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The Jig Is Up and Level

An expert's secrets for catching great-eating crappie.

Cappie ace Billy Parmenter in the pads with another catch on a sideways rigged jig.

This year, there was a surprise crappie spawn on the St. Johns River in January, centering around Dunn's Creek and Crescent Lake. A few savvy fishermen found those fish concentrated in shallow water. One of those was Billy Parmenter. While Parmenter finds find specks year-round on brush piles and bridge pilings, his heart beats to the cadence of a small bobber lifting and dropping in the tannin-stained voids between waxy, green lily pads. He is a jigger and a deadly one.

Though 90 percent of anglers targeting specks do so with live minnows, a closed-mouth clan of anglers limit out with regularity on jig-and-plastic. One day it's chartreuse with blue tails. The next it seems only red-fleck and silver will produce. It's rarely the same. On Parmenter's little Gheenoe, it's always the same.

He has a 10-foot BreamBuster pole with about 11 feet of 12-pound fluorocarbon line. He pins a tiny cork, the smaller the better, above a 1/32-ounce jig head. A 1/48-ounce jig can be even more effective, but the hooks are generally a little small. Some manufacturers do special-make these tiny jigs with No. 4 hooks rather than No. 6. If you can find them, that's money. On the business end of the rig, Parmenter uses a 1 ½-inch tube jig, the kind with the squid-type tail, in white with pepper flakes.

He runs the 16-foot boat into a stand of lily pads or bonnets. Generally if the fish are there, you'll see them pushing the pads in front of the boat if you watch carefully. They'll be back in a few minutes. The drill is to drop the tiny jig between the pads. Generally you'll be in 2 to 4 feet of water. Set the bobber halfway down.

Now just lift the bobber an inch or two off the water, and let if flutter and fall. The slightest wiggle or dip in the float suggests a bite and it is generally on the fall of the jig. Set hook, swing fish into boat.

Here's Parmenter's secret. He never ties a loop knot. He tightens down his knot on the rear of the line tie, not the top. This way the axis of the jig hangs perpendicular to the line. When jigged up and down, the presentation is flat, rather than the jig dipping tail-first and coming back up head-first. A Palomar knot is a good one because the double line holds better in the offset position. A plain clinch knot doubled through the eye works, too.

You'll need to reset the knot to the rear after each fish or each time you hook the stem of a lily pad—often if you're doing things right. Some savvy manufacturers are now making tiny tube jig heads with the line tie more to the center of the jig than to the front for just this reason. But it still helps to keep the knot rearward. - FS

First Published Florida Sportsman March 2013

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