Fundamentals: Fishing Jigs and Jigging
August 08, 2012
There is some discussion as to whether a jig is a rig, but there is no doubt that jigs can catch aggressive, neutral, and even tentative fish of almost any species. Jigs can be cast and retrieved slowly by hopping or dragging across the bottom or retrieved at a fairly rapid rate when dressed with a plastic lure meant to imitate a minnow. Jigs can be fished vertically under a float, from shore, from a boat, or through the ice. They can be held stationary on the bottom or allowed to drift with the current. Versatile is a jig.
The bait you choose to put on your jig determines how you work it. A jig with livebait calls for a finesse approach, fished slowly or held stationary, most often keeping the bait on or near the bottom. Using a 5½- to 7-foot moderate- to fast-action, light to medium-light spinning rod with a soft tip, its reel spooled with 6- to 10-pound monofilament, sweep the rod tip a few inches to dance the jig off the bottom. This is the attracting maneuver. Then, reeling in the slack to maintain a taut line, pause your retrieve as the jig settles back to the bottom. This is usually the time when the fish investigates and strike. Experiment with varying lengths of hops and time you allow the jig to rest.
In comparison to jigs tipped with livebait, jig-and-plastic combos can be worked more aggressively to impart action to the lure. Hop, dance, and sweep your jig forward, setting the hook immediately if you think that a fish may have hold of the jig. A soft plastic lure be vertically jigged, dancing it in the water column, or bouncing it off the bottom. Most often, however, it's cast and retrieved, with the angler letting it settle to the bottom and then retrieving it back to the shore or boat, always watching the line to see if the jig has hit bottom (line goes slack) or if a fish has the bait in its mouth. The exception is when you're fishing a plastic lure meant to have a swimming motion, in which case the lure is retrieved at a speed that keeps it active, with an occasional pause to let it drop before resuming the retrieve, just as you would with a crankbait.
Jigs with weedguards (stiff wire or plastic bristle that extends from the head of the jig over the point) are a favorite for heavy cover, often cast using a 7½-foot heavy power, moderately fast action casting rod, with a reel spooled with 14- to 17-pound monofilament or braid. For other situations, a 6- to 7-foot medium power, fast-action spinning rod with 4- to 10-pound monofilament or braid works well.