There are few baits as fun to fish as a jig. And you can catch some great fish on it as well. But often times only boat fisherman seem to be throwing them when you can catch great bass on a jig from the bank as well.
To fish a jig from the bank successfully you’ll need to learn the basic techniques of jig fishing and make sure you are throwing it in the right areas. Finally, you’ll need to make sure you put a trailer onto your jig that matches your lake forage species. Once you get the technique correct, cast into the right areas, and find the right trailer – you’ll be catching big bass in no time!
Types of Jigs
There are many types of jigs, but this will focus on jigs meant to be fished on the bottom like a football, casting, or finesse jig. Other jigs like vibrating and swim jigs are meant to be (usually) be fished in the middle of the water and are very different.
You can identify the difference by looking at the “head” of the jig and finding if it has a flat or rounded bottom. Swim or vibrating jigs will not have flat or rounded bottoms as they are meant to be reeled, so are tightly rounded to move easier in the water. Other jigs will have large rounded or flat bottoms meant to bounce across the bottom. Another easy way you can tell is if a jig has a painted head to look like a fish (including eyes oftentimes), then it is meant to be swam.
Technique for fishing jigs
Now that you have the right kind of jig, let’s go through exactly how to fish it. First, knowing what you are imitating is important. In almost all cases, you are imitating a crayfish or some other bottom-dwelling creature. So think about how those animals move on the bottom of a lake and constantly try to mimic their movements.
So first, you should cast your jig out into the desired location and let it fall to the bottom. You do not want to move it until it has hit the bottom of the lake. The way you can easily tell this is when your line stops moving in the water and becomes slack on top of the water and just lays on top of it. This means the bait has stopped moving and is just sitting there, ready to work.
You will get a feel for when your jig hits the bottom very quickly – but do always remember to watch your line. Sometimes a bass will bite a jig on its way down and run off with it. If your line starts going sideways or does anything unexpected on the way down you might have a fish. So reel up the slack if there is some, and set the hook. Worst thing that happens is there is no fish there and you can recast.
How to work a jig
Assuming you have not gotten a bite on the way down, you’ll want to start twitching your rod very lightly to mimic a crayfish moving across the bottom of the water. If you twitch too lightly you won’t move at all, if you twitch too hard it will look like a crayfish jumping in the air unnaturally. You want to hit a nice middle ground. Generally, the cooler the water the less noticeable you want the movements. The warmer, the more you can hop the jig more quickly.
If you want to practice – you can let out 8 feet of line or so and just put your jig into the side of the water where you can see it. Do small twitches and see how it reacts. Focus on the feeling you have as the jig goes across the bottom of the water. That feel is what you will want to mimic more than anything else.
If you don’t get a bite, then you simply cast out and do the process all over again. Just remember to always be “feeling” the bottom. You want this not only so you know whats on the bottom of the water that might be holding fish around, but also to make sure you are maintaining bottom contact like a real crayfish would. This is the most important thing that will become second nature with a lot of jig fishing
Where to Throw a Jig
The places you throw a jig are almost as important as the technique of how you fish it. Jigs are not going to be something you want to throw all over the water searching for bass. It’s too slow and will not shine in open water like a crankbait might. Instead, you want to throw jigs into areas of cover.
If you are fishing from the bank, an area of cover can be almost anything in the water that isn’t just a flat lake bottom with no features. Is there a tree that has fallen over and is laying in the water? That’s a good piece of cover bass could hold on. So are stumps, big rocks, some types of vegetation, dock or bridge pilings, etc. You’re looking for those things that are different. The things that stick out.
Jigs are great to throw into these areas because they can fall right into them and you can slowly work them around. If a bass is sitting in a tight hole surrounded by rock, a jig just twitching slowly in front of its face might be too much to resist and a very easy meal. A crankbait just swimming by won’t intrigue it the same way.
So focus throwing in these areas where things exist in the water and try to get as close to them as you possibly can. Also try to throw on different sides and angles of them as a bass may only be looking in one specific place for its meal. Sometimes you’ll throw a jig 5 times on a submerged tree and on the 6th you’ll finally get the bite. Because you hit just the right spot.
But jigs aren’t great in all types of cover. Wood and rocks are usually great for jigs, but grass or other thick vegetation can be difficult. Jigs have open hooks which will get caught in anything with lots of loose hanging debris. So if you are throwing over a grass flat, your hook will soon be tangled in weeds and no bass will be looking at chomping on it. Similarly if it’s mossy or has a lot of thick algae on the bottom – a jig is not what you want to use. But if it’s a hard structure that is solid and can’t catch in your open hook as easily – those are where you want to focus.
The Jig Trailer
Finally, let’s talk about the types of trailers you can use. A jig is not complete by itself in most cases – it needs a soft plastic trailer to go on it. That is where all of the action of the bait will come from and make it look more lifelike in the water.
The straightforward choice that works in almost all cases is a “chunk” trailer. These are basically a thick bodied soft plastic with just two claws. Again, mimicking crayfish, the claws should be just behind the skirt of the jig to allow them to freely move in the water. But you can also use any craw style soft plastic. You can even experiment with other creature bait types. To start, I recommend using any craw-style soft plastic you may have or buying a chunk bait, like the Zoom Super Chunk.
Color should match the overall colors of the jig but don’t need to match exactly. A black and blue jig can have a black trailer, blue trailer, or even any dark green or brown color will work. The only thing you want to avoid are stark differences that look extremely unnatural. I would not use a bubblegum trailer with a black jig, for example. When all else fails – use green pumpkin trailers for green/brown jig colors and a black trailer for anything in the black/blue/purple realm.
Special considerations for bank fishing with jigs
Fishing a jig from the bank also has a few special considerations I wanted to detail below.
If you are fishing a jig from the bank, you are likely throwing into deep water and working it into shallow water. This means that while you twitch your rod, the bait is getting closer to you in both directions. It is getting shallower and closer, so you will get more slack in your line. Be sure to reel in all of your line to keep this out. You will miss fish if you have too much slack in your line.
Also, if you are jig fishing from a boat and get your jig stuck, you can more easily maneuver to it and try to get it back. When fishing from the bank, unless you can walk out into the water, you don’t have this ability. If you are fishing a tree and you get the open hook deep into a limb. You aren’t going to get your bait back as easily as you may in a boat. So be careful to gently maneuver around cover and don’t twitch hard into cover that you may get hooked in. Ultimately, if you’re fishing a jig correctly, you will lose a few jigs. You may want to consider bringing a lure retriever with you if this bothers you.
Because you are fishing from the bank, you usually aren’t in as deep of water as you may be in a boat. So using lighter weight jigs like my favorite jig here is often recommended for bank fishing. I prefer a ¼ ounce jig when shore fishing compared to a ½ ounce when I fish from a boat. The lighter jig lets it move better and also gets more bites usually due to its smaller profile. A ½ ounce can certainly produce fish from the bank. But I find a ¼ ounce easier to handle from the bank.
Gear to fish a jig correctly
I am not a fan of having very specific gear for each technique, so I will cover this very high level. A jig needs heavier gear than other techniques as the hook is usually heavy and a hard hookset is needed to fully cinch the hook in a bass’s lips. A medium heavy rod with at least 12 pound test is recommended – braid or fluorocarbon if possible as it has less stretch. A spinning or baitcast reel is acceptable – use what you prefer. Rod length also doesn’t matter, but I find 6 feet rods are easier for bank fishing.
If you only have a medium rod with lighter line – you can absolutely still fish a jig. Just be mindful to set the hook extremely hard and check your line often for knicks from all the cover you’ll be throwing into. Cut and re-tie if you get knicks. Also know that cannot let a bass get into the cover you’re fishing in if you do catch one, as your lighter line and pole may not handle it. So try to get the fish out as quickly as possible.