Rick Anderson, from Illinois, caught and released
this nice trout on a CAL jig with a shad tail while
fishing potholes near Whidden Creek in Gasparilla
Sound with Captain Rick Grassett.
SUN PHOTO/RICK GRASSETT
By Rusty Chinnis
special to the sun
Its January and time again for New Years resolutions.
If I had to choose the best resolution for anglers to
make in the coming year, it would be to simplify their
fishing. With so many choices in lures, the smart angler
finds a couple of lures that work and then concentrates
on finding fish and making good presentations.
Of all the lures in existence, the jig would have to be
my number one pick. The jig is one of the oldest and most
productive lures known to man. With the plethora of modern
computer designed lures, holographic patterns and life-like
action, this simple design remains one of the most productive
lures in an anglers tackle box. Choose the proper
size and color for any given situation, impart the appropriate
action and it's possible to elicit a strike from any game
fish that swims local waters.
Jigs are often used half-heartedly by anglers who substitute
them for live bait. Take the time to really give them
a chance, and youll find that they will often out
perform live bait. This may be hard to believe, but consider
the facts. You gain an advantage by not having to catch
or keep live bait. In addition you don't have to constantly
re-bait a hook, replacing dead or lifeless baits. The
jig can be cast and retrieved continuously, covering a
greater area than live bait.
When fishing a jig, the basic (and most productive) presentation
is made by allowing the lure to sink completely to the
bottom. Using a slow retrieve, bounce the jig across the
bottom. This method is effective for a large majority
of species, including trout, redfish, grouper, tarpon,
flounder and snook.
A fast, jerky retrieve will produce better results on
Spanish mackerel, Jacks and ladyfish. When fished properly,
the retrieve should be smooth and effortless. Hold the
rod at about a 45 degree angle to the water, imparting
action with the wrist and forearm. Don't allow much slack
to form on the retrieve, as most strikes happen on the
At first, watch the line closely and youll get a
visual cue that the jig is on the bottom when the line
goes slack. With practice, the retrieve will become second
nature. Since youll get lots of hits on the slack
line fall, a sharp hook will greatly improve your odds.
Sharpen your hooks before you start fishing and check
them often. Theyll often get dull while jigging
over rock and oyster beds.
Once youve mastered the basic presentation, pick
the area you intend to fish. Grass beds that carpet the
bays are an excellent place to begin. These areas can
be accessed by boat or by wading from shore. Make repeated
casts in a 180 degree arc with about 10 feet between casts.
This will allow you to cover a lot of water.
Make casts to sand holes and the edges of slues. Cast
beyond holes, and then let the jig bounce across the sandy
bottom. Start at one end of the hole in the grass and
then make the same spaced casts across its width to completely
cover the pothole. On the edges of grass flats and slues,
try casting parallel to and just off the grass edge.
Another excellent area to fish jigs is along the beaches.
Work them from the surf line to the outer edges of the
first slue. Since there are few obstructions, make sure
they hit the bottom. Species like flounder, permit and
pompano often key in on the puffs of sand the jig produces.
When you find obstructions such as limestone, rock groins
or jetties, work the edges carefully.
Basic spinning or bait casting outfits should have a tip
that telegraphs a subtle strike and enough backbone to
set the hook. Jigs will take 100 pound tarpon, 20 pound
snook or two pound trout, so line and leader will be rigged
accordingly. For general use in the bay an 8-10 pound
outfit (provided you have a smooth, properly set drag)
is sufficient. Learn to tie a Bimini Twist or Spider Hitch
to double your standing line and then attach a leader
(20-30 pound) using a Surgeons or Uni-Knot. A small
swivel can also be used to make the attachment from standing
line to leader. Attach the leader to the jig with a loop
knot will improve the action and the hook-up ratio. The
non-slip mono loop is the best knot for the job.
Like other lures, there are a vast number of jig types
to choose from. Its my opinion that most of the
lures today are designed to catch the angler as much as
the fish. The first jigs were made with lead heads and
colored bucktail. Theyre still on the market and
some expert anglers still use them exclusively. A relative
newcomer to the scene is the plastic tail jig. This variety
allows the angler to change the tails color or shape.
The newest innovations have added scent to the tails to
attract fish. Scientists have discovered that fish can
better locate darker colors in cloudy water and a light
or clear color in clear water. Tailor the color of the
jig to that of the water.
If you havent discovered the "magic" of
jigs its time to give them a try. Any local tackle
shop will have a mind-bending variety, so dont be
afraid to ask for some advice. Try the latest and greatest
inventions, but also a few of the basic lead heads with
bucktail. Give them a chance and youll find them
efficient, inexpensive, and very effective. Its
a resolution that will pay in off spades.