by Bob Jensen
We often talk about fishing techniques and fish location and things like that, and sometimes we forget about the nuts and bolts of fishing. A regular reader of this column contacted me recently and suggested I talk about the baits we should keep in a tacklebox, and I thought that was a good idea. Jigs are perhaps the backbone of many anglers fishing, so let’s talk about jigs and another time we’ll cover other types of lures for fishing. First though, jigs.
Jigs are effective all year for a wide variety of fish. Many anglers have a tackle box dedicated just to jigs. In fact, lots and lots of anglers have containers dedicated to just one style of jig. For instance, they might have a box just for jigs that they use for live-bait, and another for jigs that they use when they’re tipping with plastic. Some jigs are best for live-bait, others are better for plastic: There truly is a difference.
Let’s start with walleyes. A jig and minnow is about as popular as you get for ‘eyes. You’ll want a few sixteenth ounce, a few eighth ounce, and a few quarter ounce jigs. If you fish in rivers or deep water a lot, some three-eighth and half ounce jigs will be necessary. Day in and day out in most walleye waters, eighth ounce will be the most popular.
Color is the fun part of selecting a bait. When the fish are hungry and want to get caught, color often doesn’t matter, although often a particular color will catch more or bigger fish.
When the fish are a bit finicky, color can be a very important consideration. There are so many colors and color combinations, it’s just not practical or possible to have them all. For walleyes, you need chartreuse and you need orange jigs. Black or white or yellow or purple can be productive, but you need chartreuse and orange. Watermelon is another color that is extremely good.
Now about live bait jigs and plastic bait jigs. When using live bait, a short-shanked jig is the way to go. Fire-Ball jigs are a good example of an outstanding live bait jig. When using minnows, put the hook in the minnows mouth and out the hard part of its head. Get the minnows lips right up to the jig head. It will stay on the hook longer and hook-ups will increase when hooked this way. Hook leeches through the sucker, thread crawlers on.
When using plastic on a jig, use a long-shanked hook, something like a Slurp! Jig. Thread the plastic on so the nose of the plastic is next to the jighead. Again, with the hook farther back, the more hook-ups you’ll have. Use a head that contrasts in color with the plastic: Orange/chartreuse is a great starting point.
In stained water, a jig with a spinner or propeller and a plastic tail with an aggressive tail action can be deadly. The added flash will help the fish find your bait easier. A Whistler Jig has a propeller, a Thumper Jig has the spinner.
And then there are the traditional marabou and bucktail jigs. They’ve been around forever and they still catch fish. Marabou has a little more undulating action, but bucktail catches’em good at times also.
When I started this, I thought we could cover jigs for all species of fish. After about two sentences I knew jigs were so versatile we would only be able to cover walleyes. We’ll talk about jigs for other species some other time. For now, know that jigs catch lots of fish much of the time. Add jigs to your fishing arsenal if you haven’t already done so.