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Jig Tactics For Big, Deep-Water Bass

A Big Jig Can Net You The Fish Of A Lifetime

When bass go deep, like they do in winter and summer, it takes a combination of the right lure and the right technique to catch the big ones. Football head jigs dressed up in skirts and grubs are ideal lures for these deep-water hawgs. A jig has all the features that tempt fish and make them eat – the profile is relatively small, but bulky enough to look like a decent meal, and the legs and skirt wave around even when the lure is not moving, so the lure constantly sends out signals that a bass can hear and hunt for. Once a fish takes one of these big jigs in his mouth, the combination of taste (from a suitably salty trailer or the application of scent) and feel make him hold on.

Among bass fishermen who are used to fishing deep water, the one-ounce football head jig is a favorite. This "one-tonner" jig gets down to the bottom quickly and can be fished slow or fast, depending on what the fish want. One of the main benefits of using these heavy jigs is that the weight is readily and constantly felt by the angler, which means that any perceived change in the weight or movement of the lure that signals a strike can be acted upon instantly.


Successful jig fishermen usually have a dedicated "jig pole". A long (6-1/2 - 7 feet) and very stout rod is a must. Heavy jigs are easy to cast on almost any rod, but a long and fairly stiff rod is what it takes to set the hook on a really big fish in deep water. The reel should take up a lot of line quickly. Once you set the hook the bass will often head right for the top, and if you can't keep up with him and keep pressure on the fish, you're gonna lose him.

Heavy line is a big help, too. In deep water the visibility of heavier line isn't a problem, and you need a strong line with just a little stretch. Fluorocarbon lines are ideal – you can use regular knots, the lines are practically invisible, and they have very little stretch. With a fluorocarbon line you can feel every movement of the lure and get a great hookset. 17- to 20-pound-test line is not excessive for deep water jigging.

Keep It Simple

When it comes to choosing skirts and trailers for jigs, you can keep it pretty simple. A selection of crawdad and shad-colored twin-tail grubs will cover just about any situation.

The jigs themselves are crucial. You can find all kinds of football head jigs in a variety of weights, but when it really counts you'll be glad that you spent a few extra cents and bought a brand name made with good hooks. A big bass has a hard bony mouth, and an inferior hook just won't cut it. When a lunker bass takes a jig you need to be able to swing hard, take up a lot of line immediately, and drive the hook home past the barb. A long stout pole, strong line, and a good sharp hook are all necessities.

Location, Location, Location

Once upon a time structure fishing was rare, so the few anglers who did probe the offshore rockpiles and hidden channels were almost sure to run into a few bass who had never seen a lure before. This is no longer the case, so an angler in search of a big bass needs an abundance of patience and good electronics. All the obvious places are pretty well-known on most lakes, so you need to look for more subtle spots like submerged reefs and drop-offs that aren't marked.

Keep an eye on his depth finder as you cruise the lake. Anyplace where the bottom comes up or goes down suddenly is worth investigating. In winter, cliffs and bluffs are prime starting points. Deeper flats with sharp drops can be dynamite. And when bass are deep, summer or winter, a steep rocky bank should never be passed by. This includes rip rap.

Let The Structure Dictate

A truly big bass will likely have the best spot in the area all to himself. According to fisheries biologist, some bass probably stay shallow all year long. The biggest bass, however, will have the best territory. Bass don't migrate as much as most people think, and there is a kind of pecking order among fish – the biggest ones get the best places. The best places will have plenty of food and cover, a nearby feeding area, and deep water close by. In cold water a bass won't run far for a meal, so you'll need to get the lure right next to him and make him think it's a tasty and easy meal. Let the structure dictate your presentation.

"Crashing" A Jig

Crashing a big jig on the bottom is deadly for big bass whether the bottom is muddy or rocky. This is a fairly vertical presentation, ideal for isolated structure – you'll want to drop the lure down to the bottom and crash it by lifting the rod a foot or two and letting it drop. Follow the lure down with the rod tip, and keep the line between your fingers. Bass will often take the lure as it falls, so if you suddenly can't feel the lure any more, set the hook.

When the lure bangs on the bottom it not only makes noise that bass can hear, it creates clouds of silt and mud that the fish can see and home in on. When the bait is lifted and dropped, it appears to be getting away, and this often is all it takes to trigger a strike even in a sluggish bass.

Learn To Feel The Bait

When you are motoring around looking at your depthfinder, look for balls and schools of baitfish. Note the depth these fish are using, and concentrate your jigging efforts on good structure at that depth. You don't need to see bass on the graph – just look for great structure at the right depth and fish it thoroughly. It often pays to go over an area several times, moving in a different direction each time. You can even crash a one-tonner through trees once you get the feel for it. Bass tend to take a jig on the fall, so learning to feel the bait is key.

Dragging And Hopping Jigs

Rip rap, flats, bluffs, and drop-offs can all be fished very effectively with a dragged or hopped jig. Mike Baldwin says he usually starts out hopping the jig because it is a little faster. If he doesn't get any takers, he'll switch to dragging the lure. "If you make really long casts," he warns, "you'll get in trouble with snags and stuff and get discouraged. Make shorter casts and you'll feel the bait better, get snagged less, and get a good hookset more often." Many anglers make the mistake of turning the reel handle as soon as the lure hits the water, Mike adds. This makes the lure swing in toward you as it falls, shortening the cast. "Cast out and let the lure fall in free spool," he advises, "but keep an eye on that line. A bass can take the lure on the fall and head right toward you and you'll never know you've been bit unless you are watching for line movement."

Learn To Detect Bites

Once the lure touches bottom, turn the reel handle and start dragging the lure by pulling the rod sideways. You want to keep the jig on the bottom, crawling over every rock and stump. When you feel the lure climb something, drag it to the top and let it fall freely over the side. If you don't feel it hit bottom, set the hook. Bass love to take these big jigs as they plummet, and learning to detect these bites is crucial to your success.

After dragging the jig to the extent of your pull, swing the rod back toward the lure and reel in the slack. Then start pulling it again. When you are dragging the jig the bass will sometimes slam it really hard, like they are trying to kill it. Often you only get one hard hit, so be quick. If you miss the fish, let the lure drop back down – sometimes they'll come back.

A Killer For Winter Bass

Dragging a jig down a cliff or a bluff is killer for winter bass. Bass like vertical structure in cold water, and there are always plenty of little cracks and ledges on any cliff or bluff for a big bass to hang out in. Pitch or cast your jig to the wall and let it fall, watching the line for any twitch or sideways movement. When it lands on a ledge or outcropping, drag it slowly to the edge and let it fall again. Any time it stops falling without thumping bottom, set the hook. You can fish the jig clear down to forty feet or more before making another pitch.

Swimming A Jig

Every now and then you make a discovery purely by accident. Such serendipity is usually how an angler discovers that swimming a jig is a lethal big-bass tactic. You'll be fishing your jig slowly along the bottom and suddenly you notice a great drop-off on the depthfinder. You swiftly reel your lure in and - WHAM! - a big bass just slams the jig, almost tearing the rod out of your hands. Swimming a jig is almost like fishing a crankbait, but for some reason it targets huge bass. Deep flats and sharply sloping rocky banks, creek channels and cuts, and breakwaters in rivers are all ideal places to try swimming a jig.

Keep A Good Grip On Your Rod

The beauty of a swimming jig is that it can stay right near the bottom no matter how much that bottom rises or falls. It has an erratic motion and bangs into every rock and stump it passes, and it drives big fish nuts. To swim a jig all you have to do is cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, and then start reeling. Reel just fast enough to keep the jig right above the bottom, and make sure it knocks against things as it travels. Some anglers reel fast for a count of six, then let the jig fall to the bottom before reeling again. The erratic movement is the key – you want the bait to dart and dip, crash into obstacles, and fall with a thump every now and then. Keep it noisy to attract attention. If you can get the bass biting on a swimming jig you'll have a day you'll never forget. Huge bass just slam a swimming jig, so keep a good grip on your rod!

Final Thoughts

When you are looking for a big bass, it pays to make sure all the details are taken care off. The moment of the hookset is not the time to start worrying about whether your hook will straighten out or your line will break. Re-tie often, especially if you are fishing heavy cover. When your jig snags, go back for it. If you get to the other side of it, it will usually pop right off. Pulling on the line to break it off will weaken your line and make it dig into itself. Invest in a good scent and use it often. Spraying or dipping your lure before every cast will give you an edge and the slickness of the scent itself will help the lure slip through cover more easily.

Takes Practice

Fishing a big jig takes practice. It may take a while for you to get the feel of the lure, but in this case, a little extra effort can pay off big. Lunker bass love to eat jigs, so taking the time to learn to fish one effectively can net you the bass of a lifetime.


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