A jig-n-pig may sound like a brand of bacon, but it is the name of an excellent big river bassin’ lure. The jig refers to the jighead part of the lure and the “pig” refers to some sort of soft plastic or pork trailer that is attached to the bait to give it substance and scent. Most people don’t actually use real pork fat trailers anymore but that is where the name came from. The lure comes with a weed guard on it so that makes it a perfect choice for river bassin’ since most rivers are full of structure. However, if you are new to fishing you may need to know that a jig-n-pig is a split personality bait – it has complete polar opposite variations. There is a finesse presentation and a heavy, power presentation of the bait. In each style you’ll be fishing with complete polar opposite line weights, rods and techniques. I’ll attempt to discuss the heavy, power presentation in this article.
It is no surprise that the biggest river bass hide in the deepest structure and holes in the river. However, most lures cannot get into the middle of their living room. They may dance around the living room and pass by windows, but few actually get to where a big river hawg is chillin in his lazyboy. When the sun gets high and bright, is actually when the jig can be at its best. Usually big fish will hold closer to underwater structure during the brightest parts of the day. All this does is position the fish right where the jig is most effective. Since it does have a weed guard, don’t be afraid to really drop it into the thickest log jams. Feel free to skirt the edges of these areas with your treble hook baits, but when you have a jig on, get it deep into the junk!
What structure is good for a pig-n-jig? Usually you want to throw the pig-n-jig on wood, rock and other thick debris. Very grassy and weedy rivers are better suited for a Texas rig bait of some sort, but there are jigs built more for grass. The weed guard on most jigs will often collect weeds and algae in weed infested rivers so that is why they are not as effective in those environments.
What weight should I use? This is a question that just takes time to learn and understand. It really all depends on the structure you are fishing. In reality if I could have more than four rods to fish with on my kayak I would probably have several with the exact same jig, but in different weights. If I am fishing a thick matted bunch of debris, I may want as heavy as an ounce or an ounce and a half to actually punch through the matted surface. However, if I am just fishing an older blow down without much matted substance, I may only want to use a 1/2oz jig. When I am fishing in thicker wood structure I rarely go below a half ounce. Over time, depending on how deep and thick the structure is, you’ll just begin to learn what weight you will need. My rule of thumb is that I need just enough to get down to the fish and usually I can feel if the jig is not getting down through the stuff.
Now, some people are shocked when I tell them that I use 50 or 60lb braided line when using a jig, but the problem is that most people equate the line weight to a fish’s size and weight, when in reality the line weight has more to do with the structure you are fishing. Line weight has very little to do with the actual weight of the bass you are after. The heavier the line weight, the thicker, and therefore the more abrasion it can resist. If you throw a jig into a thick brush pile and actually pull a decent sized bass out of it, the 50lb test may actually be damaged down to about 15lb test by the time the line is scraped over all those limbs. So, just think what would happen to the line if it started out at 20lb test – it would have broke! This is just an example, but just make sure you have enough of a buffer zone in your line weight to get you through the fight with a big fish through that structure. You may only need 20lb test, but over time you’ll learn about what you should have on your reel.
Similarly, the rod you use is more for the type of structure and lure you are fishing and not as much for how much the fish weighs. I prepare all of my equipment for the largest bass I am trying to catch, because at the very minimum it (line, rod, hooks etc.) needs to be ready to handle that big challenge. For me, I am gunning for the biggest fish in the river – the 4lbers and up to 10lb plus bass. To catch one of these big fish on a pig-n-jig out of thick wood debris you will be most effective with a 7 to 7 ½ foot rod, in medium heavy to heavy action. I like a 7 ½ foot heavy action when flipping jigs into this thick stuff. Can you catch fish this way on a 6 or 6 ½ foot rod? Sure, but I think you will lose a lot of power and leverage and, therefore more fish as well.
Some people ask me, “What is a jig supposed to be, it doesn’t look like anything.” It is a good question and for someone, like me, who is obsessed with having a realistic, lifelike presentation, it presents a problem. However, what you need to know about a pig-n-jig being fished into thick structure is that it is dark down there and whatever a fish is ambushing, they don’t get a great look at it anyway. Plus, bass are programmed to react first to anything that is an eatable size that lands in or swims by their strike zone, and then ask questions later. They can always spit it out if it is just a stick or something that fell in the water. So, the key is to get it into their face and force them to react to it. When they do, you need to lay into them with a hard hook set immediately – don’t wait.
I still like to make my jigs look as realistic as possible when fishing clear water. This is why I like to match my trailers as best I can with the color skirt I am using. I like any sort of natural color, like green pumpkin, watermelon and various browns. Sometimes I will add some chartreuse to the tail of my trailer so that the lure looks like I bream swimming under the water. If you are in an area where the fish are feeding more on craw fish then try browns and even mix in a little purple or blue, depending on what the craw fish in your local stream look like. For stained water I feel that black and blue, or any combination of the two are the most productive and popular colors. You can simply hook a trailer straight through or thread it for about an inch before coming back out. I thread my trailers on some because I like the meat of them to get down on the shank, but it does lose some of its life likeness when you do that. However, when they grab it they hold on because there is some consistent bulk there. I think its mostly a reaction bite anyway when you are flipping in heavy cover so whatever works for you, go with it. If I am fishing it in a more finesse way around rock I may mix up how I want the trailer on there to make it look as lifelike as possible.
You may have to be patient when fishing this lure, but if you hang in there and learn it you’ll see why it is one of the most popular big fish baits there is!