Contributed by Lucas Ragusa, BASS Central Open Pro
Lots of people ask me what is my favorite way to catch a fish. My number one answer is “In the mouth!!” All jokes aside, to be a competitive bass fisherman you have to be able to remain versatile and at the same time do what your comfortable doing. You MUST have confidence in any lure you throw especially in the winter! For me I’m often most comfortable with a jig on my line.
Why? Well the easy answer is: it produces. And it produces quality bites. So when the money is on the line and you only have 8 hours to put five in the boat you better do it with something that does two things. One is get bit. The second is get bit by the biggest bass that you can put it in front of. That bait is a jig.
I am simple in my approach to jig fishing. As predominantly a shallow/grass/wood angler I stick to 3/8,1/2,3/4 sizes. This is not different from most. I do however care about several things that should be noted.
Strands in the skirt.
Some people like less, some more. Point is when designing the Big Easy Jig for Bayou Bug Jigs I wanted more strands then other jigs you could buy in stores. The reason for this is simple. One in my exclusive colors I wanted to add more accent for a fuller appeal to the fish. Also by it already being in the bait if I wanted to remove it I can. More stands the more drag you have in the water causing the lure to fall slower. To increase your fall rate you can remove some strands and it will have less drag causing it to fall faster. Fall rate is critical in jig fishing so lets talk about that next.
Fall rate is effected by the weight of the jig, how much or little skirt material and the trailer. I am most influenced by a jig and how it acts when it first hits the water. I want it to fall straight down. Not flutter and not drop like a rock either. Most bass we catch are eating out of instinct not because they are hungry. So the same reasons they crush a squarebill bailing off wood as it burns past them is the same thing in jig fishing. I want the fish to see the bait but not deliberate if it is going to hit it or not. In essence I don’t want the fish to think I want him to react. This becomes more critical in the winter because a bass is moving slower so keep it in mind. The trailer with straight tails or claws will fall faster then a big flapping winding claw bait will. If I’m flipping a jig ill start with strait tails but if I’m dragging I start with flappers. Whatever I’m doing in the winter I’M DOING IT SLOW!
I am a fan of rattles. I have a pool at my house and living in South Louisiana I have a abundance of crawfish at my disposal. I have taken live crawfish and put them in the pool and watched them and even swam up to them and listened. They are creepy little dudes and they just kinda crawl around and when they feel threatened they burst. When they burst they click. Also think about this.. Your job is to present the bait to a fish that knows it is around. If a crawfish imitator like a jig is not seen or heard it will not get bit. So my job as a angler is to make sure every possible bass knows something that sounds,looks and taste like a meal is near.
I am not personally a fan of trimming the weedguard. I like it a little longer and I like to spread it apart so it is supple. I find that when I cut it it gets stiffer and to some maybe what they want but not me. I want it to help deflect off cover but be soft enough that when a fish hits it I can drive the hook all the way home. To me if it is too stiff it hurts my chances of putting the fish in the boat.
Well this should be easy because next to the line, this is the most important part. I am not sponsored by but can tell you I am a Owner hook guy. It just flat out works for me. Its sharp, strong and I don’t have to worry about it not penetrating if I do my job. This is the hook for me.
Crawfish like bass are cold blooded animals. When it is cold both the bass and the prey they feed on move slower. Because of this remember a couple of things. If a bass is going to eat he wants it to be worth the effort. So a jig sporting a larger profile then a soft plastic fits the bill. Second is the retrieve. I see anglers hopping a jig like they would a 10 inch worm. I wouldn’t do this and expect to get bit in the winter. Unlike summer where you may want to SWEEP or POP a bait to get a reaction I would leave this technique to a warmer water presentation. NOTHING is hopping around in 45 degree water. Well unless you jump in then I suppose you would be hopping right back out. Remember when I wrote earlier about Crawfish in my pool how they just kinda creep around and when threatened they burst? Well that’s what you need to be thinking about visually as you fish a jig. Think that the crawfish is blind so its feeling its way around. This dude is just creeping along until he bumps into something and then when he does he eases his way through it. DRAG a jig in the winter !!!! Most often when flipping if it is not hit on the initial fall it wont be hit. But if you are casting a jig you need to be dragging it back to the boat.
Keep It simple! Black Neon, Black Blue, Green Pumpkin and Brown. These colors will catch them in any color water and I have found when it is colder darker colors are more productive for me. But that’s the best part!! ONLY the BASS can tell you are doing something wrong. But they will also tell you are doing it right as well. Listen to the fish!! I hope these tips can help you be a more productive wintertime jig fisherman.
Lucas Ragusa works with: Bayou Bug Jigs, Legend Cartography, Mister Twister, Lago Vista Lodge, Latch-on Productions, Swamp Stick Rods, 5AliveLures, Carrier, Shimano Fishing, Mercury, Motorguide , Rod Sox, Lucas Oil, Power Pro