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Getting the Hang of Spider Jigs

By Russ Bassdozer

I confess. I often hear people - even good anglers - confess they cannot get the hang of fishing the spider jig. You also hear this a lot about the jig 'n pig (a multi-strand silicone or rubber skirt with a plastic or pork chunk trailer). All I can say is with either a spider jig or a jig 'n pig  - DO NOT RETRIEVE THEM! When you think of spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits, topwaters, you cast way out and retrieve them horizontally...but with the spider jig, I just pitch, flip or toss them close in and let them drop down vertically, often getting hit on the drop or in the first ten seconds that the spider jig sits motionless on bottom.

In my experience, I have gotten far fewer hits trying to "retrieve" a spider jig horizontally across bottom. I have rarely gotten hit trying to retrieve them ABOVE bottom without making bottom contact. After many years, I play my percentages by NOT fishing spider jigs horizontally at all. Sure, I may miss a few "horizontal" bites like this, but I feel I will get more bites from making more vertical drops in the time I would have otherwise wasted on a low percentage horizontal retrieve with a spider jig. So think more vertical dropping the bait than horizontally retrieving it for starters...that's the biggest tip I can give you for spider jigs...and for jig 'n pigs too!

You may hear people say they were "swimming" spider jigs across bottom. I cannot speak for anyone else, of course, but what is really going on IMHO is that the spider jigs are being pulled horizontally across rocks on the bottom until they get to the edge of a rock or the lip of a stair-step ledge -- then they are "dropped" vertically off the rock or ledge. So yes, most of the "time" is spent horizontally pulling the jig across bottom, but most of the "hits" happen in the short time it takes the jig to drop over the edge of a rock or a ledge.

On the other hand, Gitzits or tube baits are very, very good to me in horizontal applications. Whereas a spider jig is not a retrievable bait (for me), Gitzits can be retrieved horizontally above bottom and get hits like mad. So, it's a perfectly-matched pair of tools - the Gitzit and the Spider Jig - that Garry Garland offers to you his customers! In other articles at this web site, we have given you lots of good Gitzit tube tips. In this article, we will focus on a few tips for Garry Garland's Spider Jig which is actually a composite lure built from three separate pieces: Spider Jig Heads, Spider Skirts, and 4" Double Tail Grubs.

Garland's Spider Jig Heads. This kind of jig head is commonly referred to as a "stand up" style of jig head. These heads land on the bottom with the hook poised upright. Just the perfect position to allow the spider jig tentacles and tails to present a realistic crayfish appearance! The jig heads have a long lead collar custom designed to hold both the 4" Spider Skirt and 4" Double tail Grub. Just thread the skirt all the way up. Then I use a little shot of superglue to secure the double tail grub behind it.

The right jig weight. I want to be sitting right on bottom with a spider jig. For starters, I am going to think in eighths and fathoms: 1/8 oz. to crawl bottom at one fathom (6 feet); 1/4 oz. to drag bottom at 12 feet (two fathoms) and 3/8 to bang bottom at three fathoms).

The right line. I am going to use at least 12 lb. test on bottom with a Garland Spider Jig. In fact, depending on the daily environmental conditions (wind velocity, turbidity, surface chop, subsurface water movement, etc.) and depending on whether it is an aggressive or finesse bite, I am going to try to get away with 15 to 20 lb. test line if possible.

The right colors. I tend to match the same double tail grub color with the same spider skirt color. In dark water, this may not matter as much, and it may even be preferable to have some small amount of color contrast between the skirt and the tail for the fish to spot easily. But in clear water, I usually match the exact same colors on skirts and tails. I do use a few very subtle skirt/tail contrasts in clear water: pumpkin pepper/chartreuse pepper, smoke sparkle/clear sparkle, and smoke pepper/milky pepper.

When to try a football jig head. Football jig heads have become popular for deep water fishing in rocky lakes, particularly Western lakes with sheer, shady rock walls and bottoms, like in dammed canyons for instance. They are also becoming popular across the entire country now - mostly used on rocky and hard-bottomed water right on the bottom with spider grubs.

Garry's brother, Bobby Garland sells a great football head jig in 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8. All sizes come with 4/0 Mustad Needlepoint hooks. The Mustad Needlepoint is a fine, dependable and strong hook in the 4/0 size. Bobby's not on the web, but he is at 870-481-5363. These football jig heads go great Garry's spider skirts and tails on hard-bottomed structure or rocks that are relatively free of weed/wood/brush. In the rocky areas where footballs are used, the wide sides of the football jig head keep it from getting stuck in cracks. The wide football face is too bulbous and will rock, roll and bounce over small snags and crevices in the rocks, rather than get lodged into them like more streamlined jig heads. With a football, usually the head and not the hook  gets stuck. The wide sides prevent it from getting lodged too deeply, thereby giving you a better chance to gently back it out and continue fishing!

Another situation where footballs excel is when you are drifting spider jigs along in a current and occasionally bouncing bottom as you drift. In these cases, you cast upcurrent, let the jig hit bottom and sweep downcurrent. Most other jig shapes will lay down and die like a dog, rolling and dragging along bottom as the water current pushes pressure against your line which bellies and drags the jig sideways downstream. So, if you are going to be using a bottom-bouncing approach with a spider jig in current, then a football jig is a good choice to use for clean hard bottoms like sand, shell, gravel and rock beds! As the jig sweeps down, the broad sides and balance of the football will keep the hook pointed upright whereas most other jig shapes will roll over on their sides and scrape the hook point across bottom whenever there is a bit of slack in your line.

Anywhere you encounter weeds or brush snags, the football head fails miserably. The bulbous heads get glopped in weeds. The broad head gets hung in fine vees between branches. As you jiggle it, the hook gets stuck too. In these cases, you can step up to a football jig that sports a weedless fiberguard hook protector. Even if the football head gets stuck, the fiberguard will prevent the hook from also getting stuck, and the fiberguard does prevent some of the "green beard" that grows on hooks when you fish around weeds. However, it is usually better to step up from the football to a weedless Arkie style jig.

When to try an Arkie Head. An Arkie head is not as wide or bulbous as a football jig - but the Arkie is wide enough so it won't overturn easily or fall into little crevices easily.  The big benefit for weeds and wood is that an Arkie jig almost always has a heavy protective fiberguard plus the hook eye that is all the way forward on the jig's nose and the nose is moderately streamlined so it that gets through snags and sheds weeds better than a football. That's the compromise -- football best in rocks but poor in wood -- Arkie not as good in rocks but better in weeds/wood. Now, if you are going to leave the rocks behind and get all up into the weeds/brush, you need something even more streamlined than the Arkie...

In weed and brush cover, I use the spider jig superglued on a streamlined pointy-nosed fiberguard jig head. The line tie eye is right on the tip of the pointy nose which is often bullet or arrow-shaped. The fiberguard makes it weedless and snagless and the pointy nose comes through weeds and brush best. I just let it fall through the weed and brush cover until it hits bottom, then I shake it, stir it...and often just wind in my string to drop it into the next spot in the cover.

Apples & Oranges. Spider jigs are very much like jig 'n pigs to me! So maybe think of a jig 'n pig as a big, bulky Florida orange while a Spider Jig is a smaller more delicate tangerine finesse bait! That is pretty much how I envision a spider grub - as a smaller, more refined version of a jig 'n pig for use in more open, clearer water finesse situations with spooky bass. The major differences between a spider grub and a jig n' pig is that the spider jig  offers a smaller silhouette. Plus the spider comes in many attractive translucent and sparkling glitter colors. Other than that, I use jig'n pigs and spider jigs identically - as vertical "dropbaits." I plop one in, drop it down, shake it, stir it...and rewind my string to plop it into the next spot in cover - or drop it down the next underwater ledge.

True, you can also use Gitzits as vertical dropbaits but they aren't substitutes for spider jigs either. Just like apples aren't oranges. Try them both and see which one the bass prefer at any given moment. Sometimes the orange gets 'em and the apple won't.

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