Though jigging bass carries the image of a power-fishing approach, the hottest application today is downsized jigs designed to draw strikes from bass that shun other baits, including big jigs. Jim Eakins of Nixa, Missouri, has been dominating tournaments in the central United States, including Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma for much of the last decade. Lately, he's had to share the spotlight with his son Troy.
This father-and-son team has spread the gospel of the mini-jig across this region. As their success has grown on national tournament trails, the renown of the "Eakins Jig" has spread into bassdom from northern California to southern Maine.
Eakins comments: "In the mid-1980s, I recognized that I caught more bass with small jigs fished on light line. Even then, fishing pressure for bass was strong on the Ozark reservoirs, where the water also is clear. I went through ten molds before I was satisfied with the shape and balance of the jig. The keys to a good jig are balance, to create a natural fall, and the ability to hook and hold fish."
Eakins also had settled on the short-cut collar on the jig skirt, which has become a trademark of this style of finesse jig. The cut skirt gives a crawfishlike appearance and also helps parachute the jig to the bottom in a slow, even descent.
Backed by a small plastic craw, the package resembles the real thing. Eakins has worked with Gayle Julian of Jewel Baits to create this jig model, a round jighead weighing 5/16 ounce, with a turned eye. Jewel offers a variety of natural colors, along with the Eakins Craw, a salt-laden plastic craw that Jim and Troy Eakins also designed.
"The Eakins Jig is a system," Eakins continues, "and matching lure size and weight to a rod and line are critical. I fish the jig on 10-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line, occasionally going to 12-pound in dingier water. I've designed a rod for Falcon Rods, a 6-foot 10-inch model they rate as a 5 power, on the light side of medium-heavy. You need a rod with a softer, more-tapered tip section than the typical pitching stick, but with a powerful midsection and butt. Bites on a finesse jig often are light, and you need to feel the bait and a light bite without being detected. A softer tip allows that."
As for the flat eye, Eakins has found far greater hooking success than with a straight eye, on his compact jig with its smaller hook. The eye protrudes at an angle slightly less than 60 degrees, which helps it pull through brush and dock posts easily. Eakins primarily pitches his little jig around brushpiles, docks, and along rocky terrain. For fishing grass, he selects Jewel's Eakins' Flip'n Jig, with its pointy nose and rattle skirt.
In fall, Eakins and other mini-jig specialists use the bait for largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. For big Ozark spots, Eakins may work the jig on the bottom in 35 feet of water, catching spots holding beneath a floating dock. For a finesse approach, he tries to carefully place the lure in key spots, then lets it settle with minimal movement, followed by a few twitches or a series of short hops. If there are no takers within 15 or 20 seconds, he reels in and pitches again.
PJ's Lures, another Missouri company, offers the Lil Jig, a finesse model with a cut collar and a more angular head to probe brush. The Lil Jig is available in 1/8-, 1/4-, and 5/16-ounce sizes, with a 1/0 or 2/0 Mustad Needle Point hook. Alabama bass pro Terry Tucker favors these downsize jigs for most jig applications from the spawn through fall. For heavier duty, PJ's offers the Super Brush Lil Jig, available in 1/4-, 5/16-, and 7/16-ounce models.
Meanwhile, Terminator's jig line has been enhanced with the Finesse Jig, a downsized version weighing just 1/8, 3/16, and 1/4 ounce. Its Mustad light-wire hook ensures easy hookups, while Terminator's Titanium Weedguard holds plastic trailers neatly in place. Terminator's 3/16-ounce Tiny-T Jig also has won acclaim, along with numerous tournaments. Like the Eakins Jig, it has a turned eye, recessed in the head to smoothly pass through brush. Falcon Lures, known for their big grass jigs, also has entered the finesse market with the Falcon Finesse Jig. This fall, look for Uncle Josh's finesse model and the Booyah Jig series from PRADCO. These baits are deadly in fall, for probing fallen trees and stumps and where thinning grass beds allow you to pitch into pockets, let the jig settle, and give fish a chance to investigate and bite.
If you haven't tried these little jigs, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised.