To me, the jig is the most versatile big-fish lure for late winter and early spring. In highland lakes, the bigger bass – largemouths, spots and smallmouths – are moving toward the shore and holding in groups in the places where the last deep water meets shallower water. What I key on is the outside channel bends, whether it’s where channel swings in to a bluff bank or a rocky shoreline. You’re liable to find fish bunched up 15 or 20 feet deep, or even 40 or 50 feet deep.
My favorite colors for off-colored or deep water are black-and-chartreuse or black-and-blue. If the water is clear, I’ll go to a brown, brown-and-purple or brown-and-blue jig. My line is 10- or 12-pound-test fluorocarbon. For deep water, a ¾- or 1-ounce jig is best.
I thin the weedguard quite a bit, and also sharpen the hook as soon as I get it out of the package. Then I’ll check the point every 30 minutes or so to make sure it’s still sharp. I’m kind of old-fashioned about the trailer; it’s either going to be an Uncle Josh No. 11 for the smaller jigs or maybe a No. 1 Jumbo pork frog for the bigger jigs, in colors to match. Once in a while I’ll go to a Fat Albert Twintail grub in sapphire blue or green pumpkin if the fish want a little more movement.
When the jig gets to the bottom on a stairstep-type bottom, I fish it back with what I call “controlled slack.” I’ll lift the rod to about 10 o’clock and then let the jig go back down slowly while keeping the slightest bit of tension on the line. If it’s just a slanting bottom, I’ll drag the jig along very slowly. The fish won’t really slam the jig; you might feel a tick, or it will feel mushy. It’s not like you need to set the hook instantly, either, because the bass will hold on to it for a good while.
One last tip: on cold mornings, fluorocarbon line tends to get stiff and coil up on your reel. To fix that, I’ll tie off the end of the line to a boat cleat while I’m still at the dock, back off several yards and stretch the line a bit. That will help you feel the jig better.
EverStart pro Ron Shuffield, Bismarck, Ark.