Bladed jig lures provided a solid year
Looking back on my 2021 fishing trips, it is clear that the category of lures known as bladed jigs accounted for a significant percentage of the bass that boarded the Bass Cat.
Bladed jigs gained traction in the bass world 15 years ago after a South Carolina lure tinkerer told his fishing buddies he had been working on a new bait that vibrated so hard it made his teeth chatter. The name ChatterBait took hold and soon hooked thousands of bass anglers.
I was among those who bought a few ChatterBaits during the initial surge in their popularity, but they served only as back-up baits for many years, something I tied on only rarely.
That started to change a few years ago as I learned more about bladed jigs and experimented with how to fish them most effectively in and around aquatic vegetation.
ChatterBaits and other varieties of bladed jigs are particularly well suited for weedy waters. Despite their open hook design, they are surprisingly snag-proof. Featuring a squared-off metal blade in front of a swinging jig head dressed with a rubber strand skirt, ChatterBaits push a lot of water that tends to flush vegetation away from the hook point.
When the bait does bog down in the grass, a firm tug with the rod will snap the lure free of the greenery. That is the moment when many of your strikes will occur.
Bladed jigs play important roles in the tactics of anglers at Mosquito and Pymatuning lakes, both of which have morphed in recent years to support thousands of acres of aquatic vegetation. Largemouth bass, crappies, yellow perch and a variety of forage fish prefer the grassy habitat for hiding and hunting.
Mosquito’s northern pike and Pymatuning’s muskies also love the weeds.
Bladed jigs do a great job of mimicking fleeing food such as perch, shad, bluegills and other small fish, as well as crawfish. They are the ultimate cast-and-wind baits, as their design creates all the action that makes them so appealing to predators.
While they work great around aquatic vegetation, bladed jigs also are effective in lakes void of grass. They will tease largemouth and smallmouth bass cruising sand and gravel flats at Berlin, Milton and Shenango Reservoir. I have boated many bass that blasted my bladed jig as it chattered past stumps and rocks.
Anglers working bladed jigs typically rig them on medium-heavy baitcasting rods. I prefer a 7-foot 3-inch rod for bladed jigs and tie them to 50-pound-test braided line or 20-pound-test fluorocarbon. The long rod delivers a powerful wallop on hooksets and the stout line is vital for wrestling big bass from the cover.
I like to thread soft-plastic trailers on the jig hook to add bulk and action. When I want a smaller profile, I add a Strike King Rage Tail Menace, a twin-tail grub. If I want a bigger, bulkier profile, I thread a 5-inch Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper, a boot-tail swimbait. I also like the Yamamoto Zako-style swimbaits.
In most situations, I prefer green pumpkin and other dark colors. In early spring, red is a great choice, while black and blue are good colors for stained water. Perch-colored Chatterbaits are great at Mosquito and Pymatuning. When the bass are keying on shad, white and chartreuse are good choices.
Bladed jigs loomed large on my 2021 scorecard, especially in the August-to-September transition, and I’m banking on them playing a big role when I return to my favorite lakes in the spring.
Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing includes lessons learned during a lifetime on waters across the U.S. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.