Ontario Fishing Network
Scoring Big Bass with Football Jigs
The variety of jigs available at a tackle shop can be mind-numbing to anglers. Although their differences may appear trivial, jig heads are designed for specific fishing situations. The football jig is a bait that's often overlooked, but deadly on bass. Here's some advice on why and when you need to fish them.
A lizard or a tube body are two deadly baits to use with football jigs.
The jig head's design is shaped like a football with the pointed ends to the left and right sides of the head. The hook eye often faces directly upwards, although some come with eyes facing slightly forward. The football jig's wide and curved head stabilizes and prevents it from tipping over on bottom, keeping the hook point facing upwards. The rounded head design also allows the jig to climb, or wobble, over rocks and along sandy bottoms when slowly retrieved.
Jigs designed to be rigged with plastic baits will contain a barbed collar, while bass jigs featuring plastic skirts will have a ringed collar to hold baits in place. Most football jigs come with heavy, strong wire hooks, although some are available in light wire versions. The benefit to light wire one is you can pull jigs free as the hook bend will straighten under steady pressure if you get snagged on a sunken log, for example. Some jigs feature weed guards, often composed of plastic bristles that help to prevent the jig from accumulating weeds as it is fished along the bottom. Rattles are also available on some jigs.
Football jigs can be effective with a rubber or silicone skirt as a flipping jig, especially on baits with a weed guard. However, one of my favorite ways to fish a football jig, and the technique I'll be discussing here, is rigging the jig with a soft-plastic bait and dragging it along the bottom. Crayfish, creatures, lizards and tubes are some excellent choices for bodies to rig on a football jig. All these baits have appendages that dance as the jig bumps and bounces along the bottom, an enticing action to bass.
Slowly dragging a football jig and soft-plastic body along bottom will produce big bass when used in the right structure areas. The jig should be fished in relatively snag-free conditions. Try them in craggy, sharp-edged rock bottoms, and you'll loose a lot of jigs. It's better to drag these jigs in smooth, rock-bottom areas, mixed with sand or mud to maintain constant contact with bottom at all times.
After casting the bait, follow its fall on a tight line so you can feel for strikes that may occur on its decent. Once on bottom, let the bait rest for a few seconds, and then lightly jiggle it before beginning the retrieve. This delay-and-wiggle tactic can often trigger bass that are investigating the bait.
Big bass fall prey to footballs, but the slow and steady retrieve takes patience.
When retrieving the jig, try to keep it in contact with the bottom at all times. Slowly crawling the jig along the bottom imitates many underwater inhabitants, including crayfish and salamanders. A bottom-dragging retrieve also kicks up mud and sand, creating a commotion that will quickly get a hungry bass' attention. Experiment with your style of retrieve. In some instances a steady crawl works best, while in others a stop-and-go retrieve can be more productive.
Slowly dragging the jig lets you constantly feel the bottom. This sensitivity is particularly important when the jig encounters an obstruction like a large rock or a log. Sometimes you can reel the jig over but, more often than not, you'll need to raise the rod with short twitches to coax the jig over the barrier. Once the bait has made it over, allow it to fall and then continue to crawl the jig along the bottom.
Bass will hit the jig at any time on the retrieve. Strikes can vary from aggressive rod-jarring attacks to the sudden addition of weight at the jig-end of your line. Steadily sweep-set the hook, and then quickly play and release your catch.
Long seven-foot casting rods teamed with baitcast reels are excellent outfits for dragging football jigs. If you lack the discipline for a slow retrieve, a low gear ratio reel will ensure you don't reel the jig in too quickly. Lines between 12- and 20-pound-test are sufficient, and super-braids will increase your sensitivity to feel bottom as well as strikes. Football jigs ranging from ¼- to 3/4-ounces allow you to fish a variety of water depths from shallow bays to deep, mid-lake shoals. Carry natural and hot colored plastics from four- to six-inches in size in the aforementioned designs. When selecting plastics for football jigs, choose a bait with a thick body to ensure it will be able to hold onto the jig's collar. For example, look for wide-headed lizards and thick bodied tube baits. Finally, sharpen the jig's hook point every so often when dragging bottom as the bait will occasionally hit rocks and wood, dulling its hook point.
Football jigs may appear odd when compared to more traditional jigs,
like ball or darter heads, but these baits bust bass under the right
conditions. Find a relatively snag-free bottom on your favorite bass
lake and try tossing a football jig to get on the board with a
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