone skirts won't melt the beautiful finish off that Japanese popper that just cost me thirty dollars.

Regardless of whether the skirt is rubber or silicone, jig manufacturers don't know where or how you will be using their jigs, so they usually make the skirts extra long and extra thick so you can always cut them shorter or thin out some of the skirt fibers as you see fit. I trim both the front and rear-facing fronds of the skirt to create an overall willow leaf-shaped "layered look" that presents the silhouette of either a crayfish or a baitfish body. Also, I do not leave too much of the skirt trailing out past the hook.

The Skirt Collar: Most jig manufacturers use a short section of neoprene tubing that holds the skirt in place on the jig collar. Some manufacturers lash the skirt on with wire or thread wrappings. I like the convenience of the neoprene collar. To me, it is better to be able to take the skirt off rather than not to be able to take it off - that is the question.

The Trailer. We already mentioned the desire for a wide, round bend hook because many anglers are fond of pork frogs or plastic chunks. The round bend seats these properly. Also keep in mind that, instead of hurling chunks of pork or plastic, you may at times prefer to thread other things like plastic crayfish or single tail or twin tail grubs onto the hook shanks. Otherwise, you probably would not have read up to this point in the article, right? You will need to carefully superglue the grub trailers into place, otherwise they slip down all the time. So, when you buy jigs, look for ones that keep the entire hook shank clear from any rattle contraptions. Also, don’t place any faith in any grub holder collars or barbs that are touted by some manufacturers. In my experience, they never hold nothing in place. Only thing that holds them is a little shot of superglue. Just thread the twin tails all the way up the hook behind the skirt and glue them on, they will stay on longer than the plastic chunks, which you will need to secure on the hook by sliding a toothpick horizontally through the flesh of the plastic chunk in front of the hook. Otherwise, the chunk will tear off easily. To get back to the twin tail grubs, just pay no mind if one of the legs tears off. The bass don't care. I always tell people that they put a second leg on these lures so that you will have a spare in case you lose the first one.

The Rattle. Been there, done that. Tried all the brass, the glass, all the rattle packets, pockets, pods, tubes, yo-yos, claw ball inserts, etc. Yeah, sure they all worked when they were new and exciting. Today? I don’t need them, you can have them. I keep them off my jigs.

The Color Guide: Divide your jig color patterns into two series: a crayfish series and a baitfish series.  In the baitfish series, always sling a white silicone-skirted jig with a smoke/silver flake (135) twin tail trailer. This combo represents shad, shiners, minnows and such. Z-man has a series of semi-translucent white skirts called “glimmers”. They have overtones like gold, blue, etc. Sunlight gives a living, vibrant sheen to the glimmer colors. Also, consider a “rainbow trout” pattern which is green back/black flakes with white/pink glimmer belly. Works well everywhere, even where rainbow trout don’t happen. Might want to toss a “golden shiner” or “shad” pattern too. On all these skirt patterns, try the smoke trailer with silver, gold or copper metal flakes to match. What the smoke-colored trailer gives you is contrast against the white-bellied skirts. Contrast is an important thing in a lure. You can also try a white single tail grub trailer instead of the twin tail. Many anglers feel strongly that the single tail grub trailer represents a baitfish better than the twin tail, but I don't think the bass feel as strongly about this as some anglers do. And if we were writing about pork (which we aren't), I might tell you to use a white Strike King Bo Leech, which is a chunky fish-shaped pennant of pork. Or I might tell you to buy a bottle of Uncle Josh Offshore Bigboys, which comes with two large pork rinds for marlin and tuna, but that you can cut into 14 bass-sized, fish-shaped pennants. But we're not writing about pork, so I won't tell you those things.

Another baitfish pattern is fire tiger and its derivatives, which on a jig can represent yellow perch and sunfish patterns. These gaudy patterns provide increased visibility in thick cover, in stained water, or for highly active fish in spring and fall, particularly pre-spawn. Try white twintail trailers with the figer tiger family.

When bass are on crayfish (and they usually are), match the color. When crayfish are greenish brown with orange spots, use a brown/orange skirt with smoke rootbeer/green & copper flake (236) twintail trailer. When crayfish are black/red, try black/red skirt with black/red flake (051) trailer. When they're blackish brown, try the black/red skirt with watermelon/black & red flake (208) trailer. In clear water, crayfish are sometimes smoke-colored with powder blue, bright orange and white accents on their claws and bellies. A good clear water match is a clear crystal/copper flake skirt with a smoke/copper flake (163) or clear/bronze flake (200) twin tail. When I make this one, I make a matching tri-tone fiberguard of blue, orange and clear fibers. The twin tail colors referenced here are Gary Yamamoto’s and the skirts are Z-Man's.

In dark or dingy water, I like a black skirt with an orange trailer for contrast. You can use a black laundry marker to spot and mottle the orange trailer. At night, start right off with some contrast in the skirt itself - use a black/chartreuse skirt. Then add more contrast by sweetening it with a light brown trailer such as amber honey/copper flake (182) or root beer/gold flake (149).

The Fall Rate: Many anglers consider that changing the trailer is the thing  to do to alter the fall rate of a jig as it descends to the bottom. As you may know, most jigs get hit by bass on the fall. So anglers use bigger trailers to slow down or smaller trailers to speed up the jig's fall, thereby achieving the ideal fall rate to trigger more bass. To the contrary, I disregard the trailer's effect, and I use a heavier or lighter weight of jig head to achieve the desired fall rate. I find I can control the fall rate far more effectively by switching the weight - and shape - of the jig head while keeping the desired size, shape and buoyancy of the plastic trailer intact the way fish seem to want that at any given moment.

Hot and Cold Running Bass. In hot water, slower is not always better on the descent. I've noticed sometimes when the water is hot during the summer that bass eagerly hit heavier than usual jigs as they are falling faster. In cold water I have noticed the active movement of the twister legs on the twintail 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.

Where to Fish 'em. A lot of articles have been written about how to fish jigs in wood, rocks or weeds like milfoil. This article is different. We will tell you how to fish jigs in the tall grass. Tulles are the most common tall grass in the West and phragmites are the predominant tall grass in the East. Phragmite berms grow everywhere that largemouth grow out East. Cattails are second most common out East, but not nearly as invasive as phragmites. Phragmites are much harder on your line than tulles, seem to grow closer together than tulles - but bass seem to me to use all varieties of tall grasses in the same manner. 

Most informed anglers will know to fish natural points made by the tall grass, but fewer anglers realize that they also should fish any indentations made in grass walls. Like where there are long stands of tall grass, look for any small indents that would make you feel as if you had a little buffer or safe haven, like you were tucked away out of the wind and water current if you were a bass, okay? On a regular day, look for agressive bass to be in the pockets themselves, but on off days or cold front days, look for little baldy patches 2-5 feet further behind the apex or pocket of the indent where otherwise thick-growing canes create a wind and current break zone. Drop your baits back into the tall grass behind the indent into the baldy spots which are 2-5 feet back further than the end of the pocket. Sometimes you have to wait for the wind to blow so it sweeps back and parts the reeds, and creates a brief opening for you to drop the bait into the bald spot.

An interest thing about tall grasses is that they act like a natural heat exchange system between water and air. Each individual stalk transmits heat down into the water from the air during the cool months of spring and fall, or allows heat to escape up the stalk from the water into the air during the hot summer months. I like to fish deep into the heart of dead, dried phragmite beds on the first warming days of spring for just that reason! You will find all kinds of fish - not just bass - banging off the reed stalks back there.

Setting the Hook. Now that we have talked about the jig itself and where to fish 'em - let’s move on to the hooksetting phase! Here's how. Let's assume you are fishing thick cover. As a fish picks up the jig, the bass may keep moving towards you swimming straight out of the cover or off to one side. There is speculation that bass may do this because they may expect the bait to be struggling furiously and the bass needs to be prepared to spit out and retake the bait in order to get a better grip or better control of it, they will move out of cover over more open bottom where the bait cannot find hiding as easily. Whatever, you just continue to reel in deliberately and at the same time move the rod tip down and extend your rod arm down in front of you. It is definitely not good to let the line go slack or come too tight when you do this. It is usually perfect to find that you are putting slightly extra steady tension on the line. This all needs to happen in the space of a few seconds, sometimes longer if the fish was way back deep in heavy wood and you want to lead her out of the nasty stuff first. Then start to bring your rod up towards your shoulder as you reel faster and sweep the rod tip back overhead. This stretches the line and starts to pull the jig out of the fish's mouth. At that instant, the fish will clamp down hard on the bait and compress it against the roof of its mouth, thereby depressing the fibers and helping the hook point stick in a spot. The hook point has pierced soft tissue now, but not in past the barb. Doesn’t matter if it’s hypodermic needle sharp, just aint set yet. When the fish makes its initial run against a tight line, you must follow through with a couple of short tugs to set the hook past the barb into the fish's mouth. You need to follow through properly before the fish jumps. Otherwise, all will be lost.

Glad You've Made It! Congratulations for reaching the end of this article. We did not mean to imply that pork or plastic chunks are not as good fish catchers as twin tail trailers. They're really just as good in the hands of a jig master. Hope it helps!

Want Even More Grub Fishing Know-How?

This could easily turn into a diatribe if you try to digest it all in one mind-meal. So pace yourself. There's a lot of grey matter about grubs to absorb here. You may even spot some dichotomy betwixt authors and articles, but that's fishing for you! Make no mistake, grubs are universal fish-catching tools. If I had to pick only one lure to use the rest of my life? It would be a grub! - Russ Bassdozer

grubs.jpg (65289 bytes)
All grubs shown from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits.

Big (really big) grub fishing :

Heavy (really heavy) grub fishing :

Topwater (really, no kidding) grub fishing :

Hula grub fishing :

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