Hair Jigs Making Quiet Comeback

Long ago a standard in all tackle boxes, some Georgia bass anglers are borrowing a page from the past and going back to hair jigs.

Daryl Kirby | August 6, 2005

No, you didn’t accidentally pick up a copy of Lake Michigan Angler. Yes, there’s an article in GON about hair jigs. Before you tear out these pages for the whelping box, trust this angler-of-the-south when I tell you there’s something about this old-fashioned lure that flat out catches fish. Around these parts, few anglers are using hair jigs, and when there’s a lure that isn’t used much that catches fish, it should get your attention.

It is amazing the extremes that some competitive bass anglers will go to just for an edge over the next guy. Often it’s only a perceived edge, but that doesn’t slow them down. With money and bragging rights on the line several times a week on every reservoir in Georgia, the bass get not only a lot of fishing pressure, but they get pressure from excellent anglers who are always coming up with new techniques, twists and innovations.

I’m not much of an innovator, but one knack I can take credit for is being a sponge when it comes to the nuances of what anglers do differently that helps them catch bass.

Scott Sawyers, of Gainesville, and his son Hunter with a Lanier spotted bass that Scott caught last month on one of his company’s Hammerhead Flippin’ Series hair jigs. Scott began tying his own hair jigs about 10 years ago while living in Nashville and fishing for smallmouths.

When I’m catching bass, I don’t learn much, but I pay attention when I’m getting spanked, like I was about eight years ago during a trip to Allatoona. That middle-of-May afternoon it was Andy Adams’ turn, and to make matters worse it was his first trip to Allatoona, which at the time I considered my home lake. Being the perfect guide, I explained that the spotted bass were both on the bed and coming off, and that we would be working some nothing-looking banks with jerkbaits. I even gave him a brown paper bag full of small, hand-poured flukes that you could only get from a guy at the Dugout if you knew the secret handshake and a password.

Ignoring me, Andy tied on a jig, and to make matters worse, it was one of those Yankee hair jigs, the kind I remember my grandfather in Ohio had a tackle box full of.

That day I had a lot of spotted bass run up and look at my fluke, but they wouldn’t eat it. Andy, meanwhile, was casually tossing his hair jig up near the bank and simply reeling it back slow and steady, occasionally letting it fall, then reeling it steady — and, oh yeah, he kept setting the hook.

I’m no rocket scientist, but Andy’s dad is (literally, he grew up in Huntsville, Ala., which has the highest per capita of rocket scientists in the world), so we spent the day talking about what was going on with those Allatoona spotted bass. Andy was simply fishing the way he learned on Wilson and Wheeler and other north Alabama lakes, where most of his catch was smallmouth bass. Our best explanation was that the Allatoona bass had seen untold numbers of pearl and white fluke-style jerkbaits over the previous two weeks. Something different was the the key. But why a hair jig?

A better question for a lot of folks, especially old-timers and anglers from up north, is why not a hair jig?

Simple jigs made with real animal hair have been around since fishermen first started trying to trick fish with something other than live bait. In WWII our soldiers’ survival kits included some fishing line and one lure, a hair jig.

Advantages to hair jigs include: hollow animal hair makes the lures fall more slowly; they won’t muck up if you leave them on the casting deck or your tackle box gets too hot; some anglers feel that the natural feel of hair make fish hold them better; and finally, maybe most importantly here in Georgia, bass don’t see many compared to standard jigs.

A key advantage to hair jigs, as previously mentioned, is simply that almost all southern anglers flip or swim silicon, rubber or plastic skirted jigs. However, in addition to the “it’s something the bass haven’t seen” actor, there are other reasons why a hair jig should be at least part of your tackle arsenal.

O’Neill Williams, a Georgia angler who has a national television show and a weekend radio show on Atlanta’s WSB, is a southern angler who has stocked up hair jigs in recent years. Coincidentally, he first tried one during a trip to Wilson Lake in north Alabama.

“A local guy up there told me to try them, and boy I whacked ’em — smallmouths,” ’Neill said. “Since then I’ve fished them around here and done really well.

“I look at things incrementally. Very seldom, if you’re rational about it, will you change something and catch 50 percent more bass. But will it make you catch 10 percent more? I think fishing a hair jig in certain situations you will get 10 percent more.”

O’Neill said that for a while he got into a rut where he tied on a spinnerbait every time he went fishing.

“Fishermen get in a rut. You can’t fish with that kind of mind-set and do as well as you could by trying some things, especially some things that the fish aren’t seeing as much,” he said.

“Other than just being different, one of the best things about a hair jig is it falls slower. I think jig-for-jig, a slower fall rate will catch you more,” he said.

A jig made with hollow animal hair, like deer hair, will fall more slowly than the same-weight jig made with a plastic or rubber skirt. If you’re flippin’ docks on Oconee, and it’s one of those days when the bass are suspended on the dock posts toward the upper part of the water column, the bites are going to come on the fall. Wouldn’t you rather have a jig with the same-size profile that is falling more slowly? You hear about guys downsizing to slow the fall rate. With a hair jig you can have the bulkiness of 1/4-oz. jig, and it falls like a 1/8-oz. silicon-skirted jig.

O’Neill recently signed his name to a signature line of flippin’ style hair jigs made by a Gainesville company called Hammerhead Jigs, which is run by Scott Sawyers.

“We’re a custom-type company, I’m not interested in selling a million jigs a year,” Scott said. “We didn’t re-invent the wheel. We took a basic principle and with modern technology of hooks and colors, made it better than it was 30 years ago. The reason you haven’t seen them in widespread production is because hair jigs are labor intensive. As I started getting into it, I had to recruit some fly-tyers. They’re not extremely hard to tie, but it’s not something everyone has the patience for or wants to do.”

Scott produces a couple of hair jigs styles that are used primarily for bass fishing — the O’Neill Williams Flippin’ Series and a Hammerhead Finesse Series. In the flippin’ jigs, Scott uses a flat-eye jighead design which skips better and also doesn’t hang up as much as a round jighead. They come in 1/4-, 3/8- and 1/2-oz. weights. The finesse-style Hammerhead jigs have round jigheads and come in 1/8- and 1/4-oz. weights.

Andy ties his own hair jigs, often creating some odd color combinations, and he usually adds four to six strands of flashabou, a bright, flashy tinsel. Some of these are one-of-kind works of art, and you don’t want to be in the back of the boat if he hangs up with one of these, because you are going to be there until he shakes it lose or goes swimming.

Most of the time Andy fishes jigs that are basic shad color, pearl or white hair and maybe a few strands of green and red flashaboo.

“When I’m swimming a jig — just reeling it back — the profile of a hair jig is mostly sleek and kind of small. It looks like a little shad. If you’ve ever seen a shad swimming along, it’s not vibrating or pulsing or wobbling, it’s just like it’s gliding along. Now if you pause your retrieve, the hair skirt will flair, and even that I think is better than a rubber skirt. It flairs different. It kind of waves with the current of the water a little more naturally,” ndy said.

Scott became interested in hair jigs while living in Nashville and fishing some of the famous smallmouth lakes in Tennessee. When he moved to Gainesville, he kept right on tying and using his Hammerhead jigs on Lake Lanier.

“The first day I ever fished Lanier I attacked it like I would a smallmouth lake in Tennessee. It was the heat of July, and I crawled a hair jig — just pick the rod tip up so slow you’re literally dragging it, not hopping it. I caught bass, and I caught a 20-inch spot the first time out on Lanier.”

Scott has also caught bass on hair jigs in the heat of summer at Oconee, both by flippin’ docks and fishing humps in deep water.

“One of the best days we’ve had in Georgia was at Oconee in the summer. We found some humps in 20 feet of water that topped out at about eight feet on top of the hump. We were just hopping jigs across there,” cott said.

At Lanier, Scott said on the upper end where he lives both spotted bass and largemouths can be caught almost year-round by flippin’ jigs on the boat docks. And he said he’s seen hair jigs work on lakes where most folks wouldn’t think about trying them.

“Take Eufaula. How many silicon jigs have those fish seen? I take lures and put them on a shelf, then take them off and start using them again when you can’t find them anymore. That’s pretty much what is happening with hair jigs around here. In the 60s, everybody used them. Now, especially in the South, not many people fish with them.”

While you can fish them anytime or anywhere you would fish regular jigs, hair jigs work great in the late fall, winter and early spring when fishermen need to slow down presentations.

“In cold water, fish can take a bait and blow it back out before you know it. Hair has more feel, and they’re going to hold it longer,” Scott said.

“When the fishing is right, it doesn’t matter. But when it’s a bit tough, a hair jig can give the bass some different looks,” Scott said.

Andy has about the same basic theory.

“There’s not really any great secret to hair jigs. People have been using them for a hundred years,” he said. “It’s just a basic little lure that flat-out catches fish. Don’t ask me why, ask the fish.”

For more on hair jigs, go to

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.