Now that the spawn is over and most of the bass have moved offshore, it’s the ideal time to use one of my favorite baits and techniques that’s mostly flown under the radar in recent years.
The lure is the bucktail jig — or “preacher jig” as some call it — and the technique involves targeting offshore bass that are suspended and feeding on shad. It was part of my 74-pound day at the recent Bass Pro Tour event on Lake Chickamauga.
It got the name “preacher jig” from a presbyterian minister in LaGrange, Georgia, who was also a really good bass fisherman. He didn’t invent the method, but he refined it, fished it very successfully on West Point Lake and Lake Eufaula, and he tied his own jigs that served as the model for the rest of the industry. The minister passed away a few years ago, but the technique lives on, and it catches lot of bass, including big ones.
There are three reasons the preacher jig technique is so good right now. First, it catches suspended fish more efficiently than anything else on the market. Second, the lure is silent, unlike a crankbait. It’s even less disruptive than a swimbait. Finally, it’s got a big profile and a single hook, so it draws strikes from big bass and you can get great hooksets.
I like a shad-patterned 1/2- to 5/8-ounce E Series Gospel Jig from Andy’s Custom Bass Lures. It’s made with saddle hackle, bucktail and flashabou. It’s a lighter jig than a lot of guys use with this method, but I believe the slower fall gets me more bites.
And unlike just about any other type of jig fishing for bass that I can think of, I don’t use a trailer with this technique — just the jig. It has a built-in shad profile, and that’s all you want.
I throw the jig on 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops 100% Fluorocarbon line spooled onto a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Baitcast Reel (8.3:1 gear ratio) on a medium-heavy 7-foot-4 Platinum Signature casting rod. With that outfit, I can make long casts, and the fast reel keeps me in touch with the jig.
The preacher jig is deadly when you’ve located offshore summer bass that are suspended in the water column. This usually takes place off points, humps or channels in water ranging from 15 to 25 feet.
To catch these fish, you could try a crankbait, but crankbaits are noisy, and those bass have probably seen a lot of them. A crankbait also tends to be inefficient on suspended bass. Even on a long cast, your crankbait is only working at its maximum depth for about a third of the retrieve.
With a preacher jig, my bait’s in the strike zone even at the end of a long cast, and it stays in the strike zone.
Once I’ve located some suspended fish, I like to back off and make a long cast to them. Then I let the bait fall all the way to the bottom on a slack or semi-slack line. I’m expecting a bite as the jig is falling, so I keep my rod tip pointed at the bait. That way, I’m always in position to set the hook. In fact, I keep my rod pointed at the lure all throughout the retrieve, too.
If the jig gets to the bottom without being eaten, I’ll give it three or four quick turns of the reel handle to get it up off the bottom and moving. Then I kill it and let it fall back to the bottom. I’ll do that all through the area where I’ve spotted fish or even all the way back to the boat if I’ve caught a few fish and believe the school is moving toward me.
The best way to set the hook with the preacher jig is to sweep it hard to the side while you reel as fast as you can. Then just keep pressure on the fish all the way to the boat.
And remember that this is a big fish technique! If there are big bass in a school you’ve located, the preacher jig will catch them.
So, if you thought bucktail jigs were just for striped and white bass, you’re in for a treat. The preacher jig is the best tool I know for suspended bass that are feeding on large shad.
For more on this technique and this bait, check out my Project E video, “The Hair Jig: Everything You Need to Know.”