by Pete Mathews
Without a doubt one of the most versatile lures in any angler’s tackle box is the jig. This crawfish imitator that combines lead, a sharp hook, and strands of rubber will catch fish year round, but during the winter is when it really shines. At first glance most jigs look the same, but if you look closer you’ll notice subtle differences, and you need to make sure you find one that has the right qualities and make adjustments to the old jigs in your box that don’t. I picked up some jigs from BassTeamTackle.com a couple days ago and it really made me think about what matters to me in this particular lure. Piece by piece, here’s what I look for when I’m picking out one of the most important fish-catchers in my arsenal…
– Before you worry about picking out the right shape and weight, take a look at the paint. Is it powder-coated? If it’s not, I’d look for another jig. Powder-coated paint not only has a richer color, but it won’t chip away when you put the jig down in the rocks and brush where the fish live. If the paint chips away, you end up with a silver head and an unrealistic color scheme.
– I also carefully inspect the line tie. The angle and orientation (horizontal vs. vertical) will vary depending on the shape of the head but you have to inspect the line tie to make sure the surface is smooth and free of excess metal left behind when the head was poured. Any small imperfection in or around the line tie can damage your line and you’ll either be losing jigs or losing fish when that line breaks.
– This part is fairly simple…if it’s a name brand like Gamakatsu, Mustad, Owner, etc, I’m usually good to go. But…even if it’s a name brand you should still look at the point to make sure it wasn’t damaged during
construction. BassTeamTackle uses Mustad Ultra-Point hooks, and every single one of them looked as sharp as it’s supposed to be. If you ever have any doubts about the sharpness of your hook, just press the point against your fingernail and move it 1/4 of an inch. If it makes a line in the surface of your fingernail, it’s going to slide right into the roof of a bass’ mouth when you swing into a good hookset.
– This is almost as simple as the hook but personal preference and water clarity play a big role. Most skirts are trimmed to the proper length when you buy the jig, but if they aren’t you want to cut the strands so they hang down 1/4 – 1/2 inch below the bend of the hook. In clear water, you may want to trim it shorter and you DEFINITELY want to thin it out by taking out some of the strands. If you’re fishing stained or muddy water, just make sure the strands are evenly spaced and leave the skirt alone! Probably the most important factor is the color…use skirts with blacks, blues and chartreuse in dirty water and natural colors like green pumpkin and brown in clear water.
The Brush Guard
– One of the things that makes the jig so effective is it’s fishability. Because of the brush guard (hard strands of plastic that hover over the hook point), you can cast it into the heart of the nastiest submerged wood you can find and it will usually pull through it with relative ease. Hang-ups will happen, but with experience it becomes relatively snag-free.
– But…while a brush guard can help you, it can also hurt. Look carefully where the brush guard is glued into the head of the jig. If you don’t see any gaps or excessive amounts of glue, you can feel confident that your brush guard is going to stay put and do it’s job. You should also keep an eye on the length of the brush guard. If it’s too long, you’ll never get hung up but it will get in the way on hook sets and you’ll miss fish. If it’s too short, you’re going to spend your time digging hooks out of logs when you should be digging hooks out of the top of a big ol’ pig’s mouth! Whether you’re spending $6 on a jig or $2, you may have to trim a brush guard from time to time. Here’s a quick and easy way to make sure you have it trimmed to the right length. Simply press the guard down so it’s parallel with the hook point and trim off the excess plastic so the guard extends approximately 1/4 inch past the point of the hook.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the jigs I got from Rick McGuire at BassTeamTackle. From the heads to the hooks, skirts and brush guards, everything is not just well made, but made the right way. All of the jigs pictured are available for purchase at BassTeamTackle.com in various sizes and a selection of 10 colors. But if you don’t see the skirt you want, just let them know and they’ll custom make a color for you!