Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fishing with Jigs

Fishing with jigs is an effective, relatively simple, and very popular way to practice our sport. From simple lead heads with nothing attached but a hook to hand-tied lures with each eye and detail carefully hand-painted one at a time by a dedicated angler who makes their own artificials, the bottom-bouncing beauties will produce fish when nothing else will. In this simple article we're going to talk about jigs, what they are, the various styles you can purchase and try, and how to work them effectively.

Jigs bounce off the bottom, and are often struck when they're falling, not when they're actually bouncing on the bottom, where they generate a puff of mud or sand. It's that sound and visual that we feel draws the fish. They also work well with a piece of shrimp - or even a whole shrimp tail or live shrimp -- attached to the hook. They also work great sitting there with a piece of cut bait attached.
Jigs are basically a piece of lead – or increasingly non-lead materials – that is molded in a die onto the head of a standard (and normally very light wire) "J" hook. As is the case with any lure that is designed to keep moving as you work the lure, J-hooks are far more likely to set when you raise the rod tip than a Circle hook, which is best suited for live and/or cut baits.
When Jigs were first invented years ago, they were created with a lead head, painted eyes, and tails tied from the hair found on a deer's tail. Years of urine on the deer's tail hair bleached it as white as freshly fallen snow, and the manner in which the hair "breathes" when it is moved through the water makes it an irresistible attractor to predator fish. The proven lures work as well today as they did in ancient Rome, where we first heard of their use.
Jigs are designed to simulate a live baitfish or crab raising sand or mud on the bottom. Worked correctly they rise from the bottom, and falling back down creates a small puff of material from the bottom. The small cloud created by the angler-created cadence attracts fish as much as the sound they make as they bounce.

Feeling the Strike

When you're fishing with a live bait and a snook decides to hit it, it starts running from a few feet away, picks the bait up, and keeps running. If it's close to structure, it often expands its gill plates and literally sucks bait in. Either way, the way a particular fish strikes a lure differs from fish to fish, depending on the bait, where the fish is relative to where the bait is, and what it perceives the bait is going to do.
When you're fishing with a jig, there are two places a hungry or angry fish is going to be when it sees the jig. It's either above the jig and looking down, or it's below the jig and looking up.
If the fish is above the bait, it's most often going to strike the bait as it's falling. Examples are snook and speckled trout. A redfish on the other hand is normally feeding with it's mouth directly on or a few inches above the surface of the grass, the oyster bar, or rocky bottom. The same thing applies to offshore fish likely to hit a jig fished by bouncing it off the bottom. Grouper and snapper are examples. Like a redfish, they'll most often slam a jig when it hits (and stops) on the bottom: when it makes the cloud of dust or mud or shell from the bottom.

Working a Jig

Jigs have no action at all. Cast them out and leave them sitting there, and they do nothing. Let's look at what you need to do to add cadence – the 'dance' – to the lure.
  • You can use a jig as a weight and hook combination and simply cast it out and leave it sitting there. But to make it do anything more than sit there, try putting a chunk of cut bait or even a live shrimp – hooked at the tail – on the lure. Leaving it sit there will often result in a strike from whatever sees and/or smells the shrimp and the strange thing it's attached to. Amazingly productive for some fish like sheepshead, it is definitely a way to combine lures and natural bait and catch fish with a jig.
  • Cast the jig out and let it fall to the bottom. As soon as it hits the surface and starts to sink, start to count. The time it takes for the lure to drop to the bottom will tell you something about how deep the water is. Casting the same jig to a different place often results in a different count; the water is deeper if it takes longer and shallower if it takes less time. This sounds like common sense, but if you do not start the drop count, you never are completely aware of what is underneath the jig. A lot of times fish will strike as you drop the jig over a ledge, or pick it up from a trench or hole. Be aware of the feel of the jig.
  • Once it stops on the bottom, reel in and lift the rod. The higher you lift the tip of the rod towards the sky, the higher the jig bounces off the bottom, and the more impact it has when it drops.
  • Let the lure drop. The higher you lift the higher it lifts. The higher it is the longer it takes to drop back to the bottom.
  • Fish with different sizes if you do not get a strike quickly. If you're using a plastic tail or a pre-tied bucktail or feather jig, you might want to start with the lightest jig head that will sink to the bottom considering the tide. Heavier lures are easier to cast, too, so consider that when you're picking a jig.
  • Colors can make a difference; change colors often to draw a strike. There are times when fish will hit nothing but white jigs with root beer (a sort of dark red/chocolate color) tails. Other times they will only hit gold heads. A lot of people swear by bright pink heads with pearl tails. But definitely try different colors if the lure doesn't produce. Jigs are very productive, and if fish are feeding and you work them right, they'll draw strikes.
  • Try different speeds and retrieves. Remember, this isn't a swimming plug with special liquid weighting and a keel and action built in from the hooks up. This is a lure that does nothing if you do not add cadence. Work the jig different ways. Work it fast with short snaps and quick retrieves, and work it so slow it isn't even lifting off the bottom, instead dragging and acting more like a crab than an injured (and sinking) baitfish.
  • Change the "Lift". Sometimes bounce the lure high, and other times snap it only an inch or two off the surface. Think of that drawing showing it rising and pausing or dropping. Remember that many fish hit the lure when it's dropping, not when you're lifting it up from the bottom.
  • Take the slack out and then set the hook. If the lure is dropping at the strike, there's more slack in the line than you realize. Lift the rod softly till you feel the weight of the fish. Then set the hook. If you're fishing for soft-mouthed fish like Speckled Trout, do not set the hook, rather simply lift the rod gently to let the slack tighten and start reeling.
Jigs are arguably the most productive all-around lure. You can retrieve them so quickly they'll bubble and cause a wake at the surface; just keep the rod tip high and start snapping the lure as soon as it hits the surface. They can be retrieved and lifted quickly enough so they drop only part way into the water column, and can catch kingfish, mackerel, tuna, and probably a marlin if they're pulled at the right speed, worked properly, and put close enough to the fish so they're seen.
Cast the jig and let it fall to the bottom. Once it does, snap or gently lift the tip of your rod. The higher you lift it, the higher the jig bounces off the bottom, the further it falls when you pause the retrieve, and the harder it bounces when it hits the bottom again. It strikes the bottom and causes a slight cloud to appear, and makes noise. Remember that and you can apply dozens of difference "cadences" to the action (or non-action, more accurately) of the lure you're using. And remember to change color and weight as you're working what you know to be a fishy spot with these outstanding and proven productive lures.
Keep bouncing jigs. They'll make you a better – and definitely a more productive – angler.

No comments:

Post a Comment