THE LIST of overseas-based techniques to finally prove effective in Australia is a long one. Hard-bodied lures were first imported decades ago and, more recently, spinnerbaits and soft plastics often find themselves as first choice of lure casters around the country.
There are a several techniques that haven’t, as yet, become mainstream for Australian bass anglers. Carolina rigs, buzzbaits and skirted jigs immediately come to mind.
And we’ve all heard the rhetoric about how journalist ‘X’ used technique ‘Y’ 20 years ago, but I think that the real melting pot for development and acceptance of new ways to catch our species happens at tournaments. When anglers are ready to spend valuable tournament fishing time targeting bass on ‘fringe’ techniques, you really know that they’re on to something.
One angler who’s never afraid try new types of fishing is Hervey Bay’s Paul Dolan. Paul finished 2nd and 3rd in his first two BASS Pro Grand Finals, but, as is his nature, his long-term interests lay further afield. Paul returned to the tournament scene at the first BASS Electric tournament in 2003 at Lenthalls Dam and finished a close second to Peter Keidge, using rubber skirted jigs.
A lot of anglers took an interest in how Paul converts these weird-looking lures into fish, so I spent a morning with Dolan on Lenthalls to see whether he could repeat the feat and to spread the word on how he does it.
Skirted jigs are mostly used by Americans to fish heavy cover. They’re heavy, can be made very snag-proof and are mainly found at the business end of heavy flipping rods loaded with 25lb mono. Basically, they consist of a weedless jighead fitted with a spinnerbait skirt.
As such, jigs seem quite bulky in the water. Like a spinnerbait skirt, the body will flare as you jiggle the rod tip or pause the retrieve. Some Americans use them to probe heavy cover. The weight of the lure penetrates the cover and the lure is usually bitten on the drop as it descends next to the structure. Others ‘swim’ the jig through the water, with pauses and flicks during the retrieve to flare the skirt seductively. Flipping them, they imitate a crayfish, while swimming them more replicates a baitfish.
“I like to fish my jigs pretty slowly,” Paul said. “Those fish in the tournament all ate the jig close to the bottom and usually just after I lifted it.”
Paul’s first jig-fish of the morning chowed the 1/8oz green Terminator Finesse jig in around 8ft of water just after he shook some life into it.
“I’m no master of this technique yet,” Paul said, “but you can be sure that I’ll be using these things regularly until I really get a handle of how to use them to catch fish in a wider variety of situations and water levels.”
Lenthalls was at 100% capacity at the time we fished it – exactly the same conditions as during the tournament – and all of the ‘confidence’ spots that Paul took us to on the dam had similar features.
Paul told me he likes a drop-off close to a flat, and it was as simple as that. I surveyed the area he’d chosen and realised that it was a shallow, weedy bay that was close to the main sunken creek channel. Bass were inactive and sitting on the bottom in 10 to 20 feet of water – at least, that’s what the Lowrance was telling us.
“I like fishing the lure down the slope rather than up it,” Paul said. “Even though these jigs are weedless, you seem to be able to fish it a little better from the shallow to the deep.”
Paul sees the ability of these lures to resist weed-fouling in the weediest of areas as a major plus.
“I just can’t believe I’ve fished that cast through THAT area and come back clean,” he exclaimed, as he pointed out the journey of his last cast – through snags and weedbeds that looked as bassy as they come. You really do get value for each cast that you make, and you don’t waste time retrieving and cleaning off lures. Paul firmly believes that if your lure is fouled with weed, a bass won’t go near it – and most bassers would agree.
So, what’s the retrieve that Paul gets most of his fish on? The cast is quite long and he sinks the lure on slack line until it hits the bottom. After taking up the slack, Paul lifts the rod tip and shakes the lure a touch – just enough to flare the skirt before it drops the foot or so back to the bottom.
“Most of the time the bass grab the lure as it drops back to the bottom, but it’s not a screaming take like you get while slow rolling plastics – more a gentle mouthing of the lure,” Paul explained.
I told Paul how the Yanks love to set the hook with a sweeping stroke of the rod, and he admitted that often the fish won’t hook up perfectly with the typical Aussie lift-and-wind.
“It might have something to do with the weedguard wire,’ he mused. “I probably should be setting the hooks a little harder, and I think that sometimes the weedguard pokes them in the nose, which keeps them from having a second bite at the lure.
“Still, that weedguard is the best thing that these jigs have going for them,” Paul said. “I haven’t yet lost one to structure. If you do hook up tight on a snag, just electric over to the other side of it and give the line a sharp tug in the opposite direction. In my experience, this will always get the lure off, as it’s usually only wedged in a ‘v’ of a stick.
What are Paul’s favourite colours and sizes?
“Well, I’ve caught bass on all three colours in my tackle box – black, white and khaki, so I’m sure that it’s just a matter of what you’re confident using. In the wind I fish a 1/4oz, and if it’s calm a 1/8oz will do just fine.”
Paul fishes his jigs on a spinning outfit – a Pacific Composites Stealth 6’6” rod, Daiwa Regal-Z 2500 reel, 20lb Bionic Braid and 8 or 20lb Siglon leader, but overheads are equally good for these lures.
“I can’t wait to get up to Peter Faust Dam and try some big jigs on the barra there,” Paul said, “but somehow, I think that I’ll use gear a little heavier than the little Stealth for that.
So are jigs worth trying in your dam? Definitely. Anything that can take a podium finish at a BASS event is sure to be a valuable addition to any basser’s arsenal.Reads: 2501