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Midwest Finesse Gear & Accessories Lures

Finesse News Network’s Gear Guide: Bill Ward’s Midwest Finesse jigs

by Ned Kehde   |  February 11th, 2013 7

A jig lies at the heart of all our Midwest finesse presentations, and Gopher Tackle’s 1/16-ounce Original Mushroom Jig Head has been our standard-bearer.

But as more and more new anglers have become practitioners of Midwest finesse tactics, they have introduced us to some new jig options.  And on Jan. 22 a package of jigs arrived in the mail from Bill Ward of Warsaw, Missouri.

Wards’ jig  making and fishing lineage stretches back to 1955, when he and his father, the late Virgil Ward of Amsterdam, Missouri, were proprietors of Bass Buster Lure Company. Initially, they manufactured big bass jigs that were dressed with saddle hackle feathers. Then Bill Ward created the first marabou jig in 1957. In the mid-1960s, they began making the late Chuck Woods’ Beetle and Beetle Spin. During the last half of the 1960s, they created the first fiber-guard jigs. In sum, the Wards and their Bass Buster Lure Company manufactured an incalculable number of jigs.

Now in his retirement years and at the age of 78, Bill Ward is still making jigs and fishing with them, and to this day,  many observers say there never has been and  still aren’t many anglers in the world who can catch black bass, crappie and walleye on a jig as well as Ward can. In fact, Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, and who is one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse tactics, says Ward is a magician with a jig.

For the past two years, Ward and Reese have also become devotees of Z-Man Fishing Products’ Hula StickZ, Finesse ShadZ and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ.  During this spell, they have been brainstorming and tinkering around with a variety of jig motifs to use with Z-Man’s ElaZtech baits.

Currently, Ward is working with a football head jig and a round head jig, while Reese has created a mushroom-style jig.

The sample of 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigs that Ward sent in the mail included ones with  weed guards and ones without weed guards. Ward works with four styles of weed guards. One is a two-strands of .024-size fiber-guard, another one is a single strand of .032-size fiber-guard, one is a single-strand of wire and another is a single strand of a red nylon-coated wire. Ward’s nylon-coated-wire weed guard is trimmed from a steel leader.

A sample of Bill Ward's 1/32- and 1/16-ounce round-head jigs.

His jigs also sported an ingenious bait keeper, which he created by removing the collar on each jig. Then where the collar was situated on the shank of the hook, he attached a No. 18 dry-fly hook that sports a turn-downed eye.  He secured that hook to the jig by using a fly-tying bobbin to wrap fly-tying thread around the shanks of the No. 18 hook and the jig’s hook.  The eye of the No. 18 fly lies flush to the head of the jig. Once the No. 18 hook was completely wrapped with the thread onto the jig hook’s shank, Ward covered the thread with some super-style glue.

These are Bill Ward's 1/16-ounce football head jigs. The one in the middle sports a green-pumpkin Z-Man's Hula StickZ and a red nylon-coated wire weed guard. Hula StickZ affixed to a jig has become one of Ward's all-time favorite finesse baits.

Ward has found that the Z-Man’s baits get better as they get older and well pummeled by the fish, but it is often difficult to keep those tattered baits from slipping down the shank of the jig’s hook. But according to Ward, the No. 18 hook keeps Z-Man’s baits snuggly attached to the jig – even after they tangled with scores and scores of fish.

******************************************************************************

 Footnotes:

For more insights about jigs and the durability of Z-Man’s ElaZtech baits,  see:

(1)   http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/04/04/the-super-finesse-worm/

(2)   http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/05/03/the-super-finesse-worm-an-update/

(3)   http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/07/15/finesse-news-network-gear-guide-super-glue-bait-hitch-barb-wire-collars-and-more/

About Ned Kehde

Field Editor Ned Kehde has been writing for In-Fisherman since the 1980s. His recent finesse bass tactics and findings have been influential throughout the Midwest and beyond. He writes the online column Midwest Finesse for In-Fisherman.com

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  • nkehde

    After Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, read about Bill Ward's jigs, he sent a note to the folks on the Finesse News Network about the finesse jig that he will use in 2013.
    Here's Waldman note:
    "Ned – Saw your post on the Midwest Finesse jigheads and just had to write to mention or suggest another. I'm pretty much sold now days on the VMC Neon Moon Eye jigs. My box now has over 400 of these jigheads ready for battle this year, in all sizes ranging from 1/32-oz to 1/8-oz. The majority of them are 1/16-oz. Beside the regular colors, they also make "hot" versions of them as well as UV versions. For those that like to experiment with color combinations, this jighead is a great option. What I like best though is the metal keeper wire built into the jighead. It does a fantastic job of holding soft plastics on the hook – very efficient. It is also an aspirin style head, so little twitches of the rod tip will make it dance and sashay well depending on the plastic bait used. I also like the really large eye. Much like scent, it is hard to say to what degree color plays a role in everyday bites, and I used to be a firm advocate of plain lead heads. However, the wire barb collar on this jig more than makes up for having to deal with color options, and it can be fun creating jighead-plastic combinations. Brian"

  • nkehde

    Josh posted the following comments on a blog that was posted on Aug. 13, 2012 about colors of jigs.

    Since some readers might not examine the archives of these blogs, we thought that we should post his comments here.

    Josh wrote: “A few thoughts on color. Regarding Mike Poe’s comment pertaining to the application of color and it’s orientation on a lure configuration, I firmly agree. Despite the merit of implementing color alterations for the purpose of more closely emulating the patterns and tones of specific forage items, brighter supplementations can serve in various capacities. Hot tones act as a beacon, amplifying a bait’s visual presence when clarity, water tint, light penetration or cover variables pose as visual inhibitors. When presenting a lure amidst a sizable congregation of given prey item, the need to differentiate your bait slightly from the body of prey items you are emulating is very helpful, making your presentation a focal point for bass. Lastly, there is the obvious affinity for more vibrant tones amongst Smallmouth, Spots and even early-season Largemouth. Whatever one’s rationale is for applying a hotter color, there is merit to be found with it’s application to both the tail of a bait, and to the foremost portion of the rig, so as to help conjure better strike / hook-up percentages. As an argument for dyeing a bait’s rear-most portions, the inherent action produced by the tails of certain baits like a finesse worm or subtle shad-type soft plastic can have more drawing power when dyed, acting as a tiny strobe as it flickers, beckoning to fish that might otherwise show no interest due to proximity, visibility, etc.. This is generally my preference with subdued, finesse oriented baits w/ thinner, more supple tail-portions that are worked in delicate fashion. However, with baits worked in more aggressive manner, or those of larger stature, I have always found virtue in what Mr. Poe suggested. I will paint and epoxy the keel (belly) portions of my hook-shanks for Texas-rigging, drop-shotting / wacky rigging, etc. with chartreuse, orange or even pink. The same applies to jig-heads, everything from a subtle Midwest Finesse type configuration, to magnum shaky-head couplings. It all helps to combat those disheartening situations wherein fish only seem to passively commit to nipping at the tail-end of offerings, limiting the potential to connect with them. Garnishes of color, specifically hotter hues, can be capitalized on as focal points for assaulting fish, by applying them within closer proximity to the hook’s business end. As always, Mr. Kehde, your blog remains a catalyst for thought and insight into the sport we all hold so dear. Josh”

  • nkehde

    Josh posted the following comments on a blog that was posted on Aug. 8, 2012 about employ a whacky jig.

    Since some readers might not examine the archives of these blogs, we thought that we should post his comments here.

    Josh wrote: “There are two methods that I would like to share regarding wacky-rigging and bait-retention. I would first like to note that I do not prefer the popular o-ring method, as adhering your hook to the bait in this manner poises the hook inline with the axis of the bait, upping the odds of a worm / stickbait bunching up over the tine of the hook and hindering the point from reaching the fish’s mouth. The exception for me is when Neko rigging, as the aforementioned hook placement serves to promote a more vertical orientation to the bottom. So, thusly, I advocate two approaches.

    Method 1: Heat-shrink tubing is a wonderful project for wacky-rigging. There are various sizes available, befitting a range of bait diameters. Cut it into thin 1/4″ thick (or slightly smaller) bands. Slide one in position over a bait, then heat until snug. Now, instead of simply harnessing your hook to the bait as would be done with an o-ring, you can pierce the hook into the heat-shrink and through the bait in a more traditional fashion. This poises the hook perpendicularly to the running length of the bait, heightening hook-up ratios and reducing the potential for snagging, even without a weed-guard. With this method, you do not need the extra gap of more typical and larger hook sizes, which are warranted with o-ring rigging to prevent hook-up issues. Also, when rigging a naked bait onto a hook, as is typically done with jighead-wacky approaches, the need to imbed the hook deeper into the bait arises, preventing the premature loss of said bait. Again, a larger or wider-gapped hook is needed. To summarize, with heat-shrink the hook need not be imbedded as far into the bait, allowing for the use of smaller hooks. Hooks can also be poised perpendicular to the bait’s axis, heightening hook-up rates even more so. Additionally, consider that using o-rings with wacky jig-heads severely hinders the implementation of proper action to wacky jig-head presentations. Various colors of heat-shrink are available, even clear.
    Method 2: The second method is one that I had originally used for nose-hooking baits for drop-shotting and I-motion techniques, but works readily for wacky rigging too. You need bait-retainer springs, like the Owner CPS spring, and a rubber, egg-shaped bobber-stop. As evenly as possible, cut the bobber-stop in half. Use caution, as this can be challenging. Next, force one half of the bobber-stop onto the shank of a hook / jighead, tapered end first, so that the wider end (where it was halved) is facing the hook point. You want to work this half of the bobber-stop roughly to where you would want the bait to rest on the hook’s bend. Next, slip the retainer-spring over the shank. Now, force the other half of the bobber-stop onto the shank, the wide end first (where it was halved), with this one’s tapered end facing towards the hook’s point. Snugly sandwich the retainer spring between the two halves of the bobber-stop. I like to apply a little epoxy, to aid in keeping everything in place, with the spring postured outward from the bend of the hook. Now, whether wacky or nose-rigging, baits can be screwed onto your hook / wacky jig-head. Quite a few fish can be caught on a single bait with this method. As much as I prefer the heat-shrink method for it’s ease of use and superior ability to retain baits, the retainer-spring rigging is one I regularly use for nose-hooking baits, and is therefore readily available in my arsenal for wacky applications. In tough-bite situations where water clarity and light-penetration afford fish the chance for the heightened scrutiny of baits, I do feel that retainer-springs coupled with petite hooks affords a less obtrusive, naturalistic offering, compared to heat-shrink. Thanks for reading Josh”

  • jerry

    Mr Kehde, I am having a hard time finding a gopher head source, will a 1/16 oz ball head work fine?

    • Ned Kehde

      Dear Jerry:
      Thanks for posting your question.
      Sorry that you are having a difficult time finding Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head Jig.
      You can order some from Gopher via its Web site. Here’s the link: http://www.gophertackle.com/mushroomjig.html.
      You can use a 1/16-ounce ball or round jig. But from my experience Gopher’s Mushroom Head Jig works better than the ball or round jig most of the time.
      If you acquire some 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs, we would like to get your opinions about the Gopher versus a standard ball or round jig?
      Please keep in touch,
      Ned

      • Ned Kehde

        Dear Jerry:
        Thanks for posting your question.
        Sorry that you are having a difficult time finding Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head Jig.
        You can order some from Gopher via its Web site. Here’s the link: http://www.gophertackle.com/mushroomjig.html.
        You can use a 1/16-ounce ball or round jig. But from my experience Gopher’s Mushroom Head Jig works better than the ball or round jig most of the time.
        If you acquire some 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs, we would like to get your opinions about the Gopher versus a standard ball or round jig?
        Please keep in touch,
        Ned

  • nkehde

    Victor:

    Thanks for your note. Please read this blog: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/06/10/legends-of-the-heartland/.

    It features Virgil and Bill Ward’s contributions to the angling world.

    Best wishes,
    Ned

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