Have you seen the movie, “Apocalypse Now?” It’s a classic about the Vietnam War.
But did you know they recently re-released a new version of the film? Francis Ford Coppola added 45 minutes and changed the ending. The result is, “Apocalypse Now Redux,” a completely updated version, much different from the first.
What we thought we knew about the original movie is different.
The same thing has happened to jigs in the past few years. They’ve come a long way since old timers first crimped a split shot on the end of a hook.
There’s a design for nearly every use from common ball-style jigs to specialized no-snag varieties that let anglers fish where the old timers never dared. They come with rattles or with colored, oversized hooks to trigger bites and hook the fish better. They’re available in bright fluorescent glow colors to attract fish even in the dingiest of water or at night.
What we thought we knew about jigs, we may not know anymore. With all the recent changes, it’s time to revisit the jig. Call this story, “Jigs Redux.”
Jig Basics Still The Same
In its essence, the jig is one of the oldest live-bait delivery systems used in fishing.
A jig’s purpose is to have enough weight to take the bait down into the strike zone when fish are on or close to the bottom.
The ultra-short distance between weight and bait allows preciseness in presentation you can’t get with the weight, leader and hook of the Lindy rig.
Jigs Are Versatile
Many of the truly great anglers you can name would choose a jig if they could use just one presentation for the rest of their lives. Jigs are good for fishing from the shoreline to deep water. They can be used on farm ponds, lakes, rivers and reservoirs. They catch everything from bluegills, crappies and perch to walleyes, smallmouth bass and northern pike.
They can be cast and brought back to the boat with a variety of retrieves — from an aggressive snap-and-drop, to dragging one on the bottom at a snail’s pace. Some days it seems you can catch walleyes trolling a spark plug with hooks. But, most days their mood is neutral to negative, and you’ve got to entice them to bite. On those days, a jig is your best bet more often than not.
Style Says It All
Nine times out of 10, a simple ball jig such as a Lindy Fuzzy-E-Grub will do the trick. The round head works well on soft muck bottoms like you find in a river, or even on hard bottoms of sand, gravel and rock.
They cut through current quickly to reach the bottom where the walleyes live. The bigger jigs are flatter to make them more hydrodynamic to slice through moving water.
You can cover the water column by choosing the right ball size, from 1/8-ounce for the shallows, to 3/8-, 5/8- and 1-ounce for deep water and heavy current. Sales figures bear out the fact jigs weighing 1/4-ounce are the most used because they’re good in that fish-producing zone from 10 feet to 20 feet. The key is to use enough weight to stay on the bottom.
One-sixteenth-ounce balances well with slip-bobber rigs for working the top of windy reefs or still-fishing feeding flats at night.
The smart angler has a variety of sizes of ball jigs in the tackle box.
Remember all those articles that recommended using pliers to bend the hook out to open the gap a little to improve hooksets? Lindy designers wondered why companies kept asking customers to make that design changes themselves. The result is Lindy made its’ own: the new MAX-GAP Jigs with a 10-percent wider gap than regular jigs. The key to hooking fish is the gap between the hook point and the eyelet — the bigger the gap, the higher the hook percentage.
Try Wider Gap Jigs
MAX-GAP Jigs also take advantage of another design change learned through trial and error. In the past, small jigs sported small hooks. But with the MAX GAP series, even the 1/16-ounce jig sports a 1/0 hook to improve fish-grabbing and fish-holding power. Bigger jig sizes have 2/0 hooks to better accommodate live bait and plastic trailers. The key to hooking fish is the gap between the hook point and the eyelet — the bigger the gap, the higher the hook percentage.
Experience with jigs over the years brought two other improvements to the MAX-GAPS. First, they’re available with rattles for dingy water and low-light conditions. For another, they come with hooks in bleeding-bait red, which is a bite-enticing color walleyes seem to like. Add in the Techni-Glo colors previously introduced to the Fuzz-E-Grub line and you’ve got a fish attracting, fish hooking, multi-purpose tool.
Specialty jigs have special purposes. It was only a couple of years ago Lindy Little Joe introduced the designs of Northwoods walleye guide Greg Bohn for the NO-SNAGG Timb’r Rock Jig. It features a 7-strand wire guide to allow you to fish in the thickest brush where big walleyes live without snagging, scaring off the fish, and forcing you to break off the jig and lose precious time retying.
Bohn also designed the NO-SNAGG VEG-E-JIG for Lindy with the eye toward the front and a streamlined body as well as the wire hook guard to guide through weeds.
The key is to pick the right style, then experiment with action, color and rattles. Also try scent, and add a plastic trailer such as Lindy’s new Munchies.
Have anglers in the boat use different combinations of all of the variables until you hit on the one that works. Let the fish tell you what they want. When someone gets the first fish, analyze what worked and repeat it.
Remember, too, that conditions such as water clarity, sunlight, wind and other factors can change throughout the day and affect fish behavior. If one combination of jig color and action stops working, make a change.
Rods, Reels And Line
Jigs must work in tandem with the rest of the set-up to be successful. Rods should be on the longer side to improve hook-setting power. Try a 6-1/2-foot St. Croix Legend Elite ES68MXF that has lots of backbone coupled with a fast tip to telegraph the lightest of bites.
A Pflueger President spinning reel with a tremendous anti-reverse prevents any slack in the line while setting the hook. The drag should be set tight enough to drive the hook into a walleye’s bony mouth yet give smoothly so a big fish can’t snap the line.
For line, Stren 8-pound MagnaThin is hard to beat. Whatever 6-pound to 8-pound line you choose, make certain you can see it. You’ll often see a walleye bite in the line or at the rod tip before you feel it.
Jigs: there’s just no tool like an old tool.
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Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson write a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Ted has many fishing achievements, including a victory at the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later.
(Ted’s sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle Rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu and Nautamatic TR 1.)