The Jig Is Up

Three top anglers defy gravity to hook big bass.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Successful bass anglers will literally turn fishing methods upside down to gain an edge over the competition. Consider what they've done with jig fishing. The traditional jig presentation is a lift-drop action that plays tag with the bottom or works the lure up and down in the middle of dense cover. These days anglers catch heavyweight bass by swimming jigs above the bottom.

High-Speed Retrieve
Arkansan Mitch Looper takes swim-jigging to the extreme when he fishes small watershed impoundments near his home, where he regularly catches trophy largemouths.

His black, 1/2-ounce rubber-skirted weedless jig features a flattened, triangular head. He tips the big hook with a green No. 11 Uncle Josh pork frog. The unique jighead skims over the surface and slices through emergent vegetation when Looper retrieves it briskly with a stiff rod paired with a high-speed 7:1 gear ratio baitcasting reel.

Looper rockets the jig far up onto shallow flats that are thick with weeds, stumps, and standing timber. The instant the jig splashes down, he points the rod tip directly at the lure and cranks like the devil. The jig cuts a widening vee on the surface, while the pork frog's legs flutter enticingly.

"Be sure to use heavy line," Looper says. "I recommend 25-pound-test monofilament. This technique catches monster bass."

Strikes may be loud and splashy, but the biggest bass usually suck the jig down into an enormous swirl that takes your breath with it.

Slow and Steady
Looper's hot jig retrieve scores best in clear to slightly stained water. In muddy water, Mississippi bass pro Jeff Magee slows down to coax strikes from bass in shallow cover. He shaves the head of a black 1/4-ounce bass jig down to about 1/8 ounce. Magee then cuts a peanut-size piece of spongy, black closed-cell foam and threads it onto the hook's shank to slow the jig's sink rate. He fixes the foam in place with a drop of Super Glue.

Dressing the hook with a bulky, black-blue No. 11 pork frog further hinders the jig's fall to the point where it sinks in slow motion. Thick line, such as 20-pound monofilament, also helps in this regard. Not that Magee allows the jig time to sink. He casts the lure beyond potential bass cover and swims it over the fish. "Because the jig is so light," Magee explains, "I can retrieve it very slowly and keep it within 6 inches of the surface. Sometimes I run it along right on top."

Though other lures work well in this surface zone, Magee's subtle, swimming jig catches big bass when they shun more aggressive presentations.

Going for Depth
Swimming a jig well beneath the surface works magic for noted angler Craig Powers, who excels at catching bass from the mountain reservoirs near his Rockwood, Tennessee, home. When fishing planted brushpiles, Powers opts for a white 3/8-ounce bass jig tipped with a white pork frog or plastic trailer. Powers casts the lure over and beyond the brush and lets the jig sink deep enough to make contact with the cover-but not to the bottom. Then he swims the jig back with a high rod tip and a pump-and-wind retrieve. The swimming jig jostles through the upper limbs of the brush and makes an irresistible target for any bass relating to the cover.

Another unconventional technique Powers uses targets bass in moving water. Many of the lakes he fishes have power-generating dams that pull water on summer days to supply electricity to air conditioners. This creates a current that draws bass to rocky bluff walls. In these situations, he plucks bass by flipping a white 1- to 11/4-ounce bass jig to the steep walls and letting the lure swim pendulum fashion back to the boat, which is floating over 20 to 40 feet of water.

"Bass suspend next to the bluffs," Powers says. "When that heavy jig plummets in front of them, they can't help but dart after it."

Poweers runs his electric motor on high speed to cover water quickly and to overcome the current. After each flip, he holds his rod still and parallel to the water.

"The low rod lets the jig reach a depth of about 15 feet by the time it gets back to the boat," he explains. "Be ready, because almost every strike comes when you start to lift the jig."