Basic Fish Catcher: The Jig

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By CAPT MEL BERMAN, 970-WFLA

Most fishing enthusiasts are weird. They drag around gargantuan tackle boxes, packed so tightly with lures they can hardly get the darned thing closed. Yet, if subjected to a reality check, we all could put our most often used artificials in a tackle box small enough to fit in the palm of a hand.  So why do most of us show up for fishing trips lugging a tackle box loaded with every possession we own that is related to our waterborne diversion?

My theory is that anglers have an insecurity —  a basic instinct that’s even more compelling than Sharon Stone’s.  They want to be ready for the fish with exactly the right lure, covering all the variables that go into the competence of artificial baits. Never mind that, before the trip is over, we retreat to that old “sure thing” after a few impatient throws of the new stuff.

As a matter of fact, most seasoned fishing veterans advise going with those time tested favorites. We’re talking about artificials that have earned their place in most tackle boxes on the simple premise that they consistently catch fish. An excellent example would have to be the common jig – a bait that virtually anyone can use with great success.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, “a jig is a jig is a jig.”  In fact there is nary a jig that won’t catch fish. It is undoubtedly one of the most effective lures that anyone can use. Though there are countless variations of this classic design, all are basically worked in the same manner. One simply flips it out, lets it drop, twitches it upward, and lets it drop again. This procedure is repeated several times until it is retrieved back to the angler’s fishing position.

Some enjoy a great measure of success by simply casting the jig out and slowly reeling it in, without jigging. This is especially effective using shad and curly tail styles, which tend to have their own action. Others like to work a jig in mid-water column, twitching it as you would a plug.

Subtle differences in jig head design and color is one way manufacturers trump their competitors. Some jig heads have a slightly flat profile that imparts what they call “an enticing screw-tail action”. Yet, there are others who swear by the more traditional “cannon-ball” shaped jig heads. However, bear in mind that even the positioning of the eye can determine the action of the jig head. But again, most configurations will catch fish

There is a great array of jig tail styles available, including the worm, jerkworm, shad, eel, swirl, and the grub tail. Shad tails have their own wiggle, and require minimal jigging. They have proven to be great starter lures for the novice. The same could be said about the swirl tails, which are basically a grub-shaped tail, with a curl of plastic attached to its rear.

Many old hands recommend that you set aside the urge to buy those bright, blazing colors. Experience has shown that drab motor-oil or root beer colors are the most prolific producers. Gold or silver metal flake tails work well under bright, sunny fishing conditions. The darker colors excel in low light, or on overcast days. Some fishing enthusiasts doggedly stick with a white, glow or pearl. The fact is that all of the above will catch fish.

Tiger-striped tails, available in silver, gold, green and red, emulate chubs or killifish, one of the snook’s favorite forage species. Worked slowly across the bottom of beaches, deep passes and canals, these striped plastic tails are quite productive for linesiders. They can also be irresistible to reds, trout and most other shallow running sportfish as well.

The classic Love’s Lures Tandem Rig is the epitome of a “user-friendly” jig design. It’s an ideal lure for fishing beginners, because it will catch fish with minimal effort. Comprised of twin jig heads fitted with either a grub or swirl tail, the tandem also comes in a great variety of colors. Each jig head is quite light, so it drops very slowly, permitting its use over the shallowest of grass flats. Yet it has excellent castability. Though the tandem is an outstanding starter lure, it will frequently be found in the tackle boxes of many seasoned anglers.

Of course, the most popular variation of the jig concept is the imitation shrimp. Several years ago Mark Nichols invented the DOA – an artificial shrimp that really worked. Though there had been many shrimp lures on the market before, none seemed to emulate the action of those live crustaceans as well as Nichols’ concept. Many anglers work the DOA slowly across the bottom, employing an occasional light twitch to emulate a shrimp dodging a predator. Favorite colors include the natural, light beige, the so-called “measles” color, and these days, a best seller is the DOA “Glo” Shrimp.  In recent years, many have taken to using the shrimp under a cork. And now DOA offers their pre-made rig called the Deadly Combo that has proven to be highly productive for even the novice angler.

More recently, there have been newer generations of shrimp lures on the market which are also accomplished fish catchers. The very wiggly Old Bayside Shrimp has found its way into many Florida tackle boxes. When worked under their own Paradise Popper, the Old Bayside Shrimp is also a very productive rig.

More recently, Florida fishers have been gravitating toward the very highly scented jigs, like the Mister Twister Exude and the runaway best selling Berkley Gulp. Both are composed of mostly biodegradable so-called “fish food.” Very close to using a chunk of live bait, there’s no doubt that these smelly tails will get the immediate attention of fish.

Even for offshore fishing applications, many have had great success trolling and bottom fishing with larger and heavier jigs. Those of us who emigrated from bluefish areas in the northeast, have brought with us those old heavy metal Diamond Jigs and other similar designs. They have proven to be irresistible to amberjacks and other reef and wreck residents. More recently, another entry into our metal jig collection has been the Sumo, a bait that the AJs can’t resist.

Finally, going back in time before the jig domain was ruled by metals and plastics, most everyone used bucktails. Though gradually disappearing from most tackle boxes, the bucktail is still an effective fish catcher and a favorite of many. It’s comprised of a jig head, fitted with strands of natural or artificial hair. As one works the bucktail through the water, it tends to expand and retract, looking almost like a living, breathing baitfish.

Whatever you use, wherever you fish, or whatever your skill level, there is no doubt that you will find the common jig to be your most reliable fish catcher.