August 17, 2018
Jigs can be fished anywhere from right on the surface to as deep as you'd care to go—it all depends on the weight, the design, and how fast they're worked. Here's a look at some of the variations that might help your fishing on Florida waters:
Swim jigs are the least jig-like of bassing jigs. They typically weigh less—3/16 to 5/16 ounce—and have flat or semi-vee bottoms, sort of like a bass boat, which helps them to plane across the surface when desired, and to glide along at mid-depths. Those with line ties on the very front of the head are designed for surface operation and for “skipping,” which is sidearming them to skitter under docks and overhanging trees, a deadly tactic on bright days. These lures can be skittered over thin weeds and lily pads without hanging up, and make a great post-spawn offering when the fish are still up shallow.
Those with line ties on the top are more often used to swim a jig at 1 to 3 feet, stitching it in and out over submerged eel grass or hydrilla, and some are made as heavy as 1/2 ounce.
Flippin' jigs are designed for close range work on big fish in the heaviest cover, and consequently they come equipped with thick wire hooks that could get a tarpon's attention. They're typically available with rounded lead heads in weights from 3/8 to 1.5 ounces. Even though they're fished in shallow water—typically 1 to 3 feet—the added weight makes it much easier to punch through the mat of moss, hydrilla and hyacinth that forms the roof on many bass dens. They also stay in touch with the lure as it's yo-yoed up and down. They have heavy nylon brush guards, and the line tie is on top of the lead head. Some have the line tie molded right into the head rather than projecting out front, reducing the chance of picking up moss, and many have the jighead cast on a dog-legged hook, so that the lure rests almost vertically on bottom when it's dropped.
These are the deepwater workhorses, with wide heads that are more or less football shaped, and typically weights of 1/2 to 1 ounce. The idea of the wide head is that it stirs up more sand and mud as it's hopped on bottom, thus convinces a fish down there thinking should-I-orshouldn't-I? This is a shell bar technique— find hard bottom in a lake chain like those around Clermont and grind the lure over the mussel shells, typically at depths of 10 feet and more, and you'll eventually find a school of quality bass.
Bladed jigs, typified by the original Chatterbait and now with numerous imitators, add a flat metal plate or blade at the head of the jig, which causes the lure to wobble as it passes through the water. The action almost moves them out of the jig category because they cover the water so fast, thus making them great “search” baits when you don't actually know where the bass are.
Finesse jigs are the junior partners of the jigging world, and some of them really are flyweights, weighing as little as 1/8 ounce, about the weight of a crappie jig, though they carry bigger hooks and more skirt volume. The idea is to offer the fish something that won't put them off when the bite is not really strong, when water is exceptionally clear or calm, or when fishing pressure is heavy. Most anglers fish finesse jigs on spinning tackle, and in clear water like some of Florida's spring-fed rivers or the Highlands County lakes, light mono down to about 4-pound-test also greatly improves the bite.
Shaky heads are usually considered part of the finesse family because they're small and light, but the difference is they're designed to stand on their head and be rigged with a little floating worm or other critter bait that will stand up above them and shake and shimmy when the rod is just barely twitched.
Shaky heads work particularly well when you know the fish are there but you can't get them to bite, probably because a dozen other bassheads have hit the same shellbed ahead of you. Throw a shaky head to the spot, let it go to bottom, give it a little twitch, let it sit as long as you can stand it and give it another little twitch— and you'll usually get bit if the fish is there. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine May 2017