BoatUS ANGLER: Bait and Tackle
by Jack Phillips
Jigs are one of the oldest artificial baits used in angling. The earliest examples used a weighted hooks with animal hairs or bird feathers tied to them. The jigs used today are still just that simple, but come in a wide variety of styles. By adding an assortment of jigs to your tackle box will make you a much more versatile and consistently productive bass angler.
Jigs can be broken down into two general categories; those that are designed for light-line use, for smallmouth and finesse largemouth bass fishing; and those designed for the heavier line and largemouth bass in and around cover.
The light-line jigs are a lot less bulky than their larger cousins. The hooks are also a lot smaller. Relatively snag-free conditions are fished with these jigs, allowing the use of spinning outfits with 6 to 10 pound (2.7 to 4.5 kg) lines.
Jig heads come in a large number of varieties, but a few basic styles are all you really need to get yourself started. The standard ball-head is a great choice to begin with. However, the banana shaped head will snag a lot less vegetation in the weedy situations you get into. Other styles, like the arrowheads, can be used in both situations. Add to them a new array of sliders, rockers and wobblers are used mainly by walleye anglers, but horizontally flattened sliders are useful for fishing over and around shallow bass cover.
One of the oldest jig dressings is buck tail. When worked properly, the deer hairs pulsate as the jig is pumped through the water to resemble a darting minnow or baitfish. There is no built in action to jigs. The plastic rails are the easiest jigs to use. Their actions attract bass and can be worked effectively even by the novice angler. Twister tails, shad tails, twin tails and a host of other shapes and actions are also available. Stick to these two common types and you will no trouble attracting those lunker bass.
One light style is the tube jig, its a split-skirted plastic sheath that covers the jig head. You can use standard heads with them, but the newer elongated styles, developed for tubes specifically are of course best. When using a tube you can also use fish scents to help attract more bass. Here's a great bass fishing tip, put a few small chunks of Alka Seltzer in your tubes the bubbles created will drive the bass crazy. The bubbles will also attract bass from a longer distance.
Be sure to use light jigs for largemouth and smallmouth bass in open-water situations. When you are fishing in heavy cover, switch to bulkier flipping jigs with weed guards to help keep them from fouling or snagging. These baits usually have rubber or plastic skirts and large hooks. They work great with a pork rind, plastic or one of the newer trailers. They also add bulk and action and help slow down the jigs fall to better imitate a crayfish or other creature. Use flipping jigs when fishing short-range targets, such as docks, submerged stumps, or holes in heavy vegetation and weedbeds. To pull large bass out of this heavy stuff, use strong baitcasting equipment.
Jigs come in an assortment of colors. Try to match the forage of the water body you are fishing. Blacks, browns, and orange are the standard. When they fail to fool the bass, experiment with the brighter colors, such as yellow, chartreuse, orange, red, or blue. For clear-water smallmouth bass the smoke bodies are effective. Just experiment and get out there and go fishing.