Jig Fishing by Luke Carder

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Mastering the Jig , Catch Big Oklahoma Bass
I want to start first by letting you know that I am still in the beginning stages of my bass fishing life and even more of a beginner at trophy bass hunting. I am far from being any kind of bass master, nor have I mastered the jig. I can tell you that I have improved in leaps and bounds though. There are a few things that I have made note of that I would like to share which have changed the way I fish from now on and have consistently produced adult bass since I first picked up a jig on March 28th, 2002. As an avid bass fisherman and a wannabe trophy bass hunter I quickly grew tired of fishing six or more days a week and catching a bass or two every two weeks. I had to find that “kicker” bait soon or I may get tired of this whole bass fishing thing and go back to some catfishing where I could guarantee myself several catches every time I gave it a try. On Thursday, March 28th, 2002 I took the advice of a buddy of mine and decided that I would tie on a ¼ oz black and blue jig and plastic chunk trailer. I actually tied it on the night before because I knew that if I showed up at the pond with that jig I would be too excited about fishing to cut and retie, and I hate having to retie. I decided, against my better judgement, to step out onto a semi-fallen tree and fish the middle of this tree. Having no experience with any type of jig previously I dipped it into the water so that I could see what the action looked like and what I needed to do to make this bait look tasty to momma bass. I tossed it into the tree, straddling two large branches, and thought I felt a nibble. I thought to myself “Now what do I do?” and continued to wait until I felt the bass hit it again. As all you jig fishermen know you don’t wait until the bass hits again because she has probably already spit it out by then. After a few seconds I checked my line and the was definitely nothing holding my jig. I made my move again and tried to jig it right down the side of a large branch. WHAMO! I set the hook into what felt like a stump and the short fight was on. She literally hit the jig right below my rod tip. I dip my hand into the water after only about a 10 second fight and carefully grab her. It turns out at the time she was the 3rd largest bass I had ever caught even though she only tipped the scale at 6-1. I was a pro and I had only made two casts with a jig! Not exactly. I had heard and read so much about how the angler has to let the fish tell you what presentation they want. I figured that I caught a nice size bass on my relatively fast fleeing crawdad retrieve so surely all the bass would want the same presentation. Once again, not exactly. I had a humbling dry spell after that which prompted me to search for all the jig fishing info that I could find and figure this part of the game out. As we all know from fishing and life in general there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is definitely not just one way to present any given bait. The tough part about it is finding that one way that the fish want you to present that particular bait. It took a while for me to find it at my big ol’ honey hole ponds but I think that after many hours of intense trial and error I have found a definite pattern that is successful for myself at my honey hole. This place is definitely a honey hole to me but for the folks who haven’t found the pattern that I found it is horrible fishing at best. It only took me about 20,000 casts with each one of my 40 spinnerbaits to realize that the bass at my ponds are not real interested in spinnerbaits RIGHT NOW. I have eliminated spinnerbaits from my arsenal until I see someone have some results with one. After seeing many other bassers throw crankbaits and rattletraps in open water for hours on end with very low numbers I have eliminated open water, cranks and rattletraps from my arsenal FOR THE TIME BEING. I have been working on that jig for a while though and it may surprise you to hear the results and what I am doing to make almost every single outing a productive outing. Of course I am strictly a trophy bass hunter so what I see as productive may be nothing special. I can tell you that I have only caught about five or six bass under 3 pounds since I began my jig fishing routine.Every single bass I have caught this year has been off of timber with the exception of two that were caught off the same rock. It is not because I don’t fish other areas either. I have tried open water, flats, drop offs, channels, rocks, points and everywhere in between with absolutely no results. I’m going to explain what I do every singly time I go fishing and the proof is in the pudding. I don’t even need to explain the preparation that I do before I go because everyone needs to check rods, line, reels and make sure that all of the necessities are there and we need to be prepared for anything from checking the amount of film is in the camera to having a tape measure to making sure that if we lose our favorite and most productive bait that we will have plenty of extras. The first thing I do when I get near the water is go into stealth mode. That includes lowering my voice from a talk to a whisper. I am not sure if bass have any kind of audible or body language they speak to each other in but if you can imagine being in the local Super Wal-Marts full of people where everyone is carrying on good conversation and going about their business and all of the sudden the fire alarm sounds off, what happens to the atmosphere in the room. Bass react the same way when they are going about their business and all of the sudden the alarm sounds with stomping feet and a “Hey Eddie! Tell Jon to come check out this turtle!!! What?!!! COME-CHECK-OUT-THE-SIZE-OF-THIS-TURTLE!!!!!!”. Be quiet. Stealth includes our appearance as well. I have to stress that the color of clothing you wear determines whether or not you look like an alien and a threat or if you blend in with what the bass normally sees on the bank or in the sky.So we are going to be as quiet as possible and we are going to try to blend in with the surrounding, at least from the waist up. Next on the list is where are we going to fish. It’s always a good idea to target an area that you think may be holding bass, right? We are looking for anything that looks a little bit different. According to Doug Hannon a bass has eye sight that is almost as good as a human has. There is one thing they lack though and that is eyebrows and eyelashes and they don’t have hands or ball caps to block the sunlight from their eyes. If there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun is beaming down on the bulging eyes on the bass and they have fairly good eye sight wouldn’t you think there would be a glare to deal with? I have noticed a considerable difference since I started considering the bass’ vision. I probably catch 4 bass in the shade for every one that I catch out of the shade.I have already eliminated open water so I am looking for timber to target. I am going to try several different angles and numerous casts at each target. I want to consider that if the stump is in shallow water the shadow will be much more important to the bass. If the stump is in deeper water the shadow will be a little less important due to the fact that the deeper the water gets the less the light will penetrate. Either way, you don’t have to hit the shadow where you see it. Consider the angle of the sun and the shadow will extend under water and will get larger as well. You can also target the edge of a shadow where the bass may be in the shadow yet still has a good view into the water which has direct sunlight.Next, you have to make the most out of every single cast and presentation and know that on every cast you are giving 100% of your attention and applying all of your knowledge to it. You have found your target and you decide that you are going to flip or pitch to that sow that awaits you. The best way to keep from spooking the bass when your lure splashes in is by eliminating the splash. You can try to actually hit the target and allow the jig to fall into the water or you can intentionally miss the target all together. Either way you should slow the jigs descent into the water. If you exclusively use a baitcaster like I do you can slow it down by braking the spool with your thumb and raising the rod tip a couple of feet just before the jig hits the target. I have heard two sides of the story from here. You can let the jig fall on a slack line without the reel being engaged or you can engage the reel and follow the jig down with slight tension. I prefer to set the brake and follow the jig down with the tip of my rod due to the high number of hits I get on the fall or as soon as the jig hits the bottom. The disadvantage to this is the click that is produced when you engage the reel is a bit unstealthy but it has worked time and time again. I have tried both ways and I have missed fish by not having the reel engaged when I got hit so I find it better to engage and follow so that there is plenty of sensitivity. If you are not hit on the initial fall just let it hit bottom and sit. Sometimes I will allow the jig to sit perfectly still on a tight line for over 10 seconds before I get hit. If you still don’t have any luck after letting it sit there give it a couple of short bumps. By saying bumps I mean to moderately raise the rod tip about 6-8 inches and letting it hit bottom and repeat. It is not uncommon for me to take 2 minutes or more on a single retrieve. With the area that I fish having so much underwater timber I don’t want to miss any possible hot spots. I also like a 1/8th oz jig due to the slow fall. It must fall less than a foot a second and I have noticed more good fish since I switched from a ¼ to a 1/8 oz jig. My good friend Dominic Lamanno, owner of Backwater Jigs in New York, set me up with what I believe is the best jig on the market and has been a solid big bass producer since I began fishing with them. This perfect jig is a 1/8 oz football head with a single 3 strand wire brush guard, a full size shirt to slow the fall even more and a 3/0 Mustad hook. The large hook is better for many reasons but most of all because the small hooks that normally accompany a 1/8 oz head are too small to handle a few good size bass in a day. The small hooks are easily bent or broken and the point can roll up on you and lessen your chances or a solid hookset. What the strike feels like is a whole different story in its self if you have never experienced it. For me it is absolutely nothing like a stick or any other type of interference you may bump into. After you set the hook on timber and lose a couple of dozen jigs or catch a couple of dozen fish you will know the difference most of the time. A good sensitive rod it essential in detecting the difference in a strike and an object. I normally use a 6’6” Falcon MH rod but whatever is comfortable to you will work as long as it is a fast enough rod to get a good hookset every time. Now for the hookset. The moment I feel the fish strike the jig I reel down on and with every bit of energy in my body I set the hook. This is best performed by keeping the rod and reel tight to your body and a swift jerk from horizontal to perpendicular is a good habit to get yourself into. I am in the process of helping my great friends and fishing partners Mike Armstrong and Jon Harrison to learn how to use jigs. My favorite statement used to be “RIP LIPS when you get the hit”. After seeing several missed fish, including some pretty big bass, I changed my hookset statement to “RIP THEIR HEAD CLEAN OFF when you feel the strike”. The good thing about a good jig is that the hook will stand straight up on the bottom and from what I have seen will do the same when they suck it in. The reason you will know is because the hook will be in the bony part of the mouth in the very top of the mouth. A good hookset and sharp hook will penetrate this easily and then all you have to do is get her in. I don’t miss too many bass once I set the hook. I did have a bass that went over 9 pounds shake the hook when I lost tension because she shot straight towards my boat. Another essential is a good high speed reel, 6.2/1 or more. This way you can reel down on the fish quickly for the hookset and hopefully reel fast enough to keep up if she charges you. I hope this information will help you and your catches will be plentiful and larger then ever. Since I implemented the jig into my arsenal I have caught so many bass from 3 to over 8 pounds that it is not even funny. Yet I have only caught five or six bass under 3 pounds on this great bait. I have to agree with a great remark I read from Frank Manuele where he said the old statement “Match the Hatch” may not be the key to catching fish. I would say to “Match the Catch” and keep using whatever the bass are biting. That is why I will stick with my 1/8 oz black and blue jig and plastic chunk trailer until I stop catching them on it.

To contact Dominic Lamanno at Backwater Jigs email drdj4@dellepro.com

Tight Lines!

Luke “Bassman” Carder


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