Do A Little Jig
Think small when largemouths get picky.
Downsizing may have dire consequences when it comes to corporate America, but in bass fishing the concept can be a day saver. When bass grow temperamental, as they often do in response to cold fronts, fishing pressure, and other myriad factors, they curb their appetites for standard-size lures. Experienced anglers keep on getting bites by switching to small plastic baits, such as 4-inch finesse worms, but when bass are holding in thick cover, these are close to useless because they can’t penetrate the brush.
In this situation, Ron Yurko, who has won hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournaments held on small, overfished impoundments in his home state of Ohio, reaches for jigs that weigh only 1/8 ounce or so. While lightweight jigs have long been a mainstay for smallmouth and spotted bass anglers, Yurko is happy to admit that those who target largemouths have little regard for these diminutive lures.
When other anglers can’t buy a strike, Yurko consistently hooks bass by flipping, pitching, and casting his bantam jig to shallow cover. Aquatic vegetation, submerged wood, rocks, and boat docks all yield largemouths, including some heavyweights. Most hookups come from water 3 feet deep or less.
Yurko’s go-to jig is a homemade 1/8-ounce model he dresses sparsely with either bucktail or squirrel hair. A few strands of thin rubber over the hair add the final touch. A subtle wire weedguard protrudes from the pointed jighead and shields the hook. Without a trailer, his creation looks more like a streamer fly than a bass jig. On the line, Yurko’s bitty jig sinks slowly, settles lightly, and sneaks through cover. It lures bass close and coaxes a feeding response.
The commercial model that most resembles Yurko’s homemade one is the Big Buck Hair Jig from Venom Lures. Bass Pro Shops’ Smallmouth Jig, which features a bucktail-and-silicone skirt, makes an excellent substitute when you fish rocky bottoms and sparse cover. Also available are a number of small-profile rubber-skirted jigs, such as Stanley’s Smallmouth Bass Jig. Don’t let these smallmouth tags throw you-tip these little jigs with tiny trailers, and they’ll do a number on those fickle largemouths.
Of course, every bass lure has drawbacks. Due to its lack of weight, a bitty jig is much more difficult to flip and pitch into teacup-size openings than a heavy one. Yurko employs Abu Garcia’s discontinued model 507, an underslung spincasting reel that easily manages 20-pound line with a featherweight jig. Since it can be difficult to locate one of these vintage reels, your best option is a spinning outfit loaded with 12- to 14-pound-test.
In superdense cover, try a thin superbraid coupled with Rippler’s Lo-Pro Jig designed by Frank Scalish, the former Citgo BASS Master Tour Rookie of the Year. The slightly heavier Lo-Pro jigs come in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes, yet maintain the small profile of a 1/8-ounce model. The wisp of added weight will help you probe the thick stuff, where a finicky bass is bound to be waiting for an appetizer. When you get back to the dock with a load of fish, do Yurko a favor: Don’t tell anyone about your itty-bitty secret.