Fishing with jigs . . . Can't beat them!
Fishing with jigs . . . Can't beat them!
I've written about them. I talk about them all the time when guests come in the shop and ask, "What are they biting on best ?" And when I fish with friends or clients, I prove what I'm talking about . . . they flat catch fish!
Marabou jigs. I tie them here at the shop, and I also buy them from a tier in Fayetteville, Arkansas. They're easy to tie and even easier to fish. And very inexpensive.
For those who don't have any idea what I'm talking about, they're very simple.
Starting with a hook matching the size jig you're tying (#12 to #6 for smaller jigs- 1/150th to 1/32 and #4 or #2 for up to 1/8th oz jigs) this hook has a 90-degree bend towards the eye, straight shank and a big, bowed belly. The bend is where the lead is poured to form the head, shaped round, flat or oblong for various swimming action.
If you're serious about making your own lures, here's how you get started. You can purchase all the ingredients to pour your own jigs. Bass Pro or Cabalas both carry melting pots, forms and hooks. I'm sure you can find what you need on the internet, too.
For painting the heads I use Power Paint. It's the easiest and best paint for staying power. It comes in two-ounce jars, and I think Bass Pro carries it. Heat the head with a candle or torch, dip it in the powder quickly and hang it to dry. Bake them in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, and the paint won't come off. Word of warning -- make sure the eyes are clear before baking them. I personally don't bake my jigs. The paint stays on well enough for me without the extra step.
Tying is the easy part. All you need is feathers and thread. Marabou is sold in several different forms. Select 12-piece is long, slender feathers for long tails, strung is the blood quill, approximately 3.5 to 4.5 inches long and is best for tying jigs at high speed. There's also the woolly bugger which is used -- for tying woolly buggers and streamers. For thread I use #130 Denier 6/0 Uni-Thread or #210 Denier waxed nylon, but any brand will do as long as it's the right strength and color. Color should match either the color of the jig or I tie with red sometimes to give it contrast.
Use of chenille is totally up to the tyer/fisherperson. Chenille is a string material, with different colors, material, and thicknesses used for the body of jigs. It's also used for the body of streamers and woolly buggers. "Trout jigs" are normally tied without chenille, but again it's personal preference.
For the tie -- depending on the type of head used for the jig, start your thread just behind the head and wrap over and ahead to secure the thread. If you have a collar behind the head down part of the shaft of the hook, this will help hold the thread, versus a ball head without a collar. If you have no collar and you're wrapping on a bare hook shaft, I would run a bead of head cement on the thread after securing it, making sure the thread and the rest of the material doesn't spin around the hook.
After the thread is secure, peel, cut and lay your marabou over the hook shaft using your off hand. Extending the cut ends of the feathers, hang over the head about 1/8th inch. Loosely wrap the thread once around the shaft, and with the second wrap, tighten the grip down on the feathers. This will ensure that the feathers will drop in place instead of wrapping around as you tighten. Repeat again until the right amount of marabou is applied. How do you know how much is enough? Experience. You can always pinch off the jig if it's too long or pluck out some if it's too big, but you can't add-to once your out on the water.
If you're tying on chenille, leave a space for it behind the head. If not, tie all the way to the head. Using the chenille, tie off the end at the base where your marabou left off and wrap the thread on up to the head. Then wrap the chenille evenly to the head, tying off the chenille and cutting it off. Apply a little head cement.
Equipment is important to ensure success. Line size and brand name is at the top of my list. In my business, I get to try lots of line, and the very best I've found is Seagar's CarbonPro. It's 100% fluorocarbon. The two pound I use is very strong, comes off the reel extremely smooth, and holds my knots well. I haven't broken off a trout yet using it. Second best is P-Line fluorocarbon coated line in clear or moss green. It's not quite as thin as Seagars (.0055 vs .005" dia.). Trilene XL green is still great line and was my choice for years.
A good rod and reel combination is important. If your reel doesn't have a good drag system, use the anti-reel and back reel-- don't trust the drag. Long rods are best for throwing jigs because you can cast longer, with greater sensitivity when working the jig and setting the hook. I use either a six-or seven-foot, one-piece, graphite rod. A one-piece yields a better feel but is harder to transport.
Now you're ready to fish.
Since I live on and fish Lake Taneycomo, I'll talk most about trout fishing with jigs. There are two ways to fish jigs, under a float or throwing them straight without a float. Personally, I get more satisfaction throwing them straight with no float. Why? I guess because what you do with the rod, rod tip and reel directly affects what the jig does, putting me in complete control of whether or not I can fool the fish.
Colors: Since I've found this sculpin-looking color, it's been hard to find any one color that out fishes it. White may be tops at times, but year round, sculpin is the best. It's an olive/brown drab color, close to brown with a little hint of olive green. White works well in the winter here, as well as olive, brown, gray, black, ginger, light lemon, purple, chartreuse, pink and combinations thereof. When do you fish what? I usually stay with lighter colors on bright days and darker colors on dark days but there are always exceptions. I use sculpin all the time.
Using two-pound line allows me to work the jigs without as much drag through the water and with more direct line to the jig. This is important because of the subtle strike you feel with trout. Holding a long rod high in the air when working the jig lets me create an angle to the jig, giving me a better advantage in feeling the strike.
Working close to the bottom of any water I'm fishing is important. Knowing how fast the jig drops and knowing the depth of water is also important. Drop speed depends on the weight of the jig (duh). Also depends on if you let it drop freefall or in a controlled manner. This brings me to a very important aspect of jig fishing.
If you hold the rod up, keeping a straight, taught line to the jig while it's dropping, I call this controlled because the jig is dropping slower because of the drag on the line through the water. If you drop the rod, hold the bale open or both the jig will fall faster without the drag of the line. When working the jig back, the same applies.
I hold my rod almost straight up -- twelve-o'clock noon -- for most of the retrieve. I use the tip of the rod to twitch the jig, letting it drop between twitches. If I perceive that the water is deeper or that I need to drop the jig deeper or faster, I drop the rod tip, allowing the jig to drop deeper and faster, all the while watching the line where it enters the water for movement and feeling the actions for any slight change, bump or slack. I don't reel much, one crank per jig-with-the-rod usually. This is dictated, though, by other conditions -- wind, current and depth of water.
Ever fished with what I call "jerk spoons?" You fish them vertically -- straight down -- jerking them up and letting them free fall. If the spoon stops when it's not supposed to stop, you've got fish. The fish has taken the spoon and is waiting for you to set the hook. Same with these jigs. Watching the line where the line enters the water on a controlled drop is the same as watching the spoon drop. If it goes slack and you know it's not on the bottom, set the hook. If you feel less tension on the lure on a controlled drop, set the hook. If you feel anything different, set the hook. Hook-sets are free, but missing a strike costs you.
I don't move the jig very much when working it. I'd say I may lift the jig 12 to 18 inches or even less. But I do have friends that work their jigs harder and they catch fish. Vince Elfrink of Walnut Shade is one. There are some times you want to work it faster or harder, depending on the water conditions and the fish's disposition. How do they want it? That's what you have to adapt to.
If the trout are biting "short," pinch the jig tail off -- never cut the tail. I've been know to pinch the tail clear off and still catch fish.
In current, I work the jig cross current. Sometime I slow the boat when drifting and work the jig upstream a bit. I rarely work the jig downstream. Although fish will take it that way, it's harder to detect their strikes.
I have another friend that "swims" the jig, constantly reeling and moving the rod tip. And I do consider this fishing buddy, J.D. Dudley of Fayetteville, one of the best jig fisherman there is. He catches a lot of big trout on the White River system.
Using a float is an easy way to ensure good jig fishing. In slow to no water running, we use small, lead head or micro jigs which have pewter heads. During running water, I use heavier jigs such as 1/32nd ounce. Why? The flow we experience here is turbulent, which will move a small jig around in the column of water. Heavier jigs tend to stay down and stable, making it easier to detect the strike. In choosing the float make sure that the jig won't sink it and that you can cast it with ease and see it clearly.
With no generation it's best to find choppy surface water. This will move your float and, thus, move your jig under the float. On glassy water, move the float yourself by twitching the float every 10 seconds or so. Watch carefully for the float to move. A trout may not take the float completely under like a blue gill will. Trout are picky eaters and may take the jig and blow it out without even moving the float.
In moving water, drifting the jig with the water ensures good action. Make sure the drift isn't impeded by the line bowing and causing drag. Keep track of your slack, holding a direct line to the float and jig, making quick hook setting effective. When the trout takes the jig in moving water, the float will tend to stop or appear to move upstream.
Micro Jigs are way over-priced in my opinion. Bill Babler had to talk me into carrying them, but he has made a believer out of me as far as effectiveness. They do catch trout better then conventional marabou jigs in most cases. But it sure hurts three times more when you break one off!
I hope this enlightens you enough to try jig fishing. Trout are easy to release when hooked on jigs, especially if you bend the barb down on the hook. You may miss a lot of strikes but will hook a lot more fish than with bait. Have fun!