Choose Your Weapon

An In-Depth Guide to Jigheads

FSF Staff July 22, 2013

One could argue that advancing technologies are changing recreational sport fishing as we know it, but one thing remains constant and will likely never change—jigheads catch fish in any and all venues and will continue to do so until there are no more fish to catch! While the newest topwater plugs and stickbaits are absolutely impressive and we should be thankful manufacturers go through the effort they do to produce such fine fakes, you would be hard pressed to find a lure on the market as versatile as a lead jighead.

choose-your-weapon1

1 of 6

Photo: doughertyphotos.com

For an artificial lure that lacks flashy thrills like holographic foil and internal rattles, space-age engineering or advanced tank testing, jigheads have somehow warded off the competition as they remain a go-to for anglers fishing a variety of venues around the state.

There’s no real standard between jighead weight and hook size, with various facets of each providing beneficial features for different venues, target species and conditions.

Tipped with natural adornments and deployed to the depths for tackle-testing grouper or matched with lifelike soft plastics destined for the shallows, jigheads catch fish in any depth of water and will likely never lose their popularity or fish-catching appeal. However, as effective and trusted as these combinations are, it’s a sad reality that many anglers put more thought into what they attach to the lure instead of the jighead itself. This could be a detrimental mistake, with hundreds of jigheads on the market varying greatly in profile, size, weight, color, material, eye placement, hook orientation and overall build quality.

When selecting a jighead you should first inspect the hook. The most important considerations in determining a jig’s effectiveness are the hook’s point, gauge and gap. A needle sharp hook point is critical no matter what species you plan on fooling, but you’ll also have to study the gauge of your hook and decide how strong of a connection you need for the particular species in your crosshairs. Trout and tarpon provide a fine example of two shallow water species that require two different hooks altogether. Weighted jigheads provide leverage for fish to work the jig out of their mouths during the fight and this can be facilitated by improper jighead hook selection. A razor sharp needle point will make a piercing incision, while a thick hook and dull point will work a large hole in the fish’s mouth that can result in its eventual escape.

The hook’s gap also influences the hookset, with wide gap hooks providing plenty of bite to stick big fish. If you choose a hook that’s too small or has a small gap, there won’t be enough exposed shank to firmly plant the hook. You should also remember that unlike loose hooks, jigheads will likely stick around longer so you’ll want to check the tip before firing off a cast. Snag bottom or structure a few times and your razor sharp hook will be blunt and dull.

The jig’s hook eye is also an influential factor, with jigs featuring a 90 degree angle best suited for vertical applications. Jigs that feature a 45 degree hook eye angle are typically designed to be bounced along the bottom during a casting scenario with horizontal retrieve. One fairly common trait among jigheads is the use of lead, although leading manufacturers like Berkley have developed lead-free products with new composite casting materials. The unique head shapes and densities of these next generation jigheads enable varied sink rates from one and half feet per second up to three feet per second.

No matter the material used, jighead shape can vary greatly, with each designed with an intended purpose to provide a noticeable difference in action and appeal. Skimmer jigheads are highly effective in shallow grass beds because they land quietly and swim with the hook up. This can be attributed to the smaller angle of the hook eye, normally around 30 degrees. Darter jigheads feature a bullet like point and taper that flows seamlessly to attached soft plastics. These offer irresistible side-to-side action and are some of the most widely employed jigheads in saltwater. Tube jigheads are designed to fit inside of a tube lure and feature an elongated section of lead. Ball head jigs typically have a 90 degree hook angle and are ideal for vertical presentations.

Of course, there are endless variations to all of the basic head shapes. Innovative manufacturers have also introduced specialized jigs featuring unique designs for species-specific applications. Circle-hook jigs fill the requirement of Gulf Coast sinker bouncers, while new flounder jigs provide a sideways orientated hook for increased hook ups with these odd flat fish. Sebile’s line of jigheads feature a flat head to provide increased resistance for a slower descent, but the best thing about these jigs is the marking of hook size and weight for easy identification.

While the weight of your jig will be influenced by the depth of water you choose to fish, you’ll also have to take into account hook size during the selection process. There’s no real standard between jighead weight and hook size, with various facets of each providing beneficial features for different venues, target species and conditions. By varying hook size, anglers can experiment with a range of soft plastic baits. As a basic rule of thumb, the general consensus is that you want to use the lightest jighead possible while still being able to effectively reach the strike zone. The slower descent appears more like a natural baitfish than a piece of metal and plastic plummeting like a lifeless rock. Those with experience fishing jigs know these proven offerings are often engulfed on the fall.

If you choose to adorn your jighead with a soft plastic swimbait in the form of a paddletail or shrimp, it’s important the bait is rigged properly to achieve the greatest effectiveness through a natural presentation. The bait needs to be threaded on the hook so the soft plastic body doesn’t bind or spin when rigged. Start by lining up the jighead next to the soft plastic and making a note of where the hook will exit. If the hook point exits the plastic too far back toward the tail of the bait, the bait will stretch out and look disproportionate. If you push the hook through too close to the head, it will bind and kink at a weird angle. It’s also critical the hook is perfectly centered on the bait. You’ll also find that a number of jigheads are outfitted with bait keepers or screw-type locks to keep your favorite soft plastics firmly in place.

Whether you choose to fish jigheads in shallow or deep water, braided line will provide the sensitivity needed to work the bait with precision and enable you to detect even the most subtle strikes. To achieve the most lifelike presentation you should always attach your jighead with a small loop knot for maximum maneuverability.

Used in conjunction with natural and artificial offerings, jigheads are extremely versatile and can be fished in numerous manners throughout the water column in an effort to fool a gamut of species. With such a wide range of alternatives, jighead selection really does make a big difference. Regardless if you prefer to hop, drag, bounce or swim a jig, there’s no denying their incredible effectiveness. Unlock the secrets to jig fishing and watch your catch rate soar!

Join the Discussion