Clear Water, High Pressure Lakes, Jigs = Big Bass!
By Josh Dorr
Here in Upstate South Carolina, the land of Spotted Bass, clear waters, and bass boat decks adorned with spinning gear, shakey heads and drop shots, many anglers have become intimidated by one of the oldest bass lures known: the jig. In spite of all the true rumors about so many local tournaments being won on a jig, you still see many anglers coming in shaking their heads wondering why they only caught ten to twelve pounds that day on their finesse tackle. Don’t be mistaken here, there are times when finesse tactics are absolutely necessary and any bass angler should be very familiar with them, but in a tournament situation, you are there to win and if you aren’t you really shouldn’t be there in my opinion. So let’s talk jigs shall we.
To clarify, I am specifically talking about a jig and pig combo, a lead head with a silicone or rubber skirt and a soft plastic trailer of some sort. What I run into are anglers that are confused as to what trailer to use under what conditions. First, let’s look at the topic of water clarity and your jigs rate of fall. Being honest a jig looks nothing like anything that naturally exits in nature. What you are presenting to the bass is a profile with movement that can mimic whatever forage you are trying to imitate. Clear water jigs however need a little work before they are ready to throw down on 4 and 5 pounders.
In clear, highly pressured, highland reservoirs, like we have here in the Upstate and Piedmont areas of South Carolina, the bass are not only “educated” and wary of artificial lures; they are also going to get a good look at your offering. The first thing you need to do when you get a jig out of the package is trim that skirt down. I prefer to hold the lure by the lead head and let the skirt fall toward the ground. I will then trim the skirt horizontally, in a straight line, until the skirt is even with the hook bend. Then, I trim the outer strands of the skirt (the part of the skirt that come out of the collar or tie closest to the head of the jig) at an angle toward the head of the jig. This is going to do two things. Give your jig a more “finesse” profile, and, allow that skirt to flare on the pause which can be a major trigger to an investigative bass.
Next, let’s talk trailers. Most people know the general rule of thumb: Colder the water the less the action, the warmer the water, more action. Well let’s delve into this subject a little deeper. Remember, we are talking about clear water, highly pressured bass. Less is almost always more under these circumstances. If you want more action you would fare better experimenting with the weight of the lure and your retrieve speed, rather than the trailer itself. For clear water applications I almost always go with a traditional plastic chunk, or if I am skipping docks, the Zoom Z-Hog or a beaver style bait. This way you are going to get a natural glide from your jig. There are times when a Jr. chunk will prove superior to a full size chunk and vice versa.
Furthermore, when it comes to the weight of the jig, we are going to do the opposite of what so many fishermen are taught, that is to use the lightest weight you can get away with. Again, in clear water you do not want the bass to get a good look at your jig. I can’t emphasize this enough. Use the heaviest weight you can get away with and still get bit. This will allow you to make longer, more accurate casts, and trigger more reaction bites from wary bass. Using the heavier weight will also allow you to make more presentations throughout the day increasing your chances or hooking up with a big bass. I usually start out with a 1/2 ounce jig and adjust from there. Under super calm conditions when most anglers have resorted to a shakey head, Carolina rig, or drop shot, I might drop to a 3/8 ounce offering.
Finally, if you are feeling really frisky and you are dialed into the forage that the bass are keyed in on, for our purpose here let’s say crayfish, take a pair of scissors to your bait and cut some pincers into the tips of your trailer and shazzam! You just caught a 25 pound sack and your closest adversary is 8 pounds back.
FLW Everstart Series Pro
FLW Bass Fishing League Angler Savannah River, South Carolina, and North Carolina Divisions
2011 FLW Tour Co-Angler
BASS Federation Co-Angler of the Year