A bit of an offshoot of the popular finesse jigs made by Keitech, the Riot Baits Lil’ Creeper purports to do the job just as well or better for a cheaper price. It’s an American-made alternative designed by Bassmaster Elite Series pro and smallmouth expert Jamie Hartman (he’s got five T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League AOY points titles to his credit, too), and it’s pretty dang good. Regretfully, I haven’t tangled with any smallmouths in my time with the jig, but I’ve caught plenty of largemouths on it to sell me.
Doing anything radically new with a jig is pretty hard, but the Lil’ Creeper has a handful of nice touches that set it apart. It’s a pretty standard finesse football jig, but the hook is amazingly sharp right off the bat, and the skirt is super-fine. The skirt is attached with a non-standard round rubber band that seems to flare the strands out really well. I haven’t seen the first sign of one wearing out or coming off yet. The hook is a short-shank model from Owner, and it’s a really nice size that just feels and looks right. I’ve fished the bait on 12- and 15-pound test, and though the hook will bend some when hung, it has been a champ with bass on the line.
One detail I like is the bait keeper. It’s just a standard lead barb, but its shape really does a good job holding plastics in place, which is a feature that some finesse jigs lack. I haven’t used the 1/4-ounce size, but the 3/8- and 1/2-ounce sizes have gotten the job done for me. The skirt only comes in five colors, which is probably plenty. I can’t imagine needing anything outside of what they offer.
The weedguard is very sparse. It works fine in rock, but around wood the bait gets pretty sticky, which is somewhat to be expected considering the jig’s purpose. If the guard was a little more substantial, it might not hook fish as well, and that would be a crying shame.
Designed for smallmouths, the jig is built with their slightly tougher, more compact mouths in mind. Up north, you might be fishing it a long way from the boat in 10 to 20 feet of water. I put the jig to work in 15 to 30 feet this winter on Kentucky Lake. Fishing deep rock, I didn’t get hung more than I expected, and I hooked and landed fish with remarkable consistency. Typically jig fish are pretty easy to land, but this little dude goes above and beyond the call of duty. I almost always hooked fish fairly deep in the top of the mouth, and the hook held up well for plenty of bass. Smallmouths are a unique challenge for tackle, but based on recommendations from a few pros and my confidence with the jig, I think it’s up to the task.
I usually tipped the jig with a smallish craw, and that seemed to perform well. The Jackall Chunk Craw and the Zoom Z Craw Jr. trimmed down a little both performed well when threaded on the hook. I never tried it with a chunk, but I would imagine it works well if that’s your style. I also think a smaller Keitech Swing Impact FAT (perhaps the 3.3-inch size) would work very well as a trailer.
I mostly fished the jig on a 7-foot, 2-inch, medium-heavy-power, fast-action Shimano Cumara (one of the original black ones), which is a fairly soft rod. Not that the jig can’t take it, but I don’t think you need a flipping stick to fish it effectively. A lighter Texas-rig rod or maybe a small swimbait rod paired with midweight fluorocarbon is probably the ticket in most scenarios.
It’s a very good jig. That said, the Keitech jigs (casting and football) and the new Picasso Aaron Martens Tungsten Football Jig offer stiff competition. The tungsten jigs have the edge on metal density, but they are more expensive, and I don’t see how you can beat the rest of the package the Lil’ Creeper provides. If tungsten isn’t a must for you, or you’re searching for a new finesse football package, I think the Lil’ Creeper is worthy of consideration for more than the wicked cute name.
Company: Riot Baits
Product: Riot Baits Lil’ Creeper
Weights: 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 ounce
Price: $4.79 each