Midwest Outdoors - Feb. 1999


By Jim Van Hook

One of the least utilized techniques for Bass fishing by people that visit our deep reservoirs in the Ozarks is deep-water jigging. I watch people all day long, hugging the banks and flailing away at the shoreline with their lures. I guess most of them just donít realize that quality Bass are up on the banks in these lakes just 3 to 4 weeks of the year. Yes, you can get lucky occasionally, and pick up a good fish that way, but generally speaking, most of the good water is behind you. If you intend on fishing deep, clear reservoirs, and you are used to fishing weedy, and maybe, off-colored  natural lakes, you definitely need to make some adjustments. One of those adjustments that may work for you is deep-water, vertical jigging. Itís a tried and true technique for catching quality Bass and other species, yet most anglers shy away from it. Letís take a look at this method and the tools you should use to make it a successful outing.

· Electronics

To successfully fish in water depths of  30 to 100 feet, you definitely need quality electronics! Whether you are using a flasher, LCD, or a paper graph, it needs to be a quality unit in good repair, with enough power to penetrate those depths and return a good signal to the angler. There are a number of good units out there on the market these days. I have come to prefer the power and features of the Lowrance X-75 and I still occasionally use my good old X-16 paper graph.  You need the ability to pinpoint breaklines, brush piles, and other key structural elements to effectively fish this deep. And you need these units to pick up the fish , as well as schools of baitfish. No matter what model unit that you use, learn how to operate your unit properly so that it will perform at itís peak for you!

· Boat Control

One of the biggest elements in making an effective deep-water presentation, especially vertical jigging as we are talking about here, is precise boat control. Once you have located the piece of structure or school of fish that you want to jig, you need to stay right over the top of it. This is especially true in cold water fishing. Generally, the colder the water, the more important a vertical presentation becomes. In warm water, you can toss a spoon out and let it fall thru a school of fish and get bit, but when that water cools down, fish are less likely to move horizontal to chase a bait moving quickly thru the water. You have got to put the nose of your boat into the wind and try to match its speed as closely as possible. If youíre working a breakline, you need to be moving ahead ever so slightly. Proceed down the breakline slowly, keeping your bait directly underneath you. If you are working a school of fish clustered on the bottom or suspended, you want to keep your boat as stationary as possible. Needless to say, as the wind picks up, this becomes more challenging.

· Rods, Reels, & Line

Generally , I prefer to use baitcasting equipment with this technique. A 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 foot, medium to medium heavy action, good quality, graphite rod is best. A great combo that works really well for me in this situation is a St. Croix PC 56 M rod with a Quantum EX-501 reel. The rod needs to have enough backbone to jig those heavier lures and set the hook at those 50 - 70 foot depths, but yet be sensitive enough to detect the light hits youíre going to get most of the time. Iíve also come to really like the high speed ratio reels. They enable me to quickly retrieve my lure when it is fouled so I can fix it and get back to the business of catching fish. I set my drag light to medium so larger fish wonít tend to pull off. I prefer using 10 to 12 lb. mono on my reels, mainly because Iím  fishing very clear water most of the time. Some of my fishing partners use up to 20 lb. when weíre fishing in the deep trees and it does save them a fish or a lure on occasion. When the fish are a bit shallower in the water column  and we switch to lighter weights, such as 1/4 oz., Iíll use a spinning rod & reel combo. A good combination for me has been a St. Croix PS 60 M rod with a Quantum Energy E5-2 reel. Iíll spool this combo with 6 or 8 lb. mono.

· Lures

There is a real variety of different lures to use for vertical jigging. Iíve got my favorites, some of which you may be familiar with, some you may not. In different fishing situations, my clients and I have caught good quality fish on all of them.  First is a traditional chrome-plated, lead jigging spoon. The one I use is made by a local company by the name of Hog Jaw Tackle. The 3/4 oz. model works well down to 75 feet or so and has a fluttering action the Bass just seem to love! Next is a 3/4 oz. Hawger spoon produced by Jig A Whopper. Originally marketed as a Walleye lure, these produce some fine Bass.  They also produce another spoon-type lure called the Rocker Minnow.  I had a heck of a time tracking them down. Check with your local tackle shop.  Another spoon that I have had success with is the Swedish Pimple. Try a chrome or white model in 3/4 - 1 oz. Iíve also rediscovered some old lures in my tackle box and theyíve been producing some nice fish recently using this technique, namely,  Sonars and Billy Westmorelandís Silver Buddy. In clear water, chrome or silver usually work the best. The biggest problem youíll probably have is trying to find these in 3/4 oz. size. Have your local tackle shop  order them for you. And donít forget about the good olí lead head jig. A 3/8 to 1/2 oz. is usually needed at these depths. Rig them with 3 - 4 inch reaper type tails in silver, red flake/clear, or smoke-type colors.

I will sometimes modify and experiment with these spoons. You can bend them, slip gitzit bodies over them, and change the hooks. One particular modification that has been working well for me is replacing the manufacturersí hooks with a #4 Flashtail hook made by Storm. The extra flash seems to work very well. I intend to experiment with it on some of my other lures as well. Some spoons also require the addition of a split ring. Use a good quality snap to attach it to the line and youíre in business.

· Location

Here is where your electronics and a good lake map come into play. Check the main lake points, with and without wood, secondary points, bluff banks, creek intersections, creek channels, etc. Youíll find the fish. One key is to find the schools of baitfish, usually shad. The Bass wonít be far away. Sometimes you wonít see them on your flasher or LCD, theyíll be laying right on the bottom. Bounce that lure in front of them and theyíll eat it! Remember, if the fish are suspended off the bottom, present the lure at their level or just above them. They will generally come up to the lure, but not down. In any case, experiment, the fish will tell you how they want it that particular day!

Next time youíre out on the water, give deep-water jigging a try. Itís a deadly presentation almost any time of the year. Depths and actions vary according to the time of the year, but the basics are the same. You may be in store for some pleasant surprises. Youíll be throwing for fish that donít see too many lures a good portion of the year! An added bonus is the variety of fish youíll catch with this technique! Youíll find yourself catching Largemouth, Kentuckies, Smallmouth, White Bass, Crappies, Sunfish, Bluegills, and even a Catfish every once in a while!

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Jim operates Hookís Table Rock Guide Service. He can be reached at 1-800-603-4665 or Email HOOKSBASS @ AOL.COM

Jim receives promotional consideration from the following companies:

Champion Boats          St. Croix Rods
Mercury Motors          Ulrich Marine
Dual Pro Chargers       Lowrance Electronics
Hambyís Protector

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