The Marabou Jig, according to Seth Feider
February 04, 2017
The first segment of our trilogy about the marabou jig was published on Jan. 20. It featured some historical aspects about the marabou jig and the ways that Jeff Gustafson uses it. Our second one was centered upon Josh Douglas' insights, and it was published on Jan. 25. This is the third one, and it focuses on Seth Feider of Bloomington, Minnesota.
Feider is 31 years old, and Gustafson introduced him to the marabou jig when they were competing at the 2010 Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament in Wisconsin.
The first day that Feider wielded a black 3/32-ounce marabou jig for smallmouth bass around Sturgeon Bay was a failure, which provoked him to suspect that Gustafson had pulled a fast one upon him. But after Feider told Gustafson that he had dragged, shook, hopped, twitched, and bounced a marabou jig in vain across the bottom of scores of smallmouth bass lairs, Gustafson without a moment's hesitation said that he should not allow the jig to touch the bottom. Instead he had to swim it about halfway between the surface and the bottom. What's more, he should not shake it and twitch it.
Once Feider got the hang of the swimming motif, he became earnest and talented devotee, and he subsequently recruited Josh Douglas into the fold.
When he uses a 3/32-ounce marabou jig, Feider works with a seven-foot, six-inch Daiwa Cronos Spinning Rod that has a medium-light power and a fast action. His reel is a Daiwa Steez Ex 3012H. The reel is spooled with six-pound-test Suffix 832 Advanced Superline. He uses an FG knot to affix a six-foot and eight-pound-test leader, and it is Suffix 100% Fluorocarbon Invisiline. He affixes the jig to the leader with a double clinch knot. And at times, he has used a leader as short as two feet, noting that a shorter leader allows him to make longer casts.
Feider's marabou jig mantra is "The farther you cast it, the more fish you will catch." And he is a masterful caster. He estimates that he can cast a 3/32-ounce marabou jig 120 feet, which is the distance a catcher throws a baseball from home plate to second base. He always casts with the wind, which is an asset. What' more, he says his rod, reel, and line are critical factors in helping him make those massive casts. And at the Basmaster Classic at Lake Conroe and Houston, Texas, on Mar. 24-27, Daiwa will introduce a hair-jig rod, which Feider helped design, to the angling world, and according to Feider, this rod will significantly elevate his abilities to execute long cast after long cast.
When he implements those long casts, Feider uses the 3/32-ounce marabou jig that is made by Outkast Tackle, and it is called the Feider Fly. Except during the mayfly hatch, he always wields the black Feider Fly. He uses the brown one when the mayfly nymphs are swimming to the surface to become duns and eventually spinners.
He has caught significant numbers of smallmouth bass on a marabou jig that is almost threadbare from scores and scores of donnybrooks. But he prefers to use ones that are graced with a fluffy skirt of marabou. He also affixes a half of an inch of a soft-plastic bait onto the shank of the hook and under the marabou skirt. The piece of soft plastic is usually amputated from a Senko-style bait. This piece of soft-plastic helps him execute long casts.
The head of the Feider Fly is a mushroom-style head. According to Feider, the shape of the head is not an important factor, but he thinks that it is important that the eye of the hook is 90 degrees above the shank.
All of his marabou jig endeavors are focused on underwater terrains that consist of boulders and rocks — like the scores of massive rock reefs that stipple the underwater environment of Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota. The rock reefs that he fishes with a marabou jig are covered with four to 12 feet of water. He categorically said that he never uses it shallower than four feet, and he never uses it around submersed or emergent aquatic vegetation. At Mille Lacs, the water clarity around the rock reefs usually ranges from five to seven feet, but at times, there is 10 feet of visibility, and on rare occasions, the water will exhibit 15 feet of visibility. The clarity varies from section to section around the lake; it depends on the wind direction and velocity and the substrate.
Most of his casts are 90 feet long. And he commences the retrieve about two seconds after the jig touches the surface. As the jig is dropping towards the bottom for two seconds, Feider quickly and forcefully slaps his rod down towards the water, which removes the slack in the line and gets it in the water. After the two seconds have transpired, he begins to slowly rotate the reel handle and swims the marabou jig all the way back to the boat. As it swims along a rock reef that is covered with 10 feet of water, the jig is swimming three to four feet below the surface and seven to six feet above the bottom. The preponderance of smallmouth bass that he catches will engulf the marabou jig after it has traveled half of the way back to the boat. But there will be times when a smallmouth bass will apprehensively and curiously follow the swimming jig all the way back to the boat. When Feider see this phenomenon, he does not stop the retrieve, which allows it to plummet to the bottom. Instead, he slightly slows down the pace of the retrieve, which allows the smallmouth bass to virtually swim into the marabou jig, and that close encounter seems to stimulate some of those followers to engulf the jig.
What's more, Feider has noticed that since he has been employing a HydroWave H2 System he has caught more of those followers around the boat than he used to catch. Feider has come to the conclusion that the HydroWave makes the smallmouth bass less timorous and easier to catch.
During the retrieve, Feider points the rod at the jig, which helps to keep the wind from creating a bow in the line and adversely affecting the flow of the retrieve, as well as enhance his ability to detect when a smallmouth bass has engulfed the jig.
To properly implement the straight swimming retrieve and detect a strike from a smallmouth bass, Feider says that it is essential to have a spinning reel handle and gear system that is smooth and devoid of any vibration or minor ticks. When he is slowly turning the reel handle during the swimming retrieve, he detects a strike by feeling a very slight change in the way the reel is performing. Upon feeling that subtle change, he quickly accelerates the pace that he is rotating the reel handle and then he slowly and gingerly pulls the rod either up or to the side.
When his boat is floating parallel to a rock reef that is graced with a significant ledge that drops from four or five feet to 12 or more feet, and his casts and retrieves are perpendicular to the boat and the retrieves begin in five feet of water, he will alter his swimming presentation when the marabou jig approaches the ledge. At the ledge, he lifts his rod to about the one o'clock position and allows the jig to glide pendulum-like back to the boat.
Besides casting and swimming and gliding, Feider tows or trolls a marabou jig along, around, on, and adjacent to the rocky reefs. It is similar to the presentation style that Midwest finesse anglers call strolling. Feider says towing is an excellent search tactic.
And when he is guiding anglers who cannot execute the long casts that are necessary to elicits strikes from the smallmouth bass that inhabit the rock reefs, towing is an effective way for them to catch a respectable number of hefty smallmouth bass.
He always tows into the wind with his bow-mounted electric trolling motor. He begins each presentation by making an extremely long cast with the aid of the wind. And his cast is aimed at a 45-degree angle towards the back of the boat. Once the jig hits the surface of the water, he peels about 20 feet of line off of the spool of his reel.
When he is towing a marabou jig in four to six feet of water, he maneuvers the boat so that it is moving into the wind at 1.2 mph. When he is in seven to 12 feet of water, the boat will move at 1 mph to 0.8 mph; in other words, he tows the marabou jig slower around the deeper portions of the rock reefs than he does around their shallower portions. His aim is to have the marabou jig perform a steady and slow swimming presentation halfway between the rocks and the lake's surface.
As he tows, Fedier holds his rod parallel to the water and at a 90-degree angle from the marabou jig. It is not unusual for a smallmouth bass or two to follow the jig as it is being towed. Once the jig gets behind the boat and in the residue of the trolling motor's minor wake, Feider allows the tip of his rod to slowly move two or three feet towards the jig, and this allows the marabou jig to slowly move towards a smallmouth bass that might be following the jig. And that backwards movement can provoke a smallmouth bass to engulf the jig.
If he doesn't elicit a strike after he executed that subtle backwards presentation, Feider quickly reels in the jig and makes another cast and towing presentation.
He has found that the wind-blown side of a rock reef is usually the most fruitful one to tow along.
And when he catches a smallmouth bass, and the wind is not too intense, he will mark that particular lair, and then he will return to it to cast and retrieve the marabou jig around it in hopes that the one smallmouth bass that he caught trolling was abiding around a bevy of catchable smallmouth bass.
A brisk wind, however, can foil Feider's towing endeavors when the waves lift the bow and trolling motor up and out of the water. The waves also play havoc with his line as he is towing, and as the waves pummel his line, it prevents him from distinguishing smallmouth bass strikes from wave agitations. And these wind-blown phenomena can occur with some regularity at some of the massive waterways that Feider plies. He has never tried to tame its effects by using drift socks to drift with the wind and waves.
When he is in pursuit of smallmouth bass in Minnesota's natural lakes, his best fishing with a marabou jig takes place from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The coldest water he has caught a smallmouth bass in with a marabou jig is 40 degrees. The best marabou jig fishing commences in the spring when the water temperature reaches 50 degrees, and it remains good as the water temperature climbs upward during the summer. It deteriorates dramatically when it reaches 55 degrees late in the summer.
His favorite time to wield a marabou jig occurs during the mayfly hatch, which is when he uses the brown Feider Fly. On calm days during the mayfly hitch, he occasional sees a smallmouth bass slurping a dun on the surface, and he will cast the brown Fieder Fly to that locale, and with some regularity a smallmouth bass will engulf it on the initial drop. If a smallmouth bass does not engulf the marabou jig on the initial drop, he executes his straight swimming retrieve all the way to the boat.
On windless outings, when Feider is using a marabou jig, he will occasionally see a smallmouth bass swimming about, and when that happens, he will cast the marabou jig about 20 feet in front of the direction the smallmouth bass is swimming or the direction it is looking. Once the jig hits the water, he will execute the same swimming retrieve that he has been doing since Gustafson told him how to do it during the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament in 2010.
(1) Here is the link to the Midwest Finesse column that features Jeff Gustafson's ways with a marabou jig: https://www.in-fisherman.com/gear-accessories/the-marabou-jig-according-to-jeff-gustafson/.
(2) Here is the link to the Midwest Finesse column that features Josh Douglas' ways with a marabou jig: https://www.in-fisherman.com/gear-accessories/the-marabou-jig-according-to-josh-douglas.
(3) Here are links to Seth Feider's Facebook page and website: https://www.facebook.com/SethFeiderFishing/; http://www.sethfeiderfishing.com/.
(4) After Bill Ward of Warsaw, Missouri, read the Midwest Finesse columns about the way Jeff Gustafson and Josh Douglas use a marabou jig, we talked on Feb. 2 about the history of the marabou jig and the role he and his father, Virgil, played in its creation. We noted in the column about Jeff Gustafson's ways with a marabou jig that Bill created the first marabou jig in 1957. And our Feb. 2 telephone conversation, Bill said that he and his father used a 1/16-ounce marabou jig in the late 1950s to catch walleye and smallmouth bass on the Lake of the Woods, Ontario. Back then, they used either a white-and-red one or a yellow one. Bill also suspects that he caught the first lake trout that was ever caught on a marabou jig, and he caught it in Canada in the early 1960s on a 1/2-ounce white-and-red one.
In a Feb. 3 email, Bill Ward wrote: "I recall a trip to Cliff Lake in Canada. It would have been in the late 50s or early 60s. We were using five-foot Shakespeare rods and a ultra-light reels and four-pound-test line. We were using a 1/32-ounce black marabou jig. We caught so many smallmouth bass that we would go fish for something else for awhile to break the monotony. I think we also used some two-pound-test line. It was also about this time that we caught lake trout on ultra-light rods and reels and four-pound-test line with a 1/2-ounce marabou jig in 65 feet of water."