One of the most varied lures in all of bass fishing, the jig is hugely popular with tournament and novice anglers all over the world who dream of catching big bottom-dwelling bass. Made up of a few simple components, the jig is a great all-around option for season-specific fishing that won’t cost a fisherman big bucks or a massive amount of time setting up.
Jig Buying Guide
Getting bogged down and frustrated with jig shopping, especially given the hundreds of brands and shapes available, can seem par for the course. Knowing where to start with this bass fishing favorite is difficult, to say the least. That’s where understanding these lures, what they do and why they are used, can go a long way.
Here we’ll break it all down.
What Is a Jig?
At its core, a jig is made up of a hook molded onto a lead sinker (a weight that stops the hook floating). This component is then usually covered by a soft body, usually patterned or shaped like a fish, designed to catch a bass’ eye and draw it into biting. In this way, it functions like any other bass fishing lure.
What sets a jig apart then is its action. Unlike spinnerbaits and crankbaits which tend to travel horizontally in the water, a jig moves in a vertical plane in erratic “jerking” motions. This helps further entice a fish into taking it, mistaking it for prey swimming at depth.
Where jigs become slightly more complicated is in the design. There are many color, body and head shape variations. Some even have rattles (like spinnerbaits) and might even float closer to the surface too (like a topwater lure).
Why and When to Use a Jig Over Other Lure Types
Due to their wild variation and customization, jigs can be spotted in bass fishing waters all year round. Tending to peak in popularity around early spring and late fall, the idea is that they work better in warmer months. This is when most bass tend to sit a little deeper in water, away from the sun, and so do their normal prey.
Jigs have their uses outside of bass fishing too and are popular with other species of predatory fish who hunt based on movement and visuals. Dressing the jig is one element that helps. This is where the angler chooses a covering for the jig head resembling the prey or baitfish of the species they hope to target.
The size of the weight can also impact on why and when to use a jig lure too. If you find yourself on a deep lake or river you might need something more heavy duty to help your bait stay down on the water bed. Choosing a slow drifting down jig bait can help an angler target a spot they otherwise couldn’t with alternative lure types.
Different jig heads also have different functions. Some help you come through cover or heavy obstacles more easily in a cast. Others are designed for more effective “hook ups” (embedding the hook successfully in a fish’s mouth).
Types of Jigs
Types of jigs mainly refer to a jig’s “head”. This is the part of the lure opposite to the hook. It’s also usually the weighted side that’s covered by a body, skirt or dress. In bass fishing there are generally considered to be five “true” types; football, casting/Arkie, flipping, swim, and the finesse.
We’ll also cover other popular types that are considered variations on these main five.
Football jigs are so called for their shape. Designed to stay in contact with the bottom, the line tie of this lure sits on the top. This helps keeps the line off the bottom or off any type of obstacle the lure might find itself on or close to in the water.
Good for use in sandy and rocky terrain, it’s also a prime summer lure that can hit the bass migrating to their deep beds and nests. Dragged across the bottom, this lure type has an unpredictable movement wobbling all over the place and causing serious disturbance. That’s what’s effective in attracting bass.
Football jigs are varied in size. Lighter ¼-ounce footballs are good for scouting new water and figuring out where the fish are. Heavier options, like a ¾-oz to 1-ounce models are very good for targeting big bass. Lightwire hooks also help this jig type’s improved hookup ratio.
This jig type is one of the best all-rounders in terms of conditions, action, and ease-of-use. It’s also the usual favorite for most of the bass fishing community.
With a line tie similar to that of the football (superior), the Arkie or casting jig is also designed to come through heavy brush or cover and can also be used to scope an area without having to worry about snags or tangles. This also makes it an especially good choice for the beginner.
Another benefit of this lure type is that it doesn’t limit you in style. The Arkie/casting can be flipped (pulling line off the reel and casting in close), pitched (casting short to targets), skipped (pushing the bait to hard cover) and swimmed (playing the bait off the bottom). Meaning you can fish your preferred way or even change things up without having to turn to a new set-up and waste precious casting time.
A flipping jig separates itself from other jig types namely in size and a line tie that’s in-line with the taper of the head. This enables the line to be dropped in close instead of cast out long distances.
Specifically made for heavy cover, the flipping jig can be quickly pulled in and out of the water and adjusted quickly. As the name suggests it’s also built for the flipping technique. This is where momentum of rod swing and bait comes into play, which the shape of this lure really helps with.
Given the technique, flipping jigs are well suited to fishing lay-downs along banks, thick grass mats and thick edges where you can make quick presentations. These are the hotspots where bass tend to congregate.
The main feature of the swim jig is its narrow head. This allows it to come through cover more easily without the risk of messing up the line or losing a hard fighting bass. The line tie sits higher on the head to aid this.
Good for use in the grass, swim jig fishing is considered a fast and furious method of bass angling, especially if the lure is allowed to sit before being shaken (as a result of the retrieve). For this reason, it’s often recommended using a braided line with a swim jig and a high-speed reel.
Retrieving a swim jig is speed dependent and experienced anglers advise reeling it pretty fast to dazzle big specimens. That’s what separates it from a slow-moving spinnerbait. It’s also recommended to try and bump it across as many willows and stalks as possible to create an even bigger disturbance.
Finesse lures are ball-head jigs with a rounded weight component that is presented inside of a “skirt” (a feathered plastic dress that resembles a fish). These work well in cold-water conditions when bites are few and far between. They are also the smallest and lightest of lures in the jig family.
The small, unobtrusive size of a finesse jig is considered its most appealing element to bass. The fact it can be cast in and out without causing too much disturbance is also a big factor when it comes to catching easily spooked fish. Like other jig types, it can also be used to be pitched and flipped around docks or on rocks.
Dressing a finesse lure is usually the most important part of its presentation. Fans of the finesse recommend using a craw type trailer (a skirt that resembles crayfish) that’s matched to the color of crayfish in the same water.
The punch is a good choice in summer months when the vegetation has grown high and the bass are sitting in tall grass. These canopies and submerged areas make good shelter for the fish but can be targeted well by weedless (snagless) punch rigs that can penetrate through the foliage and sit in the water.
Not technically a jig type, the punch is an overall rig variation (set-up) that uses a bullet weight, skirt and a sinker (stopper). Its main feature is a soft plastic creature bait. This can mimic a range of fish but popular choices are craw, shad, and minnow.
The key in using a punch rig is going with as light a weight as possible that can still pass through heavy grass and reeds. This gives you more control on the cast and makes it easier to test different areas. Punch rigs are still going to be heavier than any other jig lure type, however. Something that might not sit well with beginners.
As with other jig types, punch rigs are usually flipped or pitched when casting an area. Anglers usually recommend “punching” within a range of 10 to 15 feet for the best results, while remaining as quiet and still from your rod position as possible.
Hair, although not a jig head type, is a natural extension to a jighead that can help raise its success rate and make for a better presentation in the water. Effective in cold water, hair is a good alternative to a soft body dress or skirt. It can also be synthetic.
Melding the art of fly tying (a method used to create presentations in fly fishing), hair jigs mimic torpid prey in cold water with a more subtle action than that seen in other lure types. Hair’s ability to better withstand the saturation of water, coupled with its natural pulsation, are two ways it helps attract bass.
Hair jigs can also be broken down into subtypes for extra specialization. Buck tail or deer body hair provides the least amount of movement of hair lures but lays flat against the hook, enabling it to fall faster. Rabbit hair can mimic a distressed leech and pulsates rapidly. Fox hair sits somewhere in between the two.
Grass jigs usually have a conical head and come in sizes ranging from 1 ½-ounce at the top end to ¼ ounce at the bottom. Similar to the punch lure in best being played in heavy grass and cover, grass jigs are often fished on heavy tackle but with narrower, more compact bodies.
Trailers are an important component of grass jigs and can come in very bright tassel designs with varying head shapes and coloring.
Amid all the different jig types anglers should also consider other crucial parts of the bait set-up. Jig weight, trailer style, and skirts are all major factors when it comes to presenting the best jigs for bass.
Choosing the right jig weight is something an inexperienced angler might find themselves struggling with. Especially if they are new to the water and unsure of the terrain.
Water temperature plays a big role in weight. Lighter weight is generally advised for use in cold water (under 65-degrees) where fish’s metabolism is likely slowed and their behavior more lethargic.
Heavy jigs, however, allow the angler to move faster and cover more water.
Choosing the right weight is really a matter of trial and error. Anglers are going to have to drop the line into the water on the best middle-of-the-road set-up first before likely having to make adjustment appropriate to the conditions. Luckily fishing jigs allow you to do that.
The main thing a beginner should bear in mind? Jigs work as long as they touch the bottom. As their action is dependent on that, make sure you go for something that at least sinks and doesn’t float.
A jig combined with a trailer is one of the more lethal combinations in jig fishing. It’s also what adds most to the overall presentation of the bait as a fish is unlikely to bite a jig head on all its own.
Jigs are usually soft plastic add-ons that can be attached to the hook of your favorite jig. Usually, they resemble different type of bass prey. They are also very season and water specific.
In warmer water and seasons the range of possible jigs you can use is going to be wider. This is because the bass tend to be more active and willing to go after a much wider variety of prey than they are the winter months when crayfish and other slower moving prey are what they tend to feed on most.
Choosing a good trailer comes down to considering where you’re fishing and what the bass are used to biting. You don’t want to go for something too foreign looking. But you’ll also need something alluring enough that it will stick out.
Colors come into play when the water is clear or dark. Brighter colored trailers are going to work better in murky water and help improve the chances of a fish catching sight of the lure.
A skirt differs slightly to a trailer has it usually features tassels or thin strips that undulate in the water very similarly to hair. In terms of what they bring to a jig lure presentation, skirts give the bait a bigger profile and more action. The moving strips can cause a fair amount of disturbance if worked well with the rod and reel.
Some skirts, particularly bright colored ones, can help increase flash in the water too. This is something that can help attract bass in less clear water and entice them into taking the bait.
Material-wise skirts are usually rubber or silicone.
Bigger skirts will obviously make for larger presentations that could work really well targeting heavyweight bass but might go largely ignored by smaller fish who don’t think it’s worth tackling. Beginners are usually advised to go for something medium-sized and rubber. Tying them to a jig head is easily done too.
Pairing Jigs With Other Gear
Different jig types work differently with certain gear. In bass fishing, however, where the jig is most commonly used, you’ll usually be able to use your gear with most jig types. Specific gear becomes more of an issue when you want to fish a very particular way with a certain type, weight and size jig.
For the most part, the bass fishing community tends to go around medium when it comes to rod action. This refers to the parabolic curve of the rod. Which is important in jig fishing as a decent amount of bend in the rod will indicate when to set the hook in a bass.
Anything too heavy in terms of action will make it more difficult to throw a jig around a lake as you constantly deal with the whip of the rod. Anything too slow is generally overkill and likely to dampen the vibration on the rod and lead to missing the right hook-setting moment.
Rods in the range of 6 to 8-feet are most recommended for bass fishing. This remains true for bass fishing with jig lures where rod length can help you more easily move around the water and scope out docks and banks with less fuss.
Depending on how the conditions are too you might want to alter your set-up a little. Fishing a finesse jig for example, where you’re going to fish more slowly and carefully, might call for something a little more sensitive (medium to medium-light in action).
High-ratio speed reels are paramount when it comes to jig fishing where bass are going to run with the lure speedily. This means aiming for something at least above the 6.0:1 mark. Jig loving pros tend to go even higher, starting at 7.1:1.
Going for reels with a high number of ball bearings is going to help with jigging too. Specifically with smoothing out the retrieve.
Fishing in heavy cover, as you’re prone to do with a punch jig set-up, might call for a robust and heavy duty reel as you’ll be dragging the bait around a fair bit. Going for as high a quality reel as possible, that allows you to quickly adjust the drag on the fly, can really help raise success rates in this case.
Line is also important when it comes to jig fishing. This is because you’ll be running the lure across the bottom, bumping it in hopes of creating a disturbance. Anything extremely visible, like heavy test weight braided, can really get in the way of that.
With football, casting and skipping jigs, fluorocarbon is a good line to choose. This is because it has the least visibility, won’t impair the lure’s action and helps make for an overall better presentation at depth.
If you plan to pitch into heavy cover with a particular jig type you might want to go braided, however. That’s because braided line is stronger, more robust and least likely to tangle or snag on obstacles.
Line weight is really a matter of preference but, as is the case with most lures, should be somehow guided by the size of fish you plan on catching.
Best Jigs for Bass
Armed with a better idea of what jig fishing can bring to your bass fishing arsenal, let’s take a look at some of the most popular choices anglers are opting for.
This lead-free ⅜ ounce jig is good as its suited to a range of styles, able to be flipped, pitched or even fished as a swim jig. Uniquely designed to stand up in the water, the hooks on these are strong, durable and secure enough to handle most conditions and all weights of bass. The head of this jig tapers toward the eyelet to enable it to move smoothly through heavy cover. The flat bottom and skirts of this lure make it easy to be skipped along the bottom creating a good amount of disturbance.
The Booyah Boo Jig has a flat bottom 18-degree rise that sits up from the bottom and bumps along speedily. The skirt on the Booyah is a nice addition too, surrounding an ultra point black nickel hook and connected to a body that has two magnum rattles (creating extra noise to attract more fish). Comes in a range of weights, from ½ ounce to ⅜ ounce models and eight colors including green pumpkin and watermelon red.
The Strike King Jig is a really versatile light jig choice for a novice or pro coming in three weight variations of 1/4, 5/16 and 3/8 ounce options. Complete with trailer, anglers can choose from over ten tested colors including blue craw and blackgill. The jig head is also painted similarly to the trailer and has a lifelike 3D-eye that helps make for a more realistic presentation in the water. The medium wire ultra sharp hook helps cut the overall weight down too, helping it be an effective choice in longer casts.
This irregularly shaped jig has a smooth jet black finish that’s easy on the eye and goes well with the black nickel hook. Designed as a universal jig for flipping, pitching and casting in and around cover, the Terminator Pro also has a rattle that helps create extra allure when it’s presented in the water. The 1-ounce version is a decent heavy choice for anglers looking for something more robust that can be dragged through heavy cover. The thirteen color trailer variations add extra customization too.
The first hair lure on this list, the Spro Bucktail also has one of the most lifelike presentations with a jig head that’s shaped and finished to look like a baitfish complete with eye. Made with durable Gamakatsu hooks, this jig has a slightly different action to a normal jig, gliding rather than falling in the water after the cast.
Jigs are a big bass fishing staple for a reason. The versatility and customization they offer to anglers is possibly the most out of all lure families.