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story.lead_photo.caption The standard bass jig is a chunk of lead molded to a hook with a rubber skirt. Adding a soft plastic trailer enhances the appearance. The top jig also has a rattle to produce sound. These are best suited for stout rods with fast bait casting reels. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)

In all seasons and for most situations, the jig is the most versatile fishing lure for bass, crappie and in-shore saltwater species.

A jig is a chunk of metal, usually lead, molded to a hook. Most have a metal or plastic guard on the head to reduce the likelihood of snagging. A jig is most effective when combined with a supple soft plastic or leather trailer to give it a lifelike appearance. Its purpose is to resemble natural prey, and it is meant to be fished in cover and structure where fish hide.

Crappie jigs are as light as 1/64-ounce. A 1/16-ounce jig is heavy for crappie. A crappie jig is used with a soft plastic tube or a small soft plastic minnow imitator to coax crappie from deep structures such as brushpiles. For this application, the jig is meant to get the lure down to the brush. In motion, it stops sinking and keeps the lure at the proper depth as you reel it across the top of the brush.

For bass, a jig is almost always fished on the bottom where it skitters over and among rocks, wood, grass and even artificial structures. The most common weights are 3/8-, 1/2- and 3/4-ounce, but heavier models are available for punching through thick surface cover such as grass mats.

In shallow water, a jig will provoke strikes from fish hiding in shoreline wood cover and grass. In slightly deeper water you will present a jig to bass lurking beside standing timber. Presenting a jig in these situations is done with two methods called pitching and flipping. Both require a baitcasting reel with a fast retrieve ratio. A reel with a 7.1:1 retrieve ratio takes up 351/2 inches of line with one complete turn of the reel handle. The Revo Rocket has a retrieve rate of about 9:1. You also want a medium-heavy or heavy action rod at least 7 feet long.

You need a fast reel to handle the big bass that you often encounter in shallow cover. When hooked, a big bass often runs to the protection of thick cover where it can break your line or dislodge the lure. Other times it swims quickly back to the angler and jumps on a slack line, allowing it to throw the lure. A fast reel winches a big fish away from cover and into open water where you can manage it more easily. A fast reel will also take up slack line on a fast-running fish and keep the line tight to prevent it from throwing a lure on the jump.

Pitching and flipping are precise presentations, but they are simple techniques to master. Remember the first installment of this series about fishing with a fixed length of line on a simple pole or rod? Flipping employs that principle, except with a reel to hold a line reservoir and fight the fish. It is used to fish in very close quarters and does not require using the reel to cast. Unspool about a rod's length of line, a sufficient amount to reach the target you want your jig to hit. Hold the jig with your nondominant hand and use the rod to swing the jig out to its target. If you want to use more line, you can use your nondominant hand to sling the jig to the target. When the jig hits the target, get ready to set the hook.

With practice, you can deliver even a heavy jig so delicately that it scarcely ripples the water. That is important in tight cover where a noisy splashdown might spook a skittish largemouth.

Flipping is also the preferred method for punching through thick grass mats that are so dense they will hold a light jig on top. A 1-ounce or heavier jig will fall through and reach bass lurking among the stalks.

Pitching is the art of making short underhand casts with a reel to targets that are too distant to reach by flipping. Unspool about two-thirds of a rod's length of line. Hold the jig by pinching the bend of the hook with your nondominant thumb and index finger. Release spool and pin the spool motionless with your dominant thumb. Point the rod tip at the water and then flip the tip upward. At the same time, release your dominant thumb from the spool and release and launch the lure to its target. This is all done in one quick, fluid motion.

With practice, pitching is astonishingly accurate, enabling you to zip jigs into openings the size of a teacup. It is also an excellent way to zip jigs under boat docks.

In the deep, clear water of highland reservoirs such as Greers Ferry, Beaver, Bull Shoals, Ouachita and DeGray, bass often orient to deep, rocky structures. A classic technique in this environment is the shaky head jig. It is a ball jig weighing 1/8- to 1/4-ounce combined with a small, soft plastic bait. Cast far and let it sink to the bottom. By moving the rod tip slightly, you can "walk" or hop the jig along the bottom. Kentucky bass and smallmouth bass will often eat a motionless shaky head, but they will also hover over it and watch. As soon as it moves, they will inhale it.

Shaky head fishing is best with spinning tackle. Use a long, medium-action or medium-light action spinning rod mated to a 2000 or 2500 series spinning reel spooled with 8- or 10-pound test line. In really clear water, you might consider using a 6-pound test flourocarbon leader.

Flourocarbon is also preferred for fishing woody cover because it doesn't bite into wood the way traditional monofilament tends to do. Braided line is best for fishing in grass because it will cut grass. Monofilament line is more likely to collect grass.

Jig fishing is more than a fishing technique. It is a separate genre with its own doctrine. There are many side angles to jig fishing that require separate attention. We will cover them in future installments.

Just remember that when all else fails, a jig will deliver.

Part eight of the Beginner’s Fishing series.

There are many kinds of jigs for different applications. A light swimhead jig is good for crappie and for catching bass in streams. The Ned rig jig (bottom) has become very popular in recent years. It stands on end, presenting a soft plastic trailer vertically. The round shaky head jig (top) is a traditional way to fish for bass in deep, clear reservoirs. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)
The author prefers to use very hairy jigs to fish for crappie in brush tops. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)

Sports on 05/21/2020

Print Headline: Dancing a jig

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