They have been around probably for as long as people have fished with a line and a hook, but jigs continue to be one of the more “reinvented” lures in today’s fishing world.
They come in a variety of shapes and styles. Sizes vary from tiny jigs weighing a fraction of an ounce for panfish to huge models that top out at several ounces for offshore saltwater species.
Every year, basement tinkerers carve out new molds for their homemade jigs, and the customizations that work best often make their way to manufacturers who produce them for retail sale. Those tinkerers, typically anglers looking for better lures, have come up with some pretty amazing upgrades over the years.
A jig to many fishermen is a simple ball of lead (or, these days, another heavy metal such as tungsten) with a hook protruding. But my jig boxes include many variations of that hook-and-metal combination.
I carry the basic ball-head jigs to which I thread grubs and other trailers that give the lures a lifelike appearance as I bounce them off the bottom or swim them over structures.
My collection also includes slim-head jigs of various sizes to be inserted into tubes for bottom-bouncing Lake Erie rock piles for smallmouth bass.
The most numerous jigs in my arsenal are flipping-style versions with living rubber skirts. I add plastic trailers to make them resemble crawfish flittering around in the laydowns, brush piles, willow bushes and lily pads.
I also have added swim jigs. They are designed in a fashion that makes them easy to work horizontally, contrasting from the drop-style action of most other jigs. Swim jigs feature pointed, flat-bottom heads that enable them to plane through the water.
Most recently, my jig box has received an infusion of football-heads. They have added a new dimension to my bass fishing, for sure.
Whether ball-head, tube jig, flipping, swimming or football style, jigs are very effective in catching bass, crappies, walleyes, pike and just about every other meat-eating fish.
The football jigs have accounted for several of my best bass this year. So named because their heads resemble a pigskin laid sideways relative to the hook, football jigs are perfect for dragging across underwater structure such as road beds, rock piles, gravel humps and deep weed lines.
I select heavier football jigs, for the most part. Though most other jigs are designed to generate strikes as they fall, football jigs are intended to tease fish that are picking food off the bottom.
Bass, in particular, hit them as they bump along the structure, so I have found no need to resort to light football jigs. I want them on the bottom as quickly as possible. My two most productive sizes are 3/8- and Ω-ounce.
I rig them with a crawfish-style plastic trailer, leaving the pinchers to extend an inch or two beyond the skirt, which I trim to end at the bend of the hook. The bait is compact and enticing, the perfect teaser for a largemouth or smallmouth scrounging for food in the edges around structures.
To be effective as a jig fisher, you need to be especially attentive to what is happening with your lure and line. Some strikes are felt. Far more are seen. Watch your line as the bait heads toward the bottom and throughout the retrieve. Whenever it twitches or starts to move against the current or wind, set the hook.
Jigs get their action from the angler. Drag them, hop them or swim them. Experiment with your retrieve until the fish respond. Then it’s simply a matter of duplicating that action until the fish change their moods.