By CAPT. MEL BERMAN, Florida Fishing Weekly
Of all the lures that clog our tackle boxes, the most common and abundant is the jig. I would suspect that this is an ancient design that has caught billions of fish down through the millenniums. Those who know how to use them can make marvels of lead and plastic catch most sea critters like a fish magnet. But, truth be told, the vast legions of jiggers really need some schooling in the use of these highly productive baits.
One of the first things novice jig users must disabuse themselves of is that the name “jig” can be misleading. Not all jigs are jigged up and down as that name might imply.
The fact of the matter is that most skilled users rarely jig a jig. They might swim it through the water column – slide it across the bottom – and yes, they will occasionally jig and bounce the lure off the bottom.
I personally like to cast out, let it drop – and then sweep the rod tip sharply upward. It’s on the next drop that I could very well catch a fish.
Capt. Doug Hemmer has developed a unique and productive technique for working jigs on the flats – especially during the cooler fishing times. He casts out, let’s the jig drop almost to the bottom. Then points his rod tip straight up and begins slowly reeling. He never twitches, but just continually reels that jig across the bottom. And I must say that on those occasions when the bite is really slow, with nobody else catching a thing, Capt. Doug will be reeling in an amazing amount of fish using this low and slow reeling technique.
Then there are many successful anglers, like Capt. Woody Gore or Steve love of Love’s Lure, who will do the opposite. They sharply and swiftly twitch their jigs in, and catch the heck out of fish. “I really like jigging that way because I get what I call a reactionary strike,” said Capt. Woody.
Instead of attaching the tail to a jig head, many successful anglers will “Texas-Rig” them using a worm hook. This way you can swim it right on the surface or use it for working the skinniest of waters. In these cooler times of year, that worm hook can be weighted, getting the jig to drop down to where the fish are likely to be.
Best of all, jigs are easy on the pocketbook. if any toothy critter cuts the leader and swims off with your jig, it’s no big deal. You’re out maybe 50-cents. But if it’s one of those expensive 10 or 15 -dollar plugs, that can wind up being a pretty expensive fishing day. So for those with even modest means, jig fishing is always very easy on the budget.
These versatile and inexpensive lures come in a great variety of colors, shapes, sizes and scents. The most popular are the shad and worm shaped tails. Not far behind are the curly and grub tails, plus several unique new shapes that all seem to catch fish.
Today, many fishers have switched to the great variety of highly scented jigs. This trend began a few years back with the introduction Exudes, and has now been elevated to even greater popularity by Berkley’s top selling Gulps. And certainly there are the more subtlety scented jigs, including most of the DOA offerings, Love’s Lures and many others. The choice is vast, and it is fun to experiment with the many configurations to see which of these jigs works best for your kind of fishing
Jig tails can also be used as a poor man’s topwater plug. For example, there are light balsa wood floating jig heads, fitted with a slightly larger jig tail which, when slurped across the water’s surface, will catch fish as good as most topwaters. These come with a light floating head – or a floating popper head that can be slurped through the water – ringing the dinner bell for many popular Florida species. Here too, there are many manufacturers with variations of this topwater jig.
Love’s Lures sells a couple of products that by definition are jigs, but they have a unique configuration. There’s the Love Lures Tandem, which features two small jigs attached to a specially designed rig. It is the signature Love’s Lures product and has been one of the best, easiest to use jig designs over the last 25 years. These make a great novice lure because you virtually cannot work it wrong even if you tried. No matter what you do with the tandem rig, you always seem to hook something. As my late pal Merrill “Canoeman” Chandler used to say, “The Love’s Lures Tandem is idiot proof. Just cast it out and jig it – twitch it, reel it – the Tandem will always catch something for dinner.”
The other unique Love’s Lures product is their Floatin Jig. It utilizes one of the same size small jigs that come with their Tandem Rig, but is attached to a leader and a small cork. One simply has to cast the Floatin Jig out, slurp the cork – then relax your line. At that moment, the attached jig slowly – and enticingly drops down into the fish’s zone of awareness. Again, this is the kind of bait that a rank amateur can use to catch lots of fish.
And certainly, there are several “clacker-popper” corks on the market that work similarly to Love’s Lures Floatin jig, causing a surface commotion that gets the attention of many Florida gamefish. While the surface noise attracts fish, the jig below is enticingly dropping slowly into its range of vision. And hook-ups are quite easy to come by with this combo.
One final word of advice to any first time jig users – whether adults or children — If you are unsure about how to work any jig, just cast out – let it drop down a bit – then reel. That’s it pure and simple. You should catch fish every time.