Jigging is the way to go
It’s really easy for professional fishermen to get extremely technical when it comes to sharing fishing wisdom with the world. For example, there was a recent article written about how to fish lead-core line off a weighted three-way rig with a fluorocarbon snell and spinner-rig… to get down to deep, bottom-hugging walleyes.
It was a good piece, but here are a bunch of questions for those reading this article: Have you ever fished lead core? Have you ever seen it in a store? Have you ever heard of it before? Do you own three-way rigs? Have you ever purchased fluorocarbon line for your snells? Can you recite the differences between fluorocarbon and monofilament line?
Many of you reading this have answered “yes” to each and every one of those questions. And that’s great. But the vast majority of recreational fishermen, women and children have never gotten that technical when it comes to fishing. Most either fish live bait suspended under a float or on a jighead. Or they cast and retrieve crankbaits, spinnerbaits, soft plastics, topwater plugs or swim baits.
Most anglers like to keep it simple! And basic jig fishing is simple. It requires very typical tackle. In fact, for the vast majority of American freshwater jig fishing, one rod & reel combo will suffice. It’s a fishing method that works with any kind of fishing line, be it monofilament, fluorocarbon or braid. It doesn’t cost you an arm and leg to do it. And here’s the best two parts… First, it’s easy. And second, it’s one of the best ways in the world to catch fish. All kinds of fish! It’s not uncommon to catch three different species on three different casts!
So here are some really fundamental lessons in jig fishing. First, what are you hoping to catch? Bass, walleye, panfish? Make a species decision first and this will dictate the size jig you’re going to use. Obviously a big ¼ ounce walleye jig won’t have the same allure to a bluegill that’s a fraction of a medium-sized walleye’s size.
We’ll start from smallest to biggest. Panfish jigs are typically in the 1/32 and 1/16 up to the 1/8 ounce variety. For bass, walleye and pike, you’re looking at 1/8 to 3/8 ounces, generally speaking.
The size you choose is proportionate to the depth you’re fishing and the speed in which you’re working the bait. You simply can’t retrieve a 1/32 ounce jig quickly in deep water if you want to stay down in the water column. It’s too light. So there is certainly some trial and error involved in dialing in the proper weight for the species, depth and speed you’re after.
Another consideration here is line weight. For panfish, 4-pound test line will typically do nicely. Sometimes, with really light jig presentations you’ll need to scale that back to 2-3 pound test. Bass and walleye line in the 6-12 pound class is perfect. If you’re fishing in and around a lot of heavy cover, then opt for the higher pound test.Again, it’s all dependent on the conditions in which you’re fishing.
Jigs are primarily baits that fish hit on the fall or when retrieved on or near the bottom. So when you go out jig fishing, try and follow this pattern… Make a cast and let the bait free-fall to the bottom. While it’s falling, keep a close eye on your fishing line. If a fish hits it on the drop, you’ll see the line “jump” or begin moving off to the side. This means a fish has taken the bait on the way down. Set the hook!
If nothing hits it on the drop, you’ll see the line suddenly go limp when the bait has made contact with bottom. Now, simply take up the slack slowly and twitch or drag the bait back, pausing in between each pulse on your retrieve.
This is hugely important… at EVERY moment in your retrieve, try to maintain at least some tension on your fishing line and ALWAYS keep your eyes on the line! You’ll either feel the bite or you’ll see it when your line jumps. Way too many anglers give that jig a big “swim” and then let their line go totally limp. They might be getting bit and don’t even know it! Be in contact with your jig through the line and fishing rod 100% of the time.
Setting the hook on a good jig bite is one of the best feelings in fishing. So get out there with a handful of affordable jigs in a variety of sizes and styles and become a jig fisherman. It’s the most basic and productive way to catch more fish and have a great time doing it!