Part II - Fishing the Water Column; Jig Head Selection

As you may recall last week we discussed the importance of keeping it simple when choosing a soft plastic. However, If you haven’t kept up to this point, I invite you to read part I before reading the below, if you’ve read Part I “More Isn’t always better”…please keep reading!

With respect to jig fishing, I personally believe the longer you can keep a bait in the strike zone the greater the chance for a strike, simple concept I know, but that said, the choice of your soft plastic, although important, is not nearly as important as your jig head selection. Think back to my initial scenario as I described the drop off in the middle of an oyster flat, by having a firm understanding of where your jig head is in the water column, in relation to the cover that the fish are holding to, is paramount. Additionally having a firm understanding of the tide, as well as its strength, determines which jig head weight to use. In short, it’s about getting bites. However before we digest all the components of jig head application and weights, lets discuss styles of jig heads and when to apply.

Jig heads come in a variety of shapes and colors, however I adhere to my KISS method when choosing jig heads as well. I typically use two styles of jig heads…an aspirin head and a screw lock jig head (see picture), and as you would expect these two jig heads are used in particular styles of fishing, i.e. wade fishing or fishing from a boat. The aspirin head jig is my “deep water” jig, and I generally throw these jigs in varying weights in greater than 5 feet of water. Conversely, the screw lock jig is particularly used during wade fishing, and in depths of less than 5 ft. Keep in mind this is my general rule of thumb, however if faced with a stronger current, tide or wind, the style of jig head could change to counter such aforementioned conditions. It’s basic I know, but setting the standard gives a person new to jig fishing a baseline of jig and depth.

Now that we’ve talked about jig head style, let’s discuss weight. Knowing the right weight and style of jig head is the greatest factor to fishing with a jig and soft plastic. To put it simply, your lure selection is nothing if you don’t have the jig head to bring it to the fish…fish sitting in 10’ of water will rarely hit a bait 1’ beneath the surface. Think about it, you wouldn’t want to run 6 miles to the nearest restaurant, would you? Especially if they can deliver it to your door, right? This is where choosing the right weight is key to ringing the trout dinner bell.

Regarding jig head weight, I use 4 sizes – 1/8, 1/4, 5/16 and 3/8. I’ve also been experimenting with a 1/16oz for fishing the flats here in TX, but still have some getting used to, and I’ll explain. In the aspirin head mold, I use 1/4oz – 5/16oz 95% of the time. However, I will also throw 3/8 in the aspirin head as well, depending on depth and current, i.e the stronger the current/wind, the heavier the head for the depth of water I’m fishing. For the screw lock jig, I use 1/8oz about 90% of the time with the other 10% split between 1/16 and 1/4oz. So why use a certain style of jig head and a certain weight? Here is my theory. Screw locks of lighter weight in shallower water paired with a good soft plastic like Down South will afford your bait to sit parallel to the bottom. The main reason is the shape of the head, and the location of the eyelet. Since it’s a lighter jig head and an equally heavy soft plastic, its buoyancy counter acts each other, affording you to fish the entire water column effectively, even if only 1.5 – 3’ in depth. See the attached video of one of my mentors, Capt Mike McBride

With regard to the aspirin head and the heavier weights, keep in mind that this is a “deep water jig”. That said, I want to fish more of the water column vertically as opposed to horizontally, like you would with a screw lock. As a bait is falling through the water column, with a heavier head, the weight from the jig head is leading the bait down. However, when have your rod tip up and line tight the natural tendancy is for the head to go down, but is instead in a parallel position because of line tension.

Here are some scenarios to highlight my point. Your in a small curvy bayou, with a pretty good amount of tide (.8 – 1.8’ of tide range). Located on both sides of the bayou are steep drops, that sharply go from 2 feet of water to 12’. I would choose a 5/16oz jig head, because I want the bait to fall from 2’ to 10’ fairly slowly until I get my first bite. Once that happens I can zero in on sink rate, depth, tidal flow and wind conditions (see picture).

Another scenario is a large submerged oyster flat that rises up from 6’ of water to about 3’. If in ideal conditions, I would use a 1/4oz aspirin head jig head with a matrix shad to slowly explore the gradual decrease on the flat. Once you determine the location of the fish with relation to the flat, you can solidify your boat position and presentation. (see picture).

As you can see there is some science to fishing with a jig, but your efforts will not go unrewarded. Although it may be easier to fish live bait under a cork, the thrill of the hunt and the ability to fool a fish into eating something plastic is very fulfilling. It’s a testament to your angling ability and more often than not, equally as effective. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this two part series. If you have any questions, please provide them below.

As always, tight lines and God Bless!

Chris