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Blast from the Bass for Inshore Reds

Specialty jigs from the bass fishing world make sense in the salt. 

Blast from the Bass for Inshore Reds
“Bass lures” in “redfishy” patterns. Top: Strike King Thunder Cricket with Tidal Minnow trailer. Bottom: Casting jig with Rage Menace.

Kidnap a Major League Fishing pro off his carpeted metalflake speedboat, plop him onto a skiff in a Fernandina creek and watch him keep landing fish. Big copper “hawgs” with spotted tails.

It’s kind of one of those rules: If a bass will eat it, a redfish probably will, too.

Our traumatized bass pro will do especially well if he’s throwing a jig—but it won’t look like the jigs on the skiff. If the term “jig” brings to mind a painted leadhead with a hook threaded through a plastic grub, well, you have some fieldwork to do.

Sophisticated jigs in various forms have taken the bass world by storm in recent years, and there’s much we can learn from this on the saltwater side.

Let’s first look at the swim jig and the pitching jig. Both feature skirts of thin rubber or silicone, spindly stuff that wiggles and pulses in the water.

The difference isn’t huge—and frankly either one would work in redfish and snook country—but the “swim” jig of 3⁄8- to perhaps ½-ounce, is imminently qualified as a bait for open flats where it’s common to make 40- or 50-foot casts to fish you’ve spotted. The swim jig is also useful in structure-rich backcountry waters or grassflats where depths seldom exceed 6 feet.

The swim jig is primarily defined by its narrow, bullet-shaped head and low degree line tie, mostly inline with the hook shank. It is designed to swim through shallow vertical structure, like Kissimmee grass, without hanging up. Its slim profile also enters the water softly, an attribute which promotes success when sight fishing. Bass guys get away with bouncing lures off the fish, let alone worrying about a splash. That doesn’t work for snook, which are famous for humping off a flat at 200 yards to the click of a deck hatch.

Flipping or pitching jigs—often with more bulbous heads and higher angle line ties—are built to penetrate surface cover such as hydrilla, pads or other matted vegetation. They’re generally fished heavier, ¾-ounce or more. There are places in the salt where these characteristics would be attractive: current-swept jetties, spillways, any place where you need to get down fast.

Most of the bass jigs feature a brush-like weedguard that would be equally useful in the backcountry salt. How many times has the skiff angler cursed the snags which bedevil conventional jigs? Freshwater guys solved it years ago. Decades ago, in fact. The tightly packed bristles which emerge from the freshwater jighead are a great solution.

Vibrating swim jigs are another great discovery for the saltwater fisherman. The Chatterbait, Berkley SlobberKnocker and Strike King Thunder Cricket  all pair a jighead with a metal blade that wobbles and flashes. The swimming blade also helps deflect grass or other hangups from the hook. Think a gold spoon gets the attention of redfish? Try a gold-bladed swim jig mated with water-color appropriate skirt. Reel that thing around tide-swept oyster bars, mangrove points or across a pothole shimmering with baitfish. A redfish will clobber it. The 3⁄8- to ½-ounce models are about right for the Florida flats. Don’t need to go too heavy.

Convention dictates adding a trailer to swim jigs, flipping jigs and vibrating swim jigs, and the choices that freshwater bass fishermen make actually translate pretty well into the saltwater scene. Here again, grab the likes of Bobby Lane, Jacob Wheeler or Edwin Evers off the MLF tour and their choice of jig trailers will catch the reds—not to mention snook and tarpon. (Well, Bobby will have a home field advantage—he’s from Florida.)

Curly tails, shad tails, critter baits, straight worms, there are endless possibilities. The craw-style baits, like the Strike King Rage Menace, lend a crabby look to a jig that’s worked in a stop-and-go cadence. Reeled steady, the twin claws flap in sync, looking a lot like the tail of a mullet or other baitfish on the go.

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Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from adding a pinch of shrimp to a bass jig, giving redfish that powerful olfactory appeal. A lip-hooked mud minnow or finger mullet isn’t a bad choice, either, possibly converting the next thump into a fat flounder. But that’s when you’ll have to send Bobby back. Because unlike in the MLF, here in the Florida salt, there’s some fish that stay in the boat.


  • This article was featured in the May issue of Florida Sportsman magazine. Click to subscribe.



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