By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
Swimming jigs…….Swimming jigs……Swimming jigs, appears to be the hottest technique to hit the water since ‘Phelps’s’ Gold Medal Performance!!! No matter where you turn the page, click your mouse or listen to ‘Dock Talk’, this technique is bound to capture your attention.
However, for us ‘Ole School Bobber Riders’ (I’m talking about two-wheel bobbers!!!!) swimming jigs, like most bass fishing techniques has been tucked away in the corner of our metal ‘Ole Pal’ tackle boxes for years! That’s right, I said years!!! Smallmouth Guru Tony Bean, stood at the podium of Bass Fishing Techniques, then Bassmaster University preaching the swimming jigs techniques for years. Yet only a few disciples listened and applied his tactics!
Connecticut’s FLW Pro Angler Jess Caraballo (www.FLWOutdoors.com) is one apt student when it comes to swimming hair jigs. “Early spring, especially immediately after ice out is when I begin utilizing hair jig techniques to locate schools of smallmouth bass on lakes within New England.” Adding, “Especially Candlewood Lake, in Danbury, Connecticut!”
Caraballo’s annual spring venture unto icy cold open water isn’t the only appetite motivating a traditional springtime activity! While Caraballo and other Hair Jig enthusiast scan the ice chilling waters surface with their sonar’s, another creature begins crawling around on lake bottoms throughout New England. Crawfish begin to emerge from having been burrowed deep within rocky areas all winter. Hair Jig Anglers concentrate their efforts on specific areas limiting their search to hard bottom structure.
“I honestly can’t tell you whether bass think the hair jig is a baitfish or a crawfish? However, I can verify that two specific presentations I utilize with my hair jigs have the smallmouths literally inhaling my hair jigs!” Caraballo cautions, “Hair Jig techniques can be overwhelming frustrating to many anglers.”
Locating isolated rock piles, Caraballo allows his 1/8 oz hair jig to sink to the bottom then he slowly swims it just off the bottom continually making bottom contact, especially with hard surfaces. With his buoy markers specifically placed for actuate casting placement, the FLW Pro Angler utilizes a second presentation of short hops allowing his hair jigs to fall slowly in and around the rock piles, working in a 360 degree rotation until he locates the angle and presentation the bass prefer.
Andy Vallombroso has been hand tying Hair Jigs for almost thirty years; his master craftsmanship bonded with a unique attention to detail has some of Americans most renowned professional bass anglers requesting his custom hand tied hair jigs for their personal tackle boxes! “I have hand tied specific Hair Jig request for Stacy King, Terry Baksay, Alton Jones, Larry Lazoen and recently for Bassmaster Women’s Trail Pro Angler Bridget Allen of Pennsylvania!” (www.AndysCustomBassLures.com)
Vallombroso is quick to credit Art Singer, a well know tournament angler on northern waters! “In my opinion Art Singer is the best hair jig angler I have ever met! Throughout New England the name Art Singer is recognized as a highly respected knowledgeable bass angler.” According to Vallombroso, Singer assisted him in the development and design of several new Hair Jigs, the Coyote Ugly Pro Series and the most unique Hair Jig development ever…the Rattlin Hair Jig.
Both Vallombroso and Singer are quick to agree with Caraballo, “After the early spring ice out, crawfish begin emerging from the mud, and their shell colors are dark. It’s for this reason these master hair jig anglers recommend a dark color hair jig such as black or black with a small touch of yellow or chartreuse!
“Cold-water bass are extremely lethargic add in a sunny early spring day and the entire aquatic system comes alive. Bass begin to move vertical in the water column seeking out warm comfort zones,” suggest Singer. Singer seeks out areas with hard vertical cover areas such as bluff walls, ledges, rocky vertical tapering points and structure breaks that allow bass easy access for depth changes.
Art Singer lectures on simplicity, “Simply stated when the water is cold anglers need to utilize a smaller profile bait and this is where the hair jig really shines!” Singer opts for 4lb or 6lb test monofilament more often than not, but states that he is very impressed with Seaguar Fluorocarbon line. (www.Seaguar.com) “Seaguar Fluorocarbon line sinks, which is an added feature to its extreme sensitivity. Early spring days are usually brisk and there always seems to be a wind factor involved with my presentation, using Seaguar Fluorocarbon not only aids in my Hair Jigs sinking ratio, but has allowed me to detect additional subtle bites!”
Both Singer and Vallombroso agree balanced spinning tackle is the key to success when working with hair jigs. While Vallombroso is comfortable with a 7’6″ medium action rod, Singer is adamant about his choice in rods. I prefer a Medium-Heavy rod, and I really haven’t found what I call the perfect hair jig rod, however I have to say that Power Tackle’s Custom hand made SPN44-70 is really close and may be the best rod available for hair jigs in my opinion!” Power Tackle’s extreme strength and sensitivity throughout the entire butt section, coupled with the 7′ length aid in making longer cast and detecting those soft early spring non-aggressive bites! www.PowerTackle.com
Singer says that Vallombroso’s new Rattlin Hair Jig is designed with a soft surgical rubber cylinder, which holds the glass rattle yet is extremely flexible. “The sound factor given off from a glass rattle is superior to that of a plastic rattle. This in turn will attract bass from further distances, while the addition of the rattle aids in the descent of lighter weight hair jigs.” Singer has found that when bass are suspended, utilizing a shaking motion with the tip of his rod while the Rattlin Hair Jig is falling on a semi slack line will attract the attention of these suspended bass, much faster than the silent falling effect of a normal non-rattling hair jig.
“The addition of the rattle on Andy’s new Rattlin Hair Jig has increased the amount of bites I now attain while working the Hair Jig along stone walls, road beds or isolated rock piles. The slightest movement or contact with these hard surfaces causes the glass rattle to make additional noise that I never had before,” suggest Singer.
Andy’s Custom Hair Jigs new Coyote Ugly Rattlin Hair Jig mimics the colors of a baby crayfish. “Baby Crayfish have a very light color, an almost translucent appearance, the Coyote Ugly Hair Jig design and colors are as close to the real thing as possible,” say Vallombroso. One extremely unique feature on the Andy’s Custom Coyote hair Jig is the utilization of a 1/8 oz football head. “The football head design allows my Hair Jig to rock and roll side-to-side imitating the action of a real crayfish walking along on the bottom.”
Andy Vallombroso says he basically utilizes two presentations: #1. Slowly dragging or swimming the hair jig along the bottom, incorporating pauses 6-8 seconds long, and then impart 3-4 very short hops. “The key to this presentation is pausing! Many times this is when the bass will lightly inhale your hair jig.” #2 Swim the Hair Jig. “Smallmouth bass (As well as Largemouth’s) will move shallow on clear blue bird sky sunny days. Swimming the jig either along the bottom or at the depth they are suspending will draw reactions strikes as the hair jig swims in front of them.” Vallombroso, suggest anglers utilize the rattle concept by lightly making the tip of their rod quiver while swimming his Rattlin Hair Jigs! (Andy Vallombroso may also be reached at 1.203.887.4770)
God Bless and Best Bass’n