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Jigs for Springtime Lunkers—Part I

Article: March, 2009
 Lake Fork Pro Guide Tom RedingtonFor catching the largest bass that swim on Lake Fork or your favorite waterway, it’s hard to beat a jig in the winter and prespawn. Although it is such a simple bait, I’ve spent the better part of two decades trying to master it, learning on Fork and as a co-angler from jig legends like Richard McCarty, Mark Pack, Roy Greer, Gary Klein, and Kevin VanDam. Although I still miss more jig hits than I’d like, the skills I’ve learned have resulted in many big bass for my guide customers and me, including my biggest ever, a 12 lb 5 oz prespawn bruiser. Case in point, at the FLW Tour event on Guntersville in February, I fished jigs through areas where most anglers were throwing Rat-L-Traps and produced enough big bass for a 36th place finish, including a 7 pounder in the tourney and another between 7 and 8 lbs in practice. Moreover, my co-angler fished a jig with me on day one and caught an 8-5 and an 8-11 (the two largest co-angler bass of the day), and finished day 1 in 1st place with 25 lb 9 oz.

In this article, I’ll discuss gearing up for jig fishing. Next month, I’ll cover the seasonal patterns & presentations for catching lunkers with a jig in Part II.

I start by choosing a jig to match the depth and cover that I’ll be fishing. While there are a number of specialized jigs to cover every application from fishing rocky shores to punching grass mats, I select a general purpose jig for Fork that allows me to fish both wood cover and to work deep weedlines. My preference is the Lake Fork Trophy Lures Mega Weight jig. Its head is streamlined and very small because it is made of tungsten so it’ll penetrate thick brush and dense grass, plus the super hard tungsten transmits a better sense of feel than lead. In addition, a big strong hook is required when pulling monster bass out of heavy cover in the spring, and the Owner hook on the Mega Weight jig is razor sharp and strong. Depending on the day, I’ll fish anywhere from a ¼ to ¾ oz size jig. I normally start with the ½ oz size, but I’ll cover weight selection in Part II.

Once you have selected a jig, it isn’t complete until you add a trailer. Your choice of trailer will alter the size, profile, color, drop speed, & cover penetrating ability of your jig. If I’m pitching to specific targets like stumps, docks, or laydowns, I want a streamlined trailer that will drop straight down instead of gliding away from the target. Furthermore, streamlined baits hurry down and are more effective for bass that are relating to the bottom. When I want a streamlined trailer, I normally go with a Fork Craw and I’ll remove the legs and antennae to make it more compact. Other times, the slower, gliding fall of larger, flatter trailers work well, especially for bass suspended in grass or wood cover. In addition, the flat surface allows you to skip jigs more effectively under docks and overhanging branches. Plastic pork chunk style baits like Pig Claws are the kings of gliding and skipping. To slow the rate of fall and get a lot of action, creature baits like a Baby Fork Creature as a trailer give a jig ultimate action.

Once you’ve decided on a jig and trailer combination, it’s time to select the color. Although sometimes color makes a world of difference, in general, springtime jig fishing seems to be more about lure placement and presentation than hitting on the perfect color. In fact, in winter and early prespawn, I almost exclusively go with the traditional black and blue combinations. It’ll work well in both clear and muddy water and on cloudy or sunny days. Once the water warms up more, color seems to matter a bit more. In clearer water and on brighter days, try natural colors like pumpkinseed, green pumpkin or watermelon. In dirtier water and on cloudier days, dark jigs in blacks, browns, and purples are often better, especially with a little splash of a bright color like chartreuse, red, or orange. Most folks meticulously match their trailer to their jig. While that often works well, I’ve had great results with some pretty obnoxious contrasting colors. For instance, a black blue jig with a green pumpkin or watermelon red trailer is one of my favorites, as is a peanut butter & jelly jig with a watermelon candy trailer. Experiment until you find what works for you on a given day.

Now it’s time to tie your jig on, and here’s where technology makes jig fishing more efficient. New fluorocarbon and braided lines are much more sensitive and abrasion resistant, allowing you to feel light bites and then winch lunkers out of tight spots. In heavy grass and wood, 30 to 65 lb braid is hard to beat. I prefer to tip my braid with a 6’ to 9’ leader of 20 to 30 lb fluorocarbon for reduced visibility to the bass than straight braid. In more open water situations, a straight spool 15 to 25 lb fluorocarbon is almost as sensitive as braid and stealthier, when ultra high abrasion resistance isn’t required.

Finally, you’ll need to rig this all up on a lightweight and sensitive rod & reel. I prefer high speed 7:1 bait casting reels because they are more efficient by allowing me to quickly reel in after working a stump and then fire to the next one. As for the rod, I look for several attributes. A lightweight stick allows you to fish it all day, and a sensitive rod with a fast tip will help detect those light bites (and the bites from the big fish are usually the lightest). Meanwhile, the rod needs to have a lot of power to pull out big fish, while having enough of a tip to pitch or roll cast the jig accurately. Personally, I’ve found the Dobyns Champion Series rods to be perfect for prespawn jig fishing. I normally opt for the 736C model, a 7’3” rod that’s rated Heavy. If the cover is lighter and I’m using fluorocarbon and finesse jigs, the 7’6” model 765C is Medium Heavy and has enough tip to throw the lighter baits. In either case, 7’ and longer rods really help make longer pitches and then give more control over big fish to help land them once they’re hooked.

Now that you’re all rigged up, next month I’ll dive into the wheres and hows of jig fishing.
Good Fishing,

Fishing Tip by  Lake Fork Pro Tom Redington


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