November 23, 2012
By Matt Straw
Paul Jensen, owner of Jensen Jigs, has been tying hair jigs for decades. Sometimes he just sits down, lets his imagination run wild and ties something new. Then he sends it to me.
"What is it? What did you design it for? What do you call it?"
"How should I know?" he says. "I sent it to you to figure that out."
When I saw the Sculpin pattern he tied (above) with rabbit fur dyed olive green, I thought "swim jig" for largemouths in cold water. Paul says, when tying it up, he was thinking about sliding it along on bottom. "I thought it would be great on Sturgeon Bay, crawled right on bottom for smallmouths." I thought the flattened head would keep it up on the swim, and largemouths have shown a decided preference for rabbit and fox fur when the water dips into the low 40°F around here for the past couple decades.
"I actually found that head in a fly-fishing catalog," Jensen said. "It's called the Fly Men Fishing Company. That jig is in the catalog under 'sculpin.' They've also got reaper-style tails and craws in some kind of shammy material that's very durable and lifelike. I'll tie something up and send it along."
Paul's 5-inch Rabbit Leeches are some of the most effective swimming lures for smallmouths I've ever used. Paul says he's caught more fish with the red-and-white (far right) than any other pattern. I like the all-black versions, but I fish them entirely different than the designer. "I never fish a jig with the rod tip down," Jensen said. "But you can't hop those 5 inchers around much or you'll spend all your time taking leather off the hook. I had a friend named Freddy who never hopped a jig. He just used a dead-man retrieve. A slow retrieve. Tip down. And he always caught as many fish as we did."
Here's to Freddy.
That larger jig on the left has to be my favorite, all-time artificial for dealing with pike in funky moods. This 8- or 9-inch rabbit-tail jig is aptly named the Pike Enthraller. "I'm making a new one," Jensen said. "It's the same as other Pike Enthrallers, but it has round rubber skirting and a big, bulky profile. I'll send you one."
Can't wait. Despite making me think so hard all the time, Paul is an angler after my own heart. He likes to simplify things from time to time. "I got sick of packing tackle the other day and just pulled out an old cane pole," he said. "I rigged it up with some old black Dacron and went dapping jigs with it along the rip-rap by a dam. Get out a bunch of line and it's like throwing with a fly rod. I caught mostly sheepshead and a few bass. Nothing fabulous, but it was back-to-basics fishing that stopped me from packing tackle. It got to the point where I dreaded going fishing. This simplifies things tremendously. I grew up with fishing and it takes on this macho thing. I used to identify myself with fishing. Takes a lifetime to learn that anybody can catch a fish. It's just something to enjoy."
Paul bought a new place at the mouth of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. "Our back door is 50 feet from a fishing dock made by the city," he said. "If the fish are biting, I stay out there. If not, I come home and tie." Sounds like Paul's whittling seriously away at the complexity of life. He's blogging about it, day-by-day, but I must have copied the address wrong because I can't pull it up. I'll get back to you with that. In the meantime, we have more new hair jigs to explore