THE SKIRTED jig is an evolution of the standard lead head jig. Basically, in addition to the lead head and keeper on the hook shank, it has a rubber ‘spinnerbait’ style skirt. As Aussie anglers are already aware, our freshwater natives love attacking the `wafting’ spinnerbait skirt (in which the hook is hidden). Their affinity for soft plastics has also been well proven on the BASS tournament scene. From this there seemed enough evidence to suggest that a skirted soft plastic, so successful in the USA, would tempt our Aussie natives.
Skirted jigs are believed to be more tempting to fish than standard heads because after the jig becomes stationary, the skirt slowly and tantalisingly flares out. This movement is said to attract a strike response from the fish, and because the lure isn’t actually moving through the water it has a greater chance of being inhaled. When using the skirted jig in NSW and Queensland bass waters, I was surprised at the high percentage of bass that were hooked on jigs back in the roof of the mouth rather than in the lips or outside of the jaw.
For Australian conditions, the standard jig incorporates a smaller hook (round bend Mustad Aberdeen style) and a thinner, softer rubber skirt for better action with less bulk. The unanimous advice was to go with a dark (also referred to as ‘natural’) coloured head and dark skirt. Browns, blacks and their variants are ideal head colours. Skirt colours include either browns or brown and purple blends. The way the skirt is trimmed can make all the difference to its ability to ‘flare’.
We sorted out a high quality chip-resistant paint, assembled a few lures and were ready for testing. From past experience, we opted to start with weights of between 1/4oz and 3/8oz.
Brown has proven itself to be a red-hot colour (pardon the pun) in Australia. From my experience I’d opt for darker (rather than brighter) colours every time when fishing the freshwater weedbeds. Such natural hues more closely resemble a crayfish or yabby.
The choice of head shape is based on what habitat you’re fishing. The theories of my mentors have worked for me, so I pass on their advice. Evidently football heads with the towing point on top are great for working around weedbanks, but avoid those with pointed ends – they’re more likely to dig in and foul up. Go for the models with rounded ends.
Roundish ball-like heads with the towing point in front, rather than on top, are the choice for timber (they’re less likely to get hung up) and stand-up heads are a good bet for working lake beds. We’ve also found the rounded ball heads to work well in a variety of situations, including when you need to get the lure down deep.
Ultra-light heads can be floated down beside logs to catch fish, and we’ve found the ultra-light heads to be very suitable for pitching in underneath trees in bass creeks.
Most jigs are fished with soft plastic trailers that should have an ‘action’ when retrieved to encourage a reaction bite. If the trailer is chosen so that it also works on the freefall, you’ll have a lure that works great when the bass are hitting them on the drop.
Trailer colours should be based on water clarity and light conditions. In clear water, the natural coloured plastics are the first pick. In our initial tests we used a very heavily salted brown double tail with either a metallic fleck or black (pepper) flake. Effective variations of brown include motor oil, pumpkinseed and cinnamon. In dirty water situations, opt for a bright coloured (fluoro coloured scent comes in handy here) or a black trailer that will stand out. In both scenarios, a natural coloured jighead is preferred. I’ve also used green motor oil with gold fleck with a high degree of success.
At first, during our experimentation, the twin-tailed trailer I tried looked too long. The first comment from many anglers who saw the fully rigged jig was that the trailer needed to be shorter. However, in practise this hasn’t been the case. Perhaps this is further evidence in support of the theory that bass ‘inhale the lure’ rather than bite at it. There is a long list of available trailer options, from soft plastic crawfish, single and double-tail grubs, paddle-tail grubs and ‘creatures’.
I like to use 3” Slider Bass Grubs with skirted jigs, and I’ve also had plenty of success with salted twin tails. One tip with the salted twin tails is that those with a slightly oval body shape can give better hook-up ratios, as they are less obstructive in the gape of the hook.
If you want to fish the jig on the bottom and use it to resemble a crayfish (the flaring of the rubber skirt is said to mimic the action of a cornered yabby), I recommend a floating crawfish. It makes the hook stand up off the bottom in a pose that not only looks like an alert crawfish, but also gives the best chance of hooking a fish due to its body being flatter and less obstructive in the gape of the hook.
Quite a few switched-on Aussie anglers have found that their catch rate increases when using salt-impregnated plastics. The theory with salt-impregnated soft plastics is that the fish will hold the lure in its mouth for longer. Additionally, if a hook-up is missed the fish is more likely to come back for a second go.
Scent certainly works on skirted jigs. They work well without it too, especially on reaction bites around weedbank structure, but when I’m out on a lake bouncing or dragging a jig on the bottom I always have that scent bottle handy. I prefer to use Spike-It because it soaks into the soft plastic, so the scent stays there much longer. Spike-It also dries quickly (which is less messy) while punching out a strong odour.
Wise tackle selection can help you to get the most out of this technique. A 6’6” medium to medium-heavy spinning rod with a larger spooled spinning reel, like a Shimano 4000, for casting is ideal. The larger spool suits the American trend of using monofilament lines in clear water. Larger spools induce less memory coils, which aids casting. 12lb test is suggested for weed edge luring and 10lb line for open water work. We found that 8lb Platypus Superbraid worked fine when incorporated with a fluorocarbon 12lb leader. When using superlines, 2000 sized reels are fine as spool diameter doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue.
Spin jigging is one arena where rod quality is very important. Sensitivity is crucial – you need to sense a bite when the fish picks up a jig on the fall, especially if it just holds station without swimming away. On some jig fish you’re never quite sure at first if you have a bite or not. The handle arrangement on your rod is critical to receiving maximum feel, so I prefer the lightweight cork winches on G.Loomis’ IMX and GLX models. My preference is the G.Loomis SJR782 in the ‘Spin Jig’ range.
Next month, we’ll hit the lake and see how skirted jigs are worked!
• When used in the wrong place at the wrong time, adding salt to the packaging can turn semi-transparent lures opaque. Also just having salt inside the packaging is no guarantee that the lures are actually impregnated with salt. Salt added inside the packaging washes off quickly, but it does help to keep the lures from sticking together. The best way to add scent and flavour after manufacturing is to use a non colour altering impregnating scent, such as Spike-It Clear.
• Jigs aren’t always used to imitate crayfish – a white jig with tinsel flash and a white trailer is often used to replicate a baitfish, and it’s good to try on lakes in which bass feed on bony bream. For real ‘match the hatch’ authenticity, ensure that your jigheads have eyes (not required on the crayfish imitations) and use a shad or baitfish type scent.
• In dirty water there is a ‘sound’ option – you can incorporate aftermarket rattles into your jig (if they aren’t already built in). But be aware that the type of rattles that flail their arms around will tangle in the weed more often.
• You’ll get much better hookups if use jigheads without weedguards.
• If you use heavy-ish braid and a suitable leader you can keep the rod parallel to the water’s surface if you hang up on weed. Then, instead of lifting your light rod (the cushioning effect will reduce the ripping of the weed), point your rod at the weed and slowly turn the reel handle, thereby breaking the lure free one weedstrand at a time. When the jig pops free, let the lure fall to the bottom and continue with your retrieve.
• If the lure (or even a fish) is well and truly bricked in the weeds, raise the rod tip and give it a jerk. This will often break the fish free a few strands at a time. If it doesn’t come free on the first few attempts, increase the severity of your upward snaps, but try gingerly at first – you don’t what to lose the fish.
• If you read any US texts on the subject you’ll soon pick up on their trend to fish these jigs fairly slow, but in Australia they also work well when fished at a moderate pace.
1) Japanese anglers found their (highly refined and expensive) bass jig to be a real hit on Aussie bass.
2) The author, Kim Bain was stoked that she was able to tempt this schooled Australian bass (located on her sounder) with a skirted jig.
3) A combination of the wafting skirt and added attraction of the brown and purple flake soft plastic trailer of this jig were too much for this Maroon dam bass to resist.
4) Visiting Californian angler, Anthony Pimentel was ecstatic when he landed this Aussie bass on one of his favourite jigs brought from his homeland, the United States of America.
(Alternative caption: American Pro Bass angler Anthony Pimentel with an autumn (or `fall’) Aussie Bass taken from QLD’s Lake Maroon on a skirted jig head with twin tail trailer.)