By Braden Schuch
A tried and true technique of catching bass which has accounted for itself with many tournament wins.
Catching Bass on jigs is not a new technique, it’s been around for quite a long time but has only become popular with the masses in recent years. Versatility and ease of use are the first things that come to mind when I think about jigs and used the right way, can often yield above average fish to more common techniques.
A skirted jig is basically a jig head with a plastic weed guard protruding out of the head on a 45-degree angle to the shank of the hook, with addition of a skirt threaded over the hook and sat snug against the base of the head. Skirted jigs are commonly used to imitate a yabby or crayfish with these baits being particularly affective in the spring and summer months of the year. There are many forms of skirted jigs on the market, but the most commonly known and used ones are the football jig, swim jig and hybrid jig. All three are very similar in look with the main differences being the shape of the head. Each has its time and place for certain structure types and styles of fishing.
The football jig, as the name suggests has a football shaped head which assists the jig to stand upright on the bottom. This means the hook stays up helping with snag proofing the bait and making it easier for the bass to suck in. This style of jig is great to fish over large flats or where there may be any rock or gravelly rubble bottom. In addition, with a soft plastic craw trailer, this jig props the claws up and gives the appearance of a defensive yabby. There are many different makes and models of football jigs on the market with the most common sizes being ¼ Ounce, 3/8 Ounce, ½ Ounce and 5/8 Ounce. All of these weights have their own use with the main denominator being depth. There is no hard and fast rule for what weight should be used at what depth, it comes down to what feels most comfortable and how easily the jig can maintain bottom contact at the time. A slow drag and pause retrieve with small hops added is all that is needed to entice bites on this jig. If there was one rule to fishing this style of jig, it is that you can never go to slow with your retrieve, so try some different paces and motions to get best results on the day. As with many techniques, work out a retrieve that is comfortable and one that you can get confidence in.
Fishing heavy vegetation is off limits no more, this style of cover is perfect for 4x4ing a swim jig through. With a narrow, slender style head design, the swim jig is built to thread though cover with minimal snags and hang ups. Unlike the football jig, this jig is designed to be constantly moved, due to its head design it is unable to match the action worked on the bottom like a football. The swim jig can be found in many different sizes and designs with the most common weights being 1/8 ounce, ¼ ounce, 3/8 ounce and ½ ounce. These jigs are typically worked through vegetation style cover such as weed or lily pads. Accompanied with a paddle tail style soft plastic trailer, giving the jig a small rolling action on a slow retrieve. As with the football jig, finding a retrieve that suits you and is most comfortable is the best starting point.
The hybrid jig is a mixture of both the football jig and the swim jig, the head is not quite as wide as a football jig but not as slim as a swim jig. This is an all-round jig that can be thrown in most situations and work effectively. The range of head styles in the hybrid family is the most extensive of the jig shapes, with many on the market slightly different to the next. Finding a shape that is wide enough to stand freely on the bottom but narrow enough to come through cover easily is key. These jigs can be used similar to football jigs with close to the same outcome. Bringing hybrids though cover like swim jigs is also effective, but you will find they will not come through thick cover as easily. Hybrid jigs are most effective when being worked through timber or hard cover, slow rises with the rod and controlled descents are the best way to work these baits. Matched with a craw style soft plastic trailer to bulk the skirt out and give it a more aggressive style presentation is what I find works best. Again, finding a retrieve that feels most comfortable is the best starting point with these baits. Just keeping in mind to keep things slow is the best tip.
One of the main key points of fishing jigs is to stay in contact with the jig at all times. With football jigs and hybrid jigs, the bites will typically come on a descending bait after a hop or a movement. Managing your slack line is important to converting bites to catches.
When everything comes together and you get a bite on a jig, the best advice is to stay calm and not strike straight away. 90% of the time the bass will hold on to the jig for a considerable amount of time. This gives you enough time to compose yourself, take any slack up in your line and strike on the fish. Striking on the fish is key to penetrate the hook through the weed guard and into the fish. There is a lot of speculation on weed guards and if they hinder the hooking of fish, I personally do not think they contribute enough missed fish to be a problem. Typically, when a bass eats a jig, they will suck it right down into the back of their mouth. This is shown on your leader with a raspy feeling a few centimetres up from the knot after some fish. So, pay close attention to this after each catch.
I hope this can help you get out on the water and try fishing jigs for bass and expanding your knowledge to become a better angler. The best part about bass fishing is that they are not limited to what they eat, so don’t be afraid of throwing out of the ordinary baits or techniques, you might be surprised with the outcomes.