Old School Success

As a devoted bass angler, I know that on occasion we tend to overcomplicate matters. Learning to utilize modern tactics is essential to our continued success, but the latest innovative techniques can be intimidating to the point where an up and coming angler may discard it from being a valuable tool in his or her arsenal. Instead, for many looking to bag bruiser bucketmouths it is best to master the basics that continue to produce.


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Photo: Pat Ford

Swimming a traditional jig around heavy cover is a decades-old technique, however it is a proven approach and one that requires a great deal of knowledge and practice to unlock its full potential. With jigs, bass anglers attempt to mimic the target species’ primary forage—crayfish and finfish. If your local largemouth are aggressive or overly protective, a jig with the inclusion of a spinner blade will likely work best. But if the fish have been hammered by vibrating lures, adverse weather has shut down the bite or other unfavorable conditions exist, I’ll always fall back on a standard jig. Aesthetically, based on natural profile and appearance, a standard jig gets the nod for being slightly more appealing based on its stealthy attributes. Jigs also work extremely well in varying water clarity and throughout the entire year, and they also make for excellent search baits in open water environments.

Swimming a traditional jig around heavy cover is a decades-old technique, however it is a proven approach and one that requires a great deal of knowledge and practice to unlock its full potential.

While jigs can be fished successfully in the absence of vegetation, they really shine in and around grass. Additionally, an area with multiple types of vegetation intermingled usually holds more and larger fish. A hard bottom, change in bottom composition, or defined weed line adds even more appeal to a specific area. With large Florida lakes encompassing many miles of productive water that all look equally promising, it is imperative to your future success that you take note of exactly where each and every strike occurs. Ask yourself about the specific spot…was it a patch of hard bottom or another irregularity that made it stand out? This is the basis for forming a successful pattern that will help you achieve increased success well into the future. And these are the areas and types of cover where you’ll want to slow down your approach and fish more methodically, as there are likely additional bass staging nearby.

When Florida bass are aggressive I work jigs erratically while trying to keep the bait close to or in constant contact with cover. I also fish this way when bass are lethargic, hoping to trigger the opportunistic characteristics that have made this game fish world famous. A mature largemouth typically will not pass up an easy meal. Keep that fact in mind as you try to mimic the appearance of a wounded creature. This does not mean you should burn the bait, but instead use the reel to control lure speed. Strikes seem to be triggered when retrieval speed is altered, and it’s not uncommon for bass to watch or follow a bait and only commit when it pauses or flutters to the bottom. My most successful retrieve seems to be a moderate speed with intermittent pauses.

While it makes sense to have lighter and heavier jigs for specific applications, ½ oz. baits are what most anglers throw 90 percent of the time. This weight provides an acceptable combination of castability and adaptability throughout the water column.

Trailer selection can be extremely important from the level of imitation, to the resulting action it imparts to the lure. I have two go-to trailers. First, a paddletail swim bait is what I usually choose for a more active presentation. Along with accomplishing the correct profile, its tail will beat just as a natural baitfish’s tail would. I am not as concerned with a wide wobble as I am with the lure’s ability to react with subtle movement. This style of trailer also adds more buoyancy to the bait and gives the angler the ability to fish slower without the bait sinking too fast.

The second style of trailer would be a crayfish imitation. This will often be a smaller profile bait and complete the crayfish look. Depending on body shape and size of the craw trailer, rate of fall can and will be altered. Again, large or flat baits provide a slower sink rate than smaller, streamlined baits.

Jig color is certainly important, with green/pumpkin, black/blue and white/shad my favorites, but it’s also critical you select the correct color when it comes to trailers. First off, do not try to make the trailer and skirt look like one cohesive unit. None of the species of forage bass prey upon are a single, uniform color, rather they are mottled and have different shades and textures to them. For the green/pumpkin jig, proven color selections include Okeechobee craw, dark watermelon with blue or purple flake, and a combination of brown and purple. For dark color jigs, I match the trailer to the hue of the jig but with a lighter contrasting color. Conversely, with white jigs I do just the opposite by adding a darker trailer.

No matter the selection, be sure to make several presentations with your chosen offering before calling it quits, because it’s not always the first cast or flip that gets you connected. Additionally, make sure you’re properly equipped with the correct tackle. In Florida lakes with an abundance of heavy vegetation, this means a powerful 7’0″ or 7’6″ stick with a moderate/heavy action, coupled with a high speed baitcasting reel loaded with 50 lb. braid.