Kim Bain talks about the variety of fish catching options available to users of 'bent-pieces-of-wire-with-blades-on-the-end'.
JIG SPINNERS have been fringe dwellers for years, especially in the freshwater scenes of New South Wales and Queensland. A sub-culture of Aussie anglers use them for a host of freshwater species, mainly rainbow trout and bass, and they also get occasional use among bream anglers targeting fish that are in an aggressive frame of mind.
Historically, jig spinners (a snap clip wire and bent arm with swivel and spinner) have been around for nearly 50 years. Although a few anglers can lay claim to the invention of the lure, my opinion is that a bunch of people used bits and pieces of one another's ideas to evolve the concept. The Hildebrandt bent arm spinner was probably first coupled to a plastic bodied lure by Chuck Wood and he took this to the ‘Bass Buster’ company owned by Virgil Ward. Bass Buster released the ‘Beetle Spin’ in the late 1950s. Not content to share the royalties the founders split and became competitors. The Beetle Spin name has since been owned by a few companies including ‘Johnson’, the name under which most Australian users would have met this lure. The Beetle Spin and the Hildebrandt bent spinner arm spawned many other lures including the spinnerbait (the spinnerbait was first patented in 1964).
These days many companies manufacturer jig spinners.
At first glance the jig spinner looks a lot like a spinnerbait. The similarities between spinnerbaits and jig spinners are fairly simple to see with the naked eye. Both lures incorporate a bent arm with a 'blade' hanging off the end. Spinnerbaits can have more than one blade (sometimes up to four blades) whereas the jig spinner rarely has any more than one blade.
Jig spinners typically have a Colorado style blade hanging off the swivel at the end of the arm. Some companies sell them with small willow leaf blades or Indiana blades but worldwide the sales figures are excessively in favour of the Colorado versions in either nickel or gold. I guess that this is because anglers catch more fish using the Colorado-optioned models and this generates resales. I can't tell you why the Colorado catches more fish but certainly my own experiences (although hardly scientifically qualified) have relegated the small willows into the spare parts bin.
Further back up to my claims relating to the general preference for Colorado blades is that many spin arm manufacturers have dropped the willow-adorned versions from their range and now they only offer Colorado and/or Indiana shaped blades.
Yet the willow leaf is the favourite (in bigger versions) on spinnerbaits as far as sales figures go. The secret might be that willow leaf blades work better in the bigger versions than are commonly used on jig spinners.
As far as blade colours go, nickel (aka silver) and gold are the most popular but there is always room and a use for dips and paints to make white, chartreuse, black and/or fluoro blades.
The big difference between the spinnerbait and the jig spinner and lead-head combo is also pretty easy to see at first glance. The spinnerbait can be described as a ‘rigid arm’ whilst the jig spinner can be termed as either ‘articulated’ or ‘hinged’.
My own thoughts are that the pocket sized jig spinner is more productive on active fish around weedbeds, especially if the weed is patchy. These lures are a great alternative to compact spinnerbaits. They can work out as a very cheap option when used in combination with your existing soft plastic jigheads and tails.
Another advantage is that the snap clip on the bent wire frame of a jig spinner allows quick and easy interchanging between head weights and colours without retying.
Due to the articulation, the lure will often wobble more on the retrieve, giving greater action on slower retrieves or in tighter pockets of water. Further, the jig spinner often works better than spinnerbaits when finesse presentations are employed, such as ‘dragging’ or ‘hopping’ across the bottom.
The spinnerbait is still the preferred performer in open water scenarios and amongst the trees. My reasoning behind this is that spinnerbaits will flail their blades more tantalisingly during stop ‘n’ go retrieves or after bumping an underwater tree branch.
A commonly accepted failing of fully imported spinner arm and lead-head combos is that their lightweight hooks often can’t stand up to Aussie fish. The solution is to buy the jig spinners and jigheads separately so that you can mix and match them to assemble the ultimate set-up for your application. Fortunately, for this reason most jig spinners are sold without the jigheads in our local market.
Jig spinners are most commonly used with ball head jig hooks, but they can also be used with standard hooks for surface presentations or even with floating jigheads. The one thing to be mindful of when selecting the jighead is to opt for those that have an eyelet in the top of the ball.
The rubber skirted jigs that we looked at last month can also be used in association with a jig spinner arm and Colorado blade.
An interesting point to note is that when using the rubber-skirted jig/jig spinner combinations you are targeting more aggressive fish than when using just a rubber-skirted jig. Because the fish are more active and chasing the lure rather than 'sucking it in', you can use a slightly bigger and sturdier hook. I'd still remove the weedguard as the jig spinner arm works as a good weedguard but allows the fish more access to the hook. See – I told you the debate would continue!
With a handful of rubber-skirted jigs in various colours, plus some nickel and gold jig spinners, you can mix and match to your heart's content. The skirt of the jig is a great attractant for the fish to home in on, but you can also spice up the package by threading a straight running soft plastic tail onto the hook.
Any type of T-tail, curl-tail or tube like soft plastic would not be out of place. Even some of the straight-tailed grubs of around 3cm in length are fine; in fact, many of the factory assembled versions utilise this lure, especially for trout. You can also attach them to Storm's Wildeye swim baits for an increase in vibration.
One radical approach with jig spinner arms is to attach them and a Colorado blade to hard bodied lures such as crankbaits (Mann's had one on the market a few years ago) and lipless vibration baits.
While we are looking at some not-so-normal options let's not ignore the feathers (such as marabou on a lead-head jig hook) and wet-fly streamers on an unweighted hook.
So now that we know a little more about jig spinners and how to put together a kit of components for fishing them, let's look at some of their applications in Australian waters.
The jig spinner can be dragged across the bottom of shallow lakes when trout aren't feeding on the surface or mid depth. With this presentation the blade will keep fluttering and attract trout that are feeding on crayfish on the bottom. In this situation an in-line spinner's treble hooks will readily hook-up on the bottom and you waste a lot of time deploying the Tackleback to save on lure losses.
Trout will also be attracted to jig spinners either retrieved through the water at mid depth, or 'waked' just across the surface, or worked adjacent to weedbeds. Trout are extremely fond of bold/obvious colours like stark white and bright orange.
On my last trout trip I hooked a good sized trout in the mouth of a cove. Fish were rising, fish were on the sounder, they were everywhere. I simply cast out my rig (a 1" green pumpkin Slider with the tail dipped in orange Spike-It, a 1/16 oz Slider head and a no. 0 sized Betts nickel Jig Spinner), let it sink and then commenced a steady retrieve. I lost the fish when the hook straightened. So now the boys at Slider Australia get their jigheads made with a stronger hook in the form a premium nickel Mustad.
I prefer subdued natural colours like `Cotton Candy’ for bass around weedbeds. Other favourites in bass circles are the smoke/yellow core and/or pumpkin colourations.
You can hop jig spinners off the bottom in the vicinity of weedbeds or in pockets amongst the weeds. They'll also produce the goods when retrieved at a steady pace around the weeds; it just depends on the mood of the fish.
The fact that jig spinners catch bass and trout is not in question, but how do they rate alongside in-line spinners and 'traditional' spinnerbaits? All I can say is to try them for yourself, but one thing you can be sure of – jig spinners at least offer you something different to present to the fish, especially if you want to approach trout in a more weedless manner or if you wish to offer the bass population a nifty little compact spinnerbait-style lure in tight water or around weeds.
We are all pretty tuned into the fact that semi-active fish and inactive fish are more likely to be seduced by something that looks a little different (that's why new lures keep having their day). So what are you waiting for? If you haven't given jig spinners a try get out there and show them something new.
1) The ball head is the ideal head to use with jig spinner arms.
2) In the 2002 Pro Bass Grand Final Carl Jocumsen used Betts Spin Jig Spinners with a 3" Slider tail dipped in Spike-it to catch four of the six fish that earned him third place.
3) The jig spinner is ideal for New England trout country. It can be worked through the shallows, beside weedbeds and even around rapids, where trout are known to frequent.
4) An accessories kit for jig spinners – a variety of Blade dips, an assortment of jig spinners in various sizes and gold and nickel colours, a collection of lead-heads and rubber-skirted jigs, a handful of tails, and some scent to dip the tails into. The tackle box is Plano's new waterproof 3740 model.
5) Saratoga are another fish that have shown a liking for compact jig spinners.Reads: 1665