Jig fishing is probably the most popular technique for bass fishing in the United States. It has been so for a solid 40 years if not more. I can’t think of another lure that has come through the ages without any significant change and without losing interest amongst anglers. Most other lures have known ups and downs, spinnerbaits, square bill crankbaits, even the venerable Texas rig has evolved and changed. Not the rubber jig.
A jig consists of a lead head, a jig hook, a skirt, and a brush weed guard. The head comes in a wide variety of shapes, the most common are flipping, football and swimming. The hook is important mostly for how the line tie angles with the shank. When football heads will often have a 45-degree angle, other shapes will have a wider angle. The skirt can be made of silicone with bright colors or rubber with more spring and action.
But maybe the most important component in jig fishing is not even the jig itself; it’s the trailer. The trailer is a soft plastic lure rigged on the hook to add buoyancy and action to the lure. This is the most fundamental principle the angler needs to understand.
Obviously, the jig head is getting the lure to sink, but the trailer is slowing it down. So by adjusting the size of the trailer, it’s possible to get the exact descent rate you need. And that’s jig fishing in a nutshell: how fast should the jig sink?
Size is not the only component, shape matters too. Some trailers have moving and kicking legs. This action will act like a parachute and slow down the jig even further. They will create vibrations that can attract and help catching fish. But the main and most important aspect is the effect it has on speed.
So once all of this is established, and we understand the action of the lure will be impacted by the trailer and result in a given sink rate, how do we choose that? It will be a function of the following variables: depth, water clarity, fish species, fish activity. So let’s take a closer look.
Depth means how deep the water is, or how deep the fish are. It usually is the same thing, but keep in mind the fish could be suspended at mid-depth. This is hard to guess beforehand, but if you get bit as the lure is sinking long before it hits the bottom, that’s what it means. But assuming I want to fish the bottom, obviously the deeper the water, the faster I need to get my jig to sink. So I will pick a heavy jig weight like 21gr (3/4oz) and a medium to small size trailer. Conversely, in shallow water, I will choose a light jig head such as 7gr (1/4 oz) or lighter.
As mentioned earlier, the jig is a fishing technique better suited for pike and bass. Pike tend to like big and slow presentation. It calls for a jig with a longer skirt and a bigger trailer. I will also opt for a slower sink rate. I will therefore choose as light a jig head I can get away with. Say I’m fishing in about 3 meters (10’) of water, with sparse grass, I will probably choose a 10gr (3/8oz) jig and a big flapping trailer. Once it reaches the bottom I will lift it off the bottom with the rod tip, at least a meter up the water column, and let it sink on a tight line.
For bass fishing, every scenario is possible. The difference is that bass is more susceptible to reaction strikes. And even though they will hit a big and slow package, under the scenario described above, I would probably choose a lighter jig lure, 7gr (1/4oz), and medium trailer. I would get about the same speed and buoyancy just in a more compact size.
This is a key factor in deciding the type of trailer to use. In muddy water, I want a slower jig, that moves a lot of water. I can achieve that with either an oversized trailer or one with hard thumping leg action. It means I tend to select my trailer first and get a matching jig rather than the other way around based on depth. In clear water, I will choose a faster jigging technique and get a smaller more streamlined trailer. In very clear water I might even choose a straight worm.
There are two ways to go about that. If the fish are actively feeding, it’s pretty easy, get a big fat slow jig. It will be seen from far away and draw feeding fish like a magnet. If the bite is tough, you’ve got two possible strategies: go slow, or go fast!
Going slow will be getting a light head with a medium-sized trailer. The lure will sink rather slowly, and fish it slow with long pauses, small hops on the bottom, and dragging it very slowly. This is a good strategy in colder water and hard bottom.
Going fast means getting a bit heavier head with a medium to small size trailer. This is a reaction strategy; you don’t want the fish to get a good look and have time to “think” about it. I’m here and gone! This is typical summer early autumn jig fishing.