Bass see hundreds if not thousands of jigs during a season of fishing, want to make sure they bite the one you put in front of them? Modify your jigs so they’re different and set apart from every other one they see. We all want an edge in Bass fishing. We all want a bait that looks a little bit different, a bait that isn’t the same right out of the package as the one the guy in front of us or the guy behind us is throwing. There are a few simple modifications that you can make to your jigs that may give them a look that the Bass haven’t seen and if you’re lucky just may trigger the strike you need.
When flipping or pitching a jig more often than not we’re aiming to put the bait right in the Bass’ face to trigger a reaction bite. Typically the Bass can’t resist an easy meal dropped right in front of them. To that end the look of the bait may be less important than when finessing your prey with a small jig or when fishing a football jig on the bottom.
To make your own jig modifications you’ll need a couple of basic and inexpensive tools. A good hook file, a sharp pair of scissors and a pair of thinning shears will get you started. Thinning shears can be found in the beauty section of your local discount department stores and are used in cutting hair.
Most every angler will make a quick and simple modification to the weed guard on their jigs when they pull them out of the package and trust me, I’m no different. There are several different trains of thought with regard to trimming the bristle weed guard of your jigs. One of the of the most widely used methods is to simply press the weed guard bristles against the point of the hook and trim the weed guard level with the point of the hook. Other methods include removing individual bristles to make the weed guard thinner and spreading the bristles out like a fan and then trimming the sides at a 45 degree angle before trimming level with the point of the hook. Regardless of which method used remember to take into consideration that the shorter you trim a weed guard on a jig, the stiffer the weed guard becomes so you may need to experiment a bit based on what right looks and feels right to you.
Easier hook penetration into the Bass is what we hope to accomplish and regardless of the weed guard modification you make, if any. A dull hook will break your heart more often than not if you fail to obtain optimum penetration. Always check the point of your hook for sharpness and touch it up as necessary throughout your fishing day.
Basic Finesse Cut
Several jigs on the market come from the factory with the skirts precut to the finesse style which basically gives the lure that lion’s mane look around the head of the jig. The problem with buying your jigs with the skirts precut in my opinion is that they are exactly like every other jig produced by that company. I prefer to receive my jigs with the full skirt intact and make the finesse cut myself by hand. This allows me to cut the lion’s mane as long or as short as I like and to experiment with different lengths. To make the cut, start by finding the point that the skirt is attached to the head of the jig. Usually the skirt is held in place on the jig head with a rubber collar. If it’s a quality handmade jig like the Fitzwater Custom Lures jigs the skirt will be wire tied to the head to prevent slippage. Hold the jig around the point that it’s attached to the jig head. This is the middle or midpoint of the skirt. With the head toward the ground allow half of the skirt to hang over the head of the jig while you hold the other half against the hook and trim the top half to the desired length. You can experiment with your jigs by varying the length of the finesse cut. With a football jig I like to make the finesse cut a little longer to give the jig a look of appendages sticking out to the side.
Trimming the Skirt
Not every fishing situation calls for the skirt of your jig to be trimmed. There are times when you want the full bulk and length of the skirt intact to represent the largest offering possible. Other times you simply want to trim the end of the skirt slightly to make it all one length. Then there are those times when you want to make your jig radically different.
The shorter you trim the skirt the more flair it will have at rest. If you trim the skirt to the bend of the hook it will allow the bass to see more of the trailer that you’ve selected to match to your jig. This can be very important in clear water and finesse situations.
Another popular cut when trimming the skirt is to allow the skirt to hang down over the hook, clamp the skirt flat against the hook between the index and middle fingers of your weak hand and depending on the size of the jig trim one eighth, or one quarter of an inch of skirt material off of each side while leaving the full length of skirt material covering the hook. This can be an effective cut on your football jigs when you want a bit more flair out of the side of the jig.
For swimming jigs I like to make a modification similar to the one just mentioned, except I like to make the two cuts at a 45 degree angle to give the jig more of a sleek baitfish appearance. Sometimes I’ll make that same cut on a flipping jig as well.
Thinning the Skirt
Thinning your jig skirt isn’t a new technique and while it’s difficult to say who originated it or where, it’s widely accepted that the clear water experts out west were among the first to perfect it. This is where the thinning shears come into play. You’re going to want a half a dozen or more jigs to practice with because thinning a jig skirt isn’t an exact science which makes this a true custom modification because it’s rare that you’ll get the same exact result every time. To thin the skirt simply hold the jig by the head and take roughly one quarter of the skirt material about half way up the shank of the hook and make your first cut. You’ll notice that the tinning shears will cut some strands of skirt material and not the others. This is exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish. Rotate the jig and make three more cuts at varying lengths along the hook shank until you’ve cut all the way around the circumference of the skirt. The end result will be several varying lengths of skirt material all the way around the jig. This can be a deadly modification for both finesse and football head jigs in clear water situations. Each varying length of skirt material will flair and undulate differently while the jig is at rest and it’s these subtle undulations that can entice the bass into biting in those highly pressured clear water situations.
There’s really no end to the modifications that you can make to your jigs. Several pros I’ve talked to will use dyes or dye pens on their skirts or different colors of paint to accent the heads of their jigs and one even uses ultra fine grit sandpaper to dull the finish of a new jig; to beat it up a bit and give it a used appearance.
So, are you going to get bit with a stock jig straight out of the package? Sure, without a doubt. Personally I derive a lot of my confidence from modifying my baits. If I’m fishing in a crowded situation and targeting highly pressured fish I believe I can pull into an area and fish behind someone and present a Fitzwater Lures Shock and Awe jig that I’ve modified and that the Bass have yet to see and get bit. So get yourself a bunch of jigs and start experimenting with your own modifications so that you can offer the Bass something they’ve never seen in your area.