More tinkering with trailers--and one hot thing happening-real swimming jigs for big bass.
1 One trailer category adds bulk along with the slightest vibration. The classic option here is the #11 Uncle Josh Pork Frog, but today many similar chunks are made of soft plastic. Last issue I told you about one of my favorite trailers in this category, a 4-inch Berkley Gulp! Shrimp, which adds a nice glide to a jig on the fall. Bass respond visually to the jig as it swims and falls. With their lateral line, they also feel the jig pushing water.
2 The second category is a big one. Within it fall all the options that add bulk and vibration, but add it without doing what the last category does, which is add vibration along with swimming movement. The options in this category begin with the addition of subtle movement, by using say a Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg, which has straight legs and thin tails. To step up the vibration package, trim about an inch off the head end of a 7-inch PowerBait Power Worm and slide the remaining action tail on the jig hook. To add even more distinct vibration, use a Berkley Havoc Craw Fatty, with its two wildly paddling arms. Again, each trailer adds a bit of bulk, along with different vibration patterns bass can discern with their eyes and their lateral line.
Before revealing the final category, I must emphasize that vibration usually is the third most important dynamic in lure choice. Depth control always is the first factor, followed by speed control--including the way you work or retrieve a lure. Then vibration plays a role, along with characteristics such as profile, color, sound, scent, taste, and color.
But finding the right vibration pattern more often seals the deal ahead of anything having to do with the other factors. Too many anglers worry too much about color. Make a good guess about color, but concentrate on getting depth, speed, and vibration right, before worrying about the other secondary factors, including color. The fish gets in close and the lateral line kicks in to read the pulsations coming from the lure. Get it right and the fish eats. Get it wrong and you get a close encounter--a swim by--at the last second.
3 One of the most appealing of all vibrations is produced by lures in the boot-tailed soft swimbait category. That's the final trailer group. It can be incredibly deadly, and it remains mostly underutilized by bass anglers. The idea is to add a soft swimbait body to a jig so the entire package swims. That is you want the jig and trailer wobbling back and forth as the boot tail also thumps on a straight retrieve. It's almost like fishing a wobbling crank-bait, with the option to kill the jig at anytime and have it swim to the bottom, always a key triggering move.
The best jighead design is cone style, which works in concert with the soft swimbait to get the jig to swim. Head designs like the football head, by comparison, allow the thumper tail to do its thing, but the head remains too stable to get the package to swim. Meanwhile, the swimbait body should be rigged flat instead of up and down like it was designed to fish.
Now you have three tipping categories. Bass often prefer options from one category over other categories, depending on fishing conditions. Once the water gets cold, for example, bass often prefer almost no vibration; so choose options from the first category. Fishing can be tricky at times. During mid to late fall lots of bass often like options from the second category, but switching to options from the third category also often produces fewer but much bigger fish. Once you discover which category is working best, worksthrough various options from within the category, to discover the best possible option overall.
More On "Swimming Jigs"
That's the fundamental idea, but bass anglers so overlook the last category, and it can be so deadly, that I want to offer a few examples of options to get you started. For rubber-legged jigs most often fished by bass anglers--compact jigs in the 3/8- to 1-ounce range--try 3.25- or 4.5-inch Lunker City Shakers. The Shaker has a flat body and it does a nice job of making most jigs move. Experiment by shortening the softbait body to get it to couple with the jig you've chosen.
One of my favorite conehead jigs is the 5/8-ounce J-mac jig. Yes, it's a big one designed for muskies. Bass anglers spend too much time fishing too small. The 1-ounce J-mac also works well. At times you need to trim the skirt back a little. The weedguard works in weeds, but it doesn't deflect wood. A few options include:
* Add a 4.5-inch Lunker City Shaker body and the jig swims (wobbles) modestly on a straight retrieve--and swims well on the fall.
* Add a 5-inch Berkley Flatback Shad and the jig swims more distinctively on a straight retrieve, but goes dead (doesn't swim) on the fall. Overall, I prefer the jig to swim on the fall, but many times bass like it on a dead fall.
* Trim a 6-inch Lunker City Shaker body back by an inch and it swims the package superbly on a straight retrieve and it wobbles a bit on the fall. This one starts to get a bit big for 2- and 3-pound bass. Trim the Shaker by 2 inches and it still swims great on the retrieve but no longer swims on the fall.
* Add a narrow-bodied swimbait--hybrid swim-bait, as I call them in the smallmouth article in this issue. Many companies offer bodies like the Lunker City SwimFish and the Berkley Havoc Grass Pig, both 5 inches. The bodies move the jig modestly on a straight retrieve and the fall. It's one of the hottest new options.
I won't complicate this column by discussing at length coupling jigs designed for swim jigging with swimbait bodies, although you should consider it if you fish these jigs. Swimbait bodies work best with heavier jigs. The bodies need a sturdy pivot point to work against in order to swim; so 3/8 ounce is about the minimum weight for jigs with even a thin skirt.
October and November and the winter months across the South are prime for big bass. One of the finest overall options is a rubber-legged jig with just the right trailer for the situation at hand. As always, we're trying to help--offering observations from our field experience. From bass to muskies and walleyes, and panfish and steelhead to crappies, this issue offers insights for you to consider and options for you to employ to catch more and bigger fish. Good fishing to you.
DOUG STANGE EDITOR IN CHIEF