By Justin Hoffman
Jigs are renowned for their fish catching abilities. And if I was to hazard a guess, no other lure garners more water time than these weighted bait systems throughout the course of a season.
For those that target brown and green bass, football jigs may be a new wrinkle in this ever-growing genre, but are a lure that can consistently put fish in the boat, and one worthy of placement in every bass anglers box.
Here is the lowdown on this “Hail Mary” of a bait.
The Fundamentals of Footballs
Similar in design to a basic lead head, the football jig has a few nuances that greatly improve its performance. The head is more wide and slightly oval (hence the football moniker), allowing it to creep along the bottom with fewer snags, while making a better sound contact with hard structure – namely rocks and boulders. This, coincidentally, is where football jigs reign supreme.
Due to the forward eye placement, the head is a balanced package when in play, allowing for easier hookups, and a more natural bait placement – for the most part, in a 45-degree angle to the bottom. This also maximizes its weedless capabilities.
Football jigs are meant to get down quickly to the bottom, and to stay there. Their design accomplishes this. Once there, the true beauty of this jig is unleashed.
Working the Bait
Football jigs were created to replicate crawfish, and as such, should be worked in a similar fashion to the movements of this crustacean. Two retrieves work best for me. The first is dragging. Fairly straight forward in technique and an easy one to learn and perfect. As the name suggests, slowly drag your bait along bottom, varying the distance through the cadence of your pulls, keeping a fairly tight line during the retrieve. I like this movement when working sand and rock structure, as the sediment is kicked up as the jig scurries along the bottom. A dynamite technique for neutral or inactive fish.
Imparting hops into your repertoire is the other. Gliding or lifting your bait off bottom, with a controlled drop back down, is an excellent tactic for fish that are a bit more active. For whatever reason, I also find that largemouth relate better to this presentation.
Search out rocks, points, shoals and flats, and toss football jigs if you know the fish are there. From shallow to deep, they are an excellent bait for dredging up the bottom.
Tools of the Trade
I have had a couple of seasons to work with the Title SHot “Football” Jig from Fin-tech (www.jigfish.com), and the results have certainly been satisfying. Although the jig may seem comparable to others on the market, it is the collapsible retainer guard (which allows you to rig your plastics completely weedless) that truly shines through. Of course, the quality components – including the Ultra Point Mustad hook – just add to this great package.
Football jigs can be worked throughout the depths, and are best utilized when fishing deep. For this tactic, go with jigs in the ½-ounce size. For average depths, say 8 to 15-feet deep, a 3/8-ounce version is my go-to lure.
Rigging these baits up is when the fun really starts, as the possibilities are endless. Living rubber skirts are a great option, especially once the water cools. Plastics get the nod in my boat, and take the form of creature baits, crawfish, and tubes. When fish are really on the feed, and again once fall hits, a plastic craw will often trump all others. Both largies and smallmouth love this combination! Experimenting is key for added hits, and should include varying colours and body styles.
When discussing terminal tackle, spinning and baitcast gear can both be utilized. For those that prefer spinning, go with a 6’9” medium-heavy rod. This will provide the backbone that you need. Braid with a fluro leader rounds out the system, and will give you the strength, sensitivity, and minimal stretch that is needed.
I prefer baitcast equipment when working football jigs, as I feel it gives me better control over the jig, as well as an increase in leverage when setting the hook and fighting fish. Kistler Rods came out with a new rod for 2009 made specifically for this application, named the Magnesium TS “Alton Jones” Football Jig rod (www.kistlerrods.com.) It is a 6’ 10” rod, and of a medium-heavy stature. It was specially designed this past season, after Jones won the 2008 Bassmaster Classic while using a similar rod in conjunction with football jigs.
Although this is my first season spent field testing it, so far I am extremely happy with the way it performs. Definitely worth the investment if football jigs become the bread and butter of your bass arsenal.
Football jigs are an excellent addition for those that fish bass. They perform well when worked under certain conditions, and oftentimes can get you those few extra bites to cap off a great day on the water. Toss a football this season, and enjoy scoring those fish-filled touchdowns!
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