January 03, 2023
By Brenton Roberts
If you've walked into a tackle shop near any bit of freshwater in Florida, chances are you noticed a plethora of jigs for crappie. It's almost overwhelming. Heavy jigs. Light jigs. Dark jigs. Bright jigs. Soft plastic jigs. Hair jigs. You know what I'm talking about. Where do you start? On a recent trip targeting South Florida specks, I listened to Capt. Sam Heaton break down his theories on jig selection and when to use them.
Heaton has been obsessing over crappie for a long time, 62 years to be exact, starting in his adolescent years on Lake Guntersville in Alabama. He has won just about every speck tournament in the country, and he's designed his own line of crappie poles, the B'n'M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive. He's also been inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors and Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. It's safe to say he knows a thing or two about these fish.
CORRECT YOUR COLOR
There may seem to be more color options than stars in the sky when it comes to crappie jigs. Heaton has this to say:
If you are in clear, clean water, fish a light color, something natural, say a silver belly and blue back jig. You want something that closely resembles the minnows that these fish are foraging on. If you are fishing an area with dark water, go with a darker color, maybe a June bug or black jig. This gives a better silhouette, making it easier for the fish to find.
Heaton pointed out two more things to keep in mind: “I always like to fish a jig with more than one color,” he said. “This gives some contrast to the bait and the fish seem to like that.” One of his favorites is black-and-chartreuse. “Mashing these two colors from opposite sides of the spectrum makes for a hard contrast in the water,” Heaton said. “Also, stay out of the silted, muddy water, often times found on windblown banks. Fishing in this is like fishing in a smoke screen, which as you can imagine, the fish don't care for.”
WHEN AND WHERE
So, you get the idea when it comes to color selection. But what about weights? What style jigs?
When jigging reeds, lily pads and other vegetation in shallow water (three to five feet,) Heaton's go-to is a 1/16-ounce jig. This is a finesse style of fishing and doesn't require much in terms of casting. Just drop the jig in holes in the vegetation and give the lure some vertical action. “I go with a hair jig or a soft plastic tube when working the vegetation,” Heaton noted. “I want my bait to have as much vertical movement when jigging it, which the tail of the tube and hair tail (often marabou) have.”
When casting, Heaton jumps up to a 1/8- or even 3/16-ounce jig, giving a little more distance on the cast, and allowing for a little more feel. Lateral movement is the name of the game; when you reel it, you want your lure to have action. Soft plastic curly tail jigs are Heaton's go-to when casting. Small paddle tails will also work.
When working structure like docks, you want to get your lure as far under there as possible. Heaton goes real light when working docks, 1/32-ounce, typically. “The window of presentation is small when fishing these spots, so I want something that flutters really slow, staying in the strike zone for as long as possible,” he said. “Both hair jigs and soft plastics can produce here.” FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine March 2020