Author: Patrick Reif ….
This year the majority of my good fish(17″+) have come off of jigs. Recently… finesse jig n pigs.
For all intents and purposes, a tube does the same thing, but there seems to be a greater danger of gut hooking to the fish when inexperienced anglers attempt tube fishing. The risk is modestly decreased with a JNP, but the danger is always present if inattentiveness comes into play.
Rule#1. Make sure your equipment is up to par for the job. It can be spinning gear or casting gear, but make sure your rod has enough back bone to do the job. I use a 7’1″ Loomis Mossyback BCR852. It’s a medium power, XF action casting rod with a Daiwa TDA153HST reel spooled with PowerPro 20/6 moss green. I like the added length of the rod when wading and yakking, but have seen a need for a shorter rod when making shorter casts. I’m eyeballing a MH Kistler Helium spinning rod for this purpose.
A ML rod is going to leave you disappointed in the results. You’ll be trying to horse a bass out of wood, rocks, or weedlines, and the extra power of a strong rod is definitely needed to achieve the goal.
Rule #2 . Stay in contact with the bait. When a bass hits a jig bait, they likely view it as a crawfish and immediately work it to the crushers in the back of the throat. If this happens with a jig, the possibility of gut hooking is very real. I’ve found that braided line is the best for me because of it’s sensitivity, but braid has it’s limitations around wood, so straight mono or braid with a flouro leader are absolutely good choices if you have a lot of laydowns in your waters.
Rule #3. As soon as the bite is felt, set the hook. If a bass has grabbed the bait, it’s in their mouth. There’s no reason to give the fish an additional second to get a good hold on it…they already have it where you want it. Prolonging the time til you set the hook can, and often will lead to gut hooking or the fish spitting the bait. That’s not a good thing, but between the two, I’d rather they spit it as opposed to swallowing it.
Jigs come in all shapes and sizes, but I only fish two styles of heads for JNPs; Football, and shakey head.
Football heads are known for being one of the better choices in and around rocks because the oblong head often times prevents the head from hanging and wedging in the crevices.
The shakey head is essentially a round head jig…very common, very basic, and one of the oldest designs of lead heads there is.
The reason I fish such limited head designs is because of an old man who first introduced me to jigs about 15 years ago when all I fished were lakes and ponds. He taught me that a jig is nothing but a pre-weighted hook and should never be looked at with any more of a complicated mentality. I’m not saying he was right, but he sure saved me a lot of money.
I use 1/8oz and 3/16oz weights almost exclusively. The waters I target fish in are rarely over 6′ deep, so heavy heads just aren’t needed.
What is needed is a good hook. I pour my jigs with a thin wire 2/0 Mustad BLN hook. A thin wire drives home with less pressure, bends easier when hung, re-bends back to shape easier after freeing, and re-sharpens quickly. I’ve found the heavier wire hooks can be a real problem in the rocks if they hang. Your not going to bend the hook. You’ll just break it off.
Regardless of your preferred hook, make it a sharp one.
I pour my jigs with a single strand wire weed guard. That’s another preference. There’s nothing wrong with fiber guards, but the wire is very thin and less visible to the fish. The dangers of the wire guard are that they can poke the fish in the eye, or you in the thumb when lipping the bass. Making a slight bend in the end of the wire reduces(doesn’t eliminate) the chances of either happening.
Prior to pouring the jig, the wire weed guard has to have a series of bends that will be embedded in the lead. It’s a couple twists around the tip of the needle nose pliers. If the guard isn’t twisted, the wire will pull straight out. The bends have to put in there. There’s no getting around it. That’s the worst part of making the jigs for me, and absolutely the slowest part of the build.
pouring the jigs go quickly though.
Finesse skirts should be tied sparsely. I was just as guilty of over tying as anyone else when I started tying my own skirts. Thankfully I have a buddy whose been doing it for several years, and he let me know when the amount of skirting material was “just right”.
I buy the skirting material from both Barlows and Janns Netcraft that has the tabs on each end. I cut the skirting material at the half way point, and use one piece for the top, and one piece for the bottom. Any more than one full piece is too much for a finesse skirt.
I use a tying vise and bobbin like you’d want for flies. There are certainly skirting tools available, but I genuinely enjoy tying. It’s a stress reliever for me and the kids like to help, so we have a little time together that way.
More heavily tied skirts can be used in heavily stained waters
I’m shooting my own chunks now. Keep in mind we’re talking finesse jigs. I use the smallest chunks I can. I’m intentionally making a small meal for the bass. My chunk is a 2.5″ trailer with flapping arms. I’ve been super impressed with the results no longer than I’ve had the mold. I haven’t had a skunked day on the water when I’m seriously fishing with these plastics.
Traditional chunks are certainly okay, and they have their place especially when the fish are lethargic or non-aggressive. The important thing is to go with the smallest chunk available. 2-2.5″ chunks for finesse fishing.
Bigger chunks can be used in heavily stained water
I’m gonna disappoint you guys here. You really only need two colors. Something brown or green pumpkin, and black. Sorry. Don’t complicate it. I think color is highly over rated as being a factor in catching fish, and it’s often times the excuse an angler uses when they go home skunked when in reality they just don’t know what they’re doing. Not pointing fingers at anyone , I’m just making a statement based on personal observations.
The day that fish target watermelon over green pumpkin based entirely on subtle differences in the hue of the color is the day I say “****, I don’t know what I’m doing out here today”. I’ll likely never be able to differentiate the stimuli that would cause a bass to ignore one color over another, so I just throw green pumpkin when the water is clear to slightly stained and black neon for stained to muddy water. It’s my “GO AND THROW” style of fishing.
Darker colors should be used in heavily stained water
WORKING THE BAIT
There’s no wrong way to do it unless you lose contact with the bait. Crawl it, swim it, hop it, burn it. Stay on or very near the bottom and stay in contact with it. throw the bait in wood, rock, weed beds, current seams, eddies, along foam trails, ledges, you name it, and a finesse jig will work.
The fish will tell you what they want, but some things to keep in mind are that rain and temp drops may cause the fish to be a bit lazy so it may be time to slow down. Cloud cover or shady areas could make the fish more willing to chase. Super bright sunshine may make the fish hole up. Once again, GO AND THROW. The fish will tell you what they want.
A good rule of thumb is that if you think you’re moving the bait slow enough, slow down.
If you want to use the jig as a search bait, swim it at a slow rolled pace.
Slow down and relax.
I think the reason I like finesse jigs is because it forces me to slow down. I have a stressful job, and I’ve found jig fishing really helps me relax. I can work a jig slowly, and before I know it, my boss isn’t the biggest jerk in the world, my wife isn’t the biggest bitty I’ve ever met, and my kids are back to being little angles again. Almost like therapy to me.
There in a long winded nut shell is finesse jig fishing. There’s a lot more that can be added, so if any of you guys who enjoy it as well have something to add, feel free.
Also, if you have a favorite style of fishing, write something up and explain your style of fishing it and why it seems to work best for you. Could be any bait you want.