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