Jiggin’ Bass

A jig isn’t just a jig; there’s colors, weights, trailers, brush guards, jig head styles and so on.

Jason Mullinax | March 6, 2019

It has been said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” and I stand firmly in my conviction that a bass is no different. To eat and to not be eaten is the top priority of every bass’s daily agenda. Just like a Maine lobster is a delicacy to each of us, the bass also finds solace in certain food choices. 

Unlike humans, the bass’s diet has a limited amount of choices that vary depending on time of year and geographical location. Small ponds, highland reservoirs, meandering rivers and babbling brooks all have their own unique forage base, but there are also constants that can be found no matter which body of water you should find yourself fishing. 

Learning the habits of certain forage bases that make up our waterways is the virtual key to Pandora’s box of bass catching. These few tips about bait selection and equipment can help you capture whatever species of bass (largemouth, smallmouth or spotted) that your quest should take you on.

One of the constants that can be found on every single body of water in Georgia is the crawfish. From the smallest of streams to the largest river impoundments in the state, and everywhere in between, these tasty bass candies can be found. High in protein and abundant throughout our region, they sit near the top on the menu for any self-respecting bass. Imitating this delicacy is quite simple, as the ever popular jig and chunk trailer is used in most cases. For the remainder of this article, we will refer to the jig and chunk simply as a “jig.” Join with me as we dive into this underwater delicacy that bass just seem to have a hard time saying no to.

As you begin your search for the perfect jig, you will find there’s more variations than one would ever think possible. Fiber brush guards, twin fiber brush guards, wire brush guards, silicon skirt material, living rubber skirt material, round bend wire hooks, extra wide gap hooks, rattles, no rattles, Arkie head, football head… As you can plainly see, the list goes on and on. 

All of the jig configurations mentioned have their own unique advantages under certain circumstances, and with time and persistence, a body can refine their use of each style of jig to fit the conditions that are presented. I basically break my jig selection down into two categories: the football jig head and the Arkie style jig. Both jigs can be utilized to catch bass from the gin-clear waters of Lake Chatuge to the rich, dark waters of Lake Seminole.

 The football head jig is one of my all-time favorite jigs to throw. Its basic design lends perfectly to the imitation of a crawfish scuttling along the bottom. Oblong in its shape, when dragged across a rocky bottom, it provides side-to-side movement in addition to back-and-forth movement. 

The football jig is extremely effective when worked through pea gravel or small chunk rock banks, making it a perfect selection for the majority of water ways. Crawling the bait along the bottom with short pauses and occasionally hopping the jig with a quick lift of the rod tip often draws even the most finicky of bites. Key areas that can be targeted with the football jig are creek mouths that open into the main body of water, such as a feeder creek dumping into the main river. 

As a rule, Jason keeps his jig color selection pretty basic. Green pumpkins and watermelons (top row) are used in clear to slightly stained water, and black, black/blue, and junebug colors (bottom row) are used in stained to muddy waters.

Casting the jig up on the shallow creek bank and working it down into the bottom of the creek and into the river is ideal. Don’t be afraid to move around and let the fish tell you what type of presentation they are looking for. There have been times when simply reversing my angle of retrieve from shallow to deep or from deep up to shallow has resulted in quality fish catches. 

There are a few considerations that must be made to have success with your chosen jig. The trailer options are as endless as the jig options. Long or short, pork or plastic, chunk or craw are just a few of the choices. 

As a general rule, water temps have a direct impact on the choices of trailer that I make. For example, during the postpawn period of early summer when the water temperature rises to 65 degrees and warmer, my trailer of choice would be the Strike King Rage Craw. Large undulating claws and a bulky composition make it a perfect trailer for warm water, aggressive bass. 

As the water cools and drops below 60 degrees, I begin to shorten my trailer, at the same time I’m also reducing the amount of action that my trailer exudes. The Zoom Small Salty Chunk and the Zoom Super Chunk are perfect choices. 

When the water temp dips below that 50-degree mark, I again adjust my trailer and go to the Zoom Super Chunk Jr. or the old fashion Uncle Josh’s Pork Frog trailers. A trailer such as the NetBait Paca Craw can be used when you are wanting a slow fall but are also needing some water movement.

Always be mindful of the hook size when choosing your jig and trailer. For instance, if you are going to be using a Strike King Rage Craw, you would not want to have a 2/0 hook in your jig. The hook gap between the point and the body of the trailer would be minimal, and hook penetration would be paltry. Vice versa, you would not want to overpower a finesse jig presentation using a Salty Chunk Jr. with a 6/0 4X HD hook. 

These new tungsten football jigs from Picasso incorporate three nickel titanium brush guards. There’s no trimming needed. In addition, it creates a “cage” around the hook point, thus reducing hang-ups and lost jigs. This color is molting craw and is a great all-around color. Jason said he’s been fishing jigs for 30 years, and this is by far the best jig he’s ever fished. Photo by Sal Pinto.

Equipment for the football jig is relatively simple. Unlike the thousands of options that comes with jig choice, rod, reels and line can be easily decided upon with only a few variables needed to make the correct choice. 

A medium-heavy to heavy rod with lengths between 6-6 to 7-6 will cover the majority of all jig fishing needs. I prefer a higher gear ratio reel, such as an 8.3:1 down to a 6.3:1 when utilizing this technique, as I want to be able to gather line quickly and get a good solid hookset when the time comes. 

As for line, opinions vary across the board. I personally use only fluorocarbon line ranging from 10- to 16-lb., depending upon water clarity and the abundance of cover. I have dropped down to as small as 6-lb. line when using super finesse jigs in the depths of winter and as high as 20-lb. test when fishing the rivers that have large amounts of underwater obstructions.  

I have also fished with folks that swear by Berkley Big Game Monofilament and their catches did not dispute the fact that it worked. I do not recommend braid as I feel the lack of stretch often elongates the hole made by the jig hook, allowing the jig to be thrown if the bass decides to break water and jump. Using what you have confidence in may be just as important as what type of line you are using.

Tournament angler Jason Mullinax caught this bass on Lake Allatoona while fishing a 1/4-oz. green pumpkin/amber/red Picasso Tungsten Football Jig with a green-pumpkin Zoom Creepy Crawler trailer.

The Arkie style jig is a close runner-up to the football jig in my book. If truth be told, the Arkie jig would be considered the more versatile jig between the two. It offers its user the ability to be skipped under docks, be swam through blowdowns, pulled through vegetation, as well as being crawled across rocky drops. In my opinion it is a much more subtle bait than its close cousin, the football jig. 

Ranging in sizes from 1/8- up to 1 1/2-ozs. and using virtually every conceivable hook size on the planet, there is an Arkie style jig waiting patiently on the next bass that you present it to.  

Today’s technology has given rise to the advent of tungsten metal as the primary component used in the makeup of some jig heads. The extreme hardness of this metal has a distinct advantage to its predecessor lead. No longer is it a mystery as to just what the bottom composition is made of. Instantaneously, the feel of a rocky bottom or the dull thud of a stump is transmitted to the hands of an angler who’s using this material. Transitions between sandy bottoms into a pea gravel bottom are felt immediately. Knowing this information allows the angler to keep his jig in more productive water as a pattern is established. No longer do you have to wonder if your jig is crunching through a shellbed, you will know instantly. The exact same equipment setup that I use for football jigs can be used for Arkie style jigs. 

We’ve discussed my two favorite styles of jigs and the equipment that I recommend for fishing with them, now we will get into the lipstick and rouge that comes with jig fishing. 

One of the constants that can be found on every single body of water in Georgia is the crawfish, which is why every bass angler should have a selection of jigs in their tackle box. Imitating this delicacy is quite simple, as the ever popular jig and chunk trailer is used in most cases.

Click on Tackle Warehouse or slip into your favorite mom-and-pop tackle shop and you will be bombarded with a color selection that Rembrandt would be proud of. Every color variation known to man can be found hanging from the pegs on your tackle shops walls. It can be somewhat overwhelming and even confusing as you scan across hundreds of color choices. As a rule, I try to keep my jig color selection pretty basic. Green pumpkins and watermelons are used in clear to slightly stained water, and black, black/blue, and junebug colors are used in stained to muddy waters. Mind you these are not hard fast rules, simply a starting point that will help you decide if you are just getting into jig fishing. 

The addition of rattles often helps garner a few more bites at night and in muddy waters. 

Dipping the trailer tails into a dye, such as JJ’s Magic, will also help when the water gets dingy. 

You will notice that each jig company uses different lengths of skirt material during production, some leave them long, extending an inch or more from the bend of the hook, and some are quite a bit shorter. I normally trim my skirts approximately a quarter of an inch past the hook bend. This allows free movement of my trailer material as I work the jig. 

Also, you will find a vast difference in the length of the brush guard, as well as the number of bristles that are used. I tend to trim away as much excess guard material as I can get by with and still get adequate hook protection. You will know if you have gone too far with the trimming of the guard, as it will be next to impossible to fish it without getting it hung. Small amounts of guard material should be removed until you reach the perfect brush guard. I hold the jig in one hand and press the guard down until it is just above the hook point and cut the guard on a 45-degree angle toward the bend of the hook, allowing 1/8 of an inch to pass the point. I also fan the guard out from side to side to get more coverage when working the jig through heavier cover. 

Babe Mullinax, the author’s wife, reports, “Big ‘uns eat the jig!” This 9-lb., 15-oz. lunker bit a 1/2-oz. Picasso Fantasy Football Jig with a Strike King Rage Craw trailer in the Okeechobee Craw color.

Following these few easy steps, your brand new jig fishing odyssey is ready to begin. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, there is a bass just waiting on his Maine Lobster to be served up. And just like you, when it is put in front of them, they just cannot say no. I hope that you can take these few helpful tips and begin to enjoy a technique that has given me many, many years of enjoyment, as well as some of the biggest bass that I have ever brought to net.

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