Football Season is already underway
By Scott Bonnema
Soon, the grassy fields will be clipped to precision
and white lines painted in. On Friday nights, overhead lights will illuminate the
gridiron, players, and cheerleaders. Gotta love those varsity football games
Pigskin season still carries significance for me today, but not in a
traditional sense. Nowadays, my footballs are tossed to largemouth bass, not wide-outs or
tight ends. The balls no longer made of leather, but oddly shaped lead. And best of
all, I dont have to wait for autumn, because the games already underway.
Bass have been eating football roller jigs for
years. In fact, the lures gained tremendous popularity in the early 90s, but have
since lost some identity. These days, most guys lump bass jigs together, labeling them
jigs & pigs, not paying much attention to specific designs.
Footballs are different, though. Contrasting to the modest tapers of
conventional jigs, football jigs feature an oblong head that resembles a barrel with
rounded cone ends, like an actual football. The head lays sideways, left to right, with
the skirted hook portion to the back. The purpose of this unique shape is to cause the
lure to rock, front to back, while positioned on the bottom. Bass must deem the motion
curious, then edible, because they vacuum-up football jigs faster than a Kirby on cotton
Footballs are killers over hard bottoms, like rock and gravel, but so are
most jigs when bass are on the bite. So I pick and choose my spots for unleashing
footballs. And opportunely, theres an ideal situation happening on the water right
Being well into the midsummer recovery deep post-spawn bass
are schooling again. A quality spot might hold 6, 8, 10 or more respectable, possibly
trophy fish. And theyre gorging and metabolizing, making it feasible to trace long
stretches of weedline and pickup bass, but not necessarily densities of fish. That is
unless you know what to look for.
My top producer is situated along the outside weededge too, but only a
precise section. To qualify, the vegetated brim must first trace a thick, if not extensive
weed flat. A flat composed of curly leaf pondweed (pickle weed) or broadleaf cabbage. The
best flats merge with an outer, deeper layer of coontail that fades into dark watery
nothingness a sure sign of a brisk drop-off or change in bottom composition. And
the makeup of the bottom beyond the vegetation is crucial, because if it aint hard,
Im not interested.
So youve got phenomenal vegetation snuggling up to a firm floor. Is
the spot complete? Not yet, Im pretty scrupulous about spots
The outer weeds
must also be part of a bar, an underwater point. And little bars will hold fish, but
bigger is unquestionably better, so too are bars with rock fingers that probe even further
and deeper. And the Cadillac of bars is one that halts, tenders a weedless breach, and
then reforms into an independent weed clump or clumps.
So with a potential hotspot under thumb, the field is set to toss em
a few footballs, but a little more on the jig itself first... Ive depicted the shape
of the football head, but havent discussed size. Typically, ½ and ¾ ounce jigs get
it done. As a rule, use as much weight as needed to feel, I mean really feel the bottom
every tick, bump, and bang. Owner and Bass Pro Shops manufacture excellent football
jigs. And although theyre not true footballs in form, Northland Tackles Jungle
Jig can be taught to rock and roll.
To make the jig dance, though, it needs a skirt, actually a
double-tentacle, curly-tailed spider grub. Youve seen em, likely worked one.
They look like a swirl-tailed grub fitted with a reverse collar of feelers. I favor 4 and
5 inchers in smoke with pepper flake, brown, and pumpkin. As far as producers, FLW, Arkie,
and Yamamoto pour some nice spiders.
Now, lets make that puppy rock like a cradle
techniques the boat is situated deeper or outside the target and casts made inward, but
not with footballs. Instead, hover over the weedy flat, say, 30 or 40 feet inside the
weededge. Make long casts past the weedline to the hard stuff beyond. The first series of
casts should cut crosswise, working both sides of the bar. Then, reposition the boat and
cast along the bars taper, again, throwing from the inner bar toward the tip
do this on both sides.
The retrieve itself is surgical as the casting sequence. Give the jig a
good ride, let it settle, point the rod tip at the splash and begin taking up line. No
jigging, hopping, or pausing. Steady and slow. The spidery football will make natural
jukes and jives as it glances off rocks and rubble. Generally, when a bass takes, you
wont feel the classic strike, but rather a heavy wet sock feeling.
Thats the cue to give her a solid, sweeping hookset.
That pig should be stuck! Whip out the Fujicolor QuickSnap disposable and
waterproof camera and immortalize that fish, and then return her for future battles.
To make it all happen as designed, the right rod and line must be in hand.
My preference for a pole is a 66 medium-heavy baitcast rod
Rapalas new Signature Series includes a model that meets those requirements. The
line must be strong too, as well as sensitive and prepared for conflict. In my book there
are two choices. If you prefer superlines, Spiderwires 6/30 is a good choice. 17
pound Rapala Tough is the ticket in a mono.
Football season is kicking off a wee bit early this season. Dont
wait for the pregame hubbub and opening lineups to be announced. No, tether-up a spidery
football jig and beat the bars for bass now, right in the heat of summer.
Editors note: Scott Bonnema is a touring bass
professional who fishes tournaments and offers instructional seminars throughout the
Midwest. Hes a member of the Rapala Team, and Pro Staffs of Fuji Film, Northland
Tackle, Ranger Boats and Mercury.
In this issue:
Dunk the Weeds for Sunshine Walleye
- Football Jigs for Bass
Annual battle against purple invader
- Lodge Classifieds
Fishing News - Downloadable Lodge Guide
NEW ONTARIO FISHING CHAT
to the Ontario Fishing Network