A few years ago, whenever I thought of soft plastic fishing I thought of all the cool colours, the awesome range of models and shapes and the infinite amount of variation. Rarely did I seriously consider the impact good quality jigheads had on catch rates.
As the tournament scene got more serious and anglers became more attuned to the requirements of the entire system for fishing plastics, the importance of the right jighead for the right situation grew.
My first real exposure to quality jigheads came with the Gamakatsu range. The most important thing with the range was the chemically sharpened hook: it was wickedly sharp. But they had a problem when heavier lines were used, as most of the lightweight and fine hooks opened up. I found that most of the imported jigheads struggled with heavier line and hard fighting techniques, and this shortcoming limited jighead plastic fishing to smaller species like bream, flathead and bass, where light lines were used.
This obvious flaw lead to a new generation of backyard lure makers sorting out the wrinkles in the jigheads landing in Australia. This new breed of jighead makers used species- and situation-specific hooks and weights, altered the head shapes to make the lure swim the way they wanted it to and, like all good inventive Aussies, the tinkered until they got it pretty much right.
A more recent player in the jighead market that’s getting it right is Aussie lure manufacturer TT Lures, with its Tournament Series jigheads.
TT Lures started with the aim of providing the industry with a range of jigheads that had a head weight and hook size combination to suit every soft plastics fishing situation.With no restriction in design, TT decided that the head shape had to be custom-shaped to maximize the action of jerkbait-style soft plastics, as TT was sure this was the direction in which the industry was heading.
The gamble paid off. As well as this head design, TT added a super-fine grub keeper that holds plastics without splitting some of the narrower soft plastics on the market, like the omnipresent Berkley 3” Drop Shot Minnow.
Hook selection for plastics is now very important. Anglers demand exceptional qualities in relation to sharpness, size range, various wire strengths and, most importantly, they want the hook to have a good reputation in the industry. Gamakatsu Round Bend 90 degree jighooks in fine and heavy wired varieties are TT’s selection, and for their larger models they use the SL12 and the O’Shaughnessy manufactured by Gamakatsu. These hook choices are distinct from the earlier Gamakatsu jighead imports because they are specifically chosen by the TT team and their sponsored anglers to hold up under the toughest conditions.
With a lot of feedback from anglers and retailers in the last 12 months, the range continued to expand. TT now has 68 head/hook combinations available, with combinations from the smallest 1/20oz size 2 fine wire hook, for delicate and finesse breaming, through to a massive 8oz head moulded onto a 10/0 Gamakatsu O’Shaughnessy hook for targeting big GTs, cobia, tuna and mackerel.
The popularity of TT jigheads has been further boosted by the variety in hook sizes for the same jighead weight. For example, the 1/8oz head size has 10 different hooks, so you can target any size fish with almost any size lure.
I have used TTs extensively over the past year and am happy tossing plastics rigged on them for bream in deep or shallow water, flathead, GTs, barra in impoundments and even tough customers over the reef like snapper, coral trout and fingermark. The simple head design does its job by allowing every plastic – whether it’s a jerkbait, paddle-tail or single-tail – to swim as it was designed to.
With heavier lines and lighter weight there still can be a few straightening problems, but to maintain the sharpness and penetrability of the hooks, something has to give.
An example is the deepwater snapper fishing that TT’s Dan Stead has been doing recently. Dan has been chasing fish up to 9kg on plastics with 1/4oz to 1/2oz heads, and has found that it’s best to fish no heavier than 14lb (6.5kg) braid. Any heavier and the hooks can straighten and fish is lost.
So there is still a challenge for the guys at TT to find a stronger and sharper hook that will load up a 3-4” stickbait plastic that can be fished on real heavy tackle for the likes of fingermark and trevally in rough country. But the guys tell me they are working on it and I bet it won’t be too long before we see something crop up.
An addition to the range in December will be the Tournament Series Jigheads HWS (hidden weight system). At this stage TT is planning on a size 2 HWS and 1/0 HWS at 0.8g, and 2/0 fine wire at 1.1g. Early testing has shown the HWS to provide an incredibly lifelike presentation of plastics, with the whole weight of the jighead hidden within the body of the lure. Field testing by TT’s tournament anglers has revealed exceptional results and I can hardly wait until they go into full production.