Jig vs Carolina Rig:
A couple of years ago, my nephew (Chris) and I were fishing a tournament at Lake Jacksonville. He was using Carolina rig (CR) and I was using a jig and he was catching all of the fish! At that time I did not like the CR and considered myself a jig expert since I exclusively used a jig. Every once in awhile I would throw the CR, only to be disgusted with the results. How do I set the hook? Why can’t I feel the bite? IS THAT A BRUSHPILE or a little fish nibbling on my hook? Too many times I would pull the weight across a stump on the bottom of the lake, then the bait would touch it, and when I dropped the rod, the weight would drop down to the bottom feeling like something was pulling. Thus I would set the hook into the stump. Hey, customers do it all the time. They feel rotten, but I’ve been there.
Lake Jacksonville did not have a map that we knew of. Have you ever fished a lake without a map? It’s not easy, but if you read the bank you can find creeks everywhere at Jacksonville. We found a very deep creek coming down a steep hill from the bank. I followed it with the LCR out
about 100 feet from the shore, then it intersected another major creek running parallel to the bank.
I positioned the boat on top of the creek that ran parallel with the bank so we could work both the creek coming down from the shore, and the deeper creek. Fish were everywhere!
I asked Chris if he wanted the deep side, or the shallow side. He directed his CR out towards main lake into the deeper creek… I directed my cast onto the breakline where the bottom dropped from ten feet to eighteen. I pumped my jig, let it sit for a second, and pumped it again. It was absolutely slammed by an eight pound bass that took second place big bass, and second place big stringer. Too bad Chris took the deep side, ’cause I got some money from them Aggies!
Now, of all the things that need to be considered when trying to figure out why I caught this bass on this bait in this spot? Which one was the most important, and why? I’ll tell you later.
Jigs At Night:
Several years ago I had a client from Japan in my boat. I believe it was his first night trip, and he just had to throw a jig. We went (at my infamous 65 mph boat ride) to my favorite docks to fish. He wanted to use the light stuff. YUCK! “No good!” I told him. At the first boat dock I allowed him a couple of shots before I picked up my rod. I use the Castaway Mag 7 Series Extra Heavy for a quick hookset. I made the first pitch! Now believe it or not, I was just demonstrating “how to work a jig”. I popped it up one foot, let it sit. Popped it up again-three feet, and looked at his face. He seem astonished to know that I let the thing sit there. When I looked back at my line, it was moving toward deep water. The bass had grabbed it on the fall (AS USUAL), and was swimming off with it. I used my infamous “patented” toe dance, two step hookset and nailed her while almost knocking this Client out of the boat. And I’ve got a nine foot deck on my boat.
She was over eight pounds, and 24 pictures later (he went crazy) I figured out it was the biggest bass he had ever seen in his life….
Jigs In The Daytime:
This past spring I took Clients to an area that had been producing over the slot bass on a daily basis for over six weeks on a CR. I instructed them to cast parallel with the bank. A few minutes later they started catching bass. Rather than take their fish away using the same bait, I decided to
pick up my jig. I had never used a jig in this area, and thought it would be safe!
On my first cast, the Client in the front of the boat said his CR was hung, so I immediately handed
him my jig rod and took his rod (so I could get it loose). Then the funniest thing happened. We were looking eye to eye the second he took my rod. He raised the tip, looked me in the eye, and shook his head. I yelled “Set the hook!” There was an over the slot bass on it that had apparently
caught it while it was falling on the shady side of the stump. He won first place in the company tournament that he was in, and I still catch hell from his partner who insists that the fish was on it when I handed it to him. Trust me, I never felt a thing!
The only kind of jig I use is the Triple Rattleback. They have improved them over the years after hearing complaints about the rattles breaking. I have not had a rattle break this year. They have
extra large hooks in them that make them difficult to get through a bass’s mouth. (?sp) The weedguard is nylon so it is easy to spread out. I also believe they are easy to throw. The smallest jig in my boat is ½ ounce. I also use 25 lb. Trilene Big Game (moss green).
I use the Gene Larew hawg craw, a Zoom lizard, the Jawtec (looks like a centipede with a million legs), and my favorite is the Sandworm because it stands straight up. On all of these, I cut it off so that it sticks up when the jig is on the bottom about 4″-6″. I feel like if it is any longer, I miss the hookset and that just drives me crazy because I know that this is a Big Bass Bait! Of all the ten pound fish I have caught, they were all on a jig with the exception of my first one that was on a Zara Spook in a place Joe Axton of Axton’s Bass City took me to.
Night: only black and blue. You need the silhouette against the moonlight.
Day: watermelon or pumkinseed. In the daylight, I try to match the colors to the forage.
Only a palomar. This is the strongest, non slipping knot that I know of, and it does not fray the line when you tie it. Always re-tie after every bass because their teeth always frays the line because they usually suck it deep. Also if you pull them out of heavy cover, they will wrap three times is a heartbeat if you are not careful.
This is how I do it, perhaps not the best way, but the most effective way for me! The first thing a crawdead does when it is frightened is make clicking noises. The second thing it does is raise its claws up in a defensive position. So here you have a jig/craw with rattles. What do you do with it? First, you should spray it with Kick N Bass craw formula. Then cast or pitch it next to the biggest stumps and docks available. You can also work it in the hydrilla, or (my favorite) parallel to it. With the exception of the spawn, work the shade. During the spawn, give your buddy the shady side, because it’s not likely anything will be in the shade. They like to soak up the sun during the spawn!
I use a Team Daiwa flipping reel with a 6.3:1 ratio for quick retrieve, but the best part is that a pitch or a flip can be controlled with the cast bar. You can also feed out more line, but have the anti spool controlled immediately with the cast bar if the reel is on flipping mode. I like to keep that bait as close to the water as possible to avoid spooking the bass. Always-land the bait in the water at least the same distance past the target as the water is deep. This will insure that the bait will be beside the target once it reaches the bottom.
Casting is just as much fun! Be sure to make the bait land past the target as stated above… I will often use a cast taught to me by Takahiro from Japan. It is a “U” shaped cast with the rod near the water which achieves great distance…
Here is the biggest problem that I feel exists while using a jig. When a bass catches the falling jig, it always feels like it just landed on a treetop! Sometimes you can see her swimming off with it, but the bigger fish always seem to just sit there like they are chewing on it or something. Folks, this takes a lot of experience. I used a jig 90% of the time on over 200 night trips the first year I was at Lake Fork. And I can tell you for a fact that it is frustrating to loose so many of them. Always take extras! You will catch that stump if you are not careful……
When you are sure it is a bass, using a stout rod, use the old fashioned method to set the hook. Introduce her eyeballs to her tail! Set that hook and crank to get her away from every tree in the area. One mistake most people make is that once they see the fish they think they have to get her in the boat, but I feel like (on a good stick) playing them is the best way. Play them out until they just give up. Most of the big bass only have about 60 seconds of fight in them. I also do not believe in using a net because of the damage it does to their protective coating. I’ve even had clients try to lift the fish out of the water with their rods. This is an major NO-NO when you are using a rod that costs from $125 – $175.
So why have I caught the fish in these spots?
The bass on the break at Jacksonville was suspended on the break and heard the bait coming. The bass by the boat dock at Fork heard the jig coming. The bass by the stump at Fork probably saw it coming. I had the noise, the smell, and the bulk! The erratic motion of the jig going up and down probably makes the bass feel like the craw is running from something else, plus it is a great meal to a bass that only may be feeding once a day. Kind of like in the fall when they fill their bellies. The larger bass generally spend more time waiting for that meal, where the smaller (3 lbs) bass run all over the lake chasing shad. How many bass over eight pounds have you ever caught from a school? Here again, the larger bass are closer to the bottom waiting on the dead ones to fall into their mouth. They just don’t like to work at it. Kind of like me!
I think another major important factor is patience. Give a choice of
one rod to take fishing, and it will not be the jig! Sorry, but I’m sold on the Carolina Rig. I can use it all year long. All I have to do is change the length of the leader and I’ve got the fish. In the spring I use 3′, in the summer I like to use 6′ for a leader.
Read the area you are working. Look at it like this. If this were a highway, and the fish are out in deeper water, what road will they take. Will they come in holding close to the timber, will they come in from a creek, or a roadbed, or will they travel up from a creek to the end of the deep water point, then come in and hold by boat docks or standing timber nearby?
This really works! Tie on a jig/craw, attach a swivel with a leader (2-3′), and tie a worm or
a lizard on behind it. One, the other, or maybe both may get bit.
Honestly, I still have a problem catching suspended bass. However, don’t give up hope. A buddy of mine has been in the boat with David Vance and has watched him catch bass after bass that were suspended with a white jig. To do this, you have to make the longest cast possible and yo-yo the bait all the way back to the boat. Start deep, then work the bait higher and higher off the bottom until you get into the correct strike zone.
Can we all “always” have a productive day?
There are certain times of the year when nothing seems to work. For the year, we have only been skunked two or three times. These are the times when they just don’t bite. If you doubt your presentation, change it. If you doubt your skills, check around and see how everyone else is doing. Hey, if we have a bad day, then I’ll bet you that everyone else is having a bad day!
For a normal day on Lake Fork I usually carry the following equipment rigged and ready:
Two or three Carolina Rigs ready to go.
One deep crank, and one shallow crank.
One spinner bait.
One Zara Spook.
Always wear your PFD while running the lake, take plenty of drinks. Don’t forget about the new slot going into effect at Fork on September 1st. Good fishing to all of you.
Tracy Nix (Professional Guide)
Lake Fork Guide Service
Pager Number (214) 894-5489 – Lake Mohave
– Lake Mohave