If someone told me, "Gary, you can only have one lure to fish with for the rest of your career," there's no doubt in my mind what I would choose: a jig.
After all, I nearly won the 2003 CITGO Bassmasters Classic in New Orleans fishing a jig. If Mike Iaconelli had missed that last fish, I might have been the Classic champ instead of the runner-up!
When Bass Saturday debuts on January 1, 2005, ESPN Outdoors viewers will get a chance to see firsthand why I love fishing jigs so much as the first episode of "Bassmaster University" airs at 9:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
Why is that? Well, during our filming of the episode on Texas' Lake Fork, I landed a number of good bass despite not having fished the lake in seven years. My half-ounce Rattle Back jig on 30-lb. test Berkley Vanish Transition fluorocarbon line was the ticket for bass that were suspended that day in treetops 4 feet under the surface in 20 to 25 feet of water.
Why is the jig such a great lure choice on Lake Fork or any other bass water in America? Well, to start with, a jig is a very efficient lure and is one of the most versatile artificial baits ever made to catch bass. Having just one hook, it is virtually weedless. You can fish it fast or slow, deep or shallow. It works very well in clear or dirty water and in either warm or cold water too.
In short, a jig is truly a lure that can be used 12 months out of the year
Now don't get me wrong. There's no such thing as a silver bullet or a magic weapon that you can pull from your tackle box that is going to help you go out there and catch hundreds of fish. As you can tell, I don't agree with the "secret lure syndrome" that some anglers have.
In my mind, fishing lures are only an artificial tool, jigs included. Keep in mind, it's not the tool that catches a fish, it's an angler that knows how to properly use that tool that catches a fish.
That being said, my favorite go-to lure is indeed a half-ounce Rattle Back jig.
When I pull a jig from my tackle supply, I will usually throw one of a series of three color combinations that includes my favorite, a black and blue flash jig. I'll follow that up with a green flash version in green pumpkin with green scales; followed by a brown/black/amber colored jig.
Keep in mind that as important as the jig and its color scheme may be, the trailer on that jig is also a very, very important part of the ingredients for successful jig fishing.
By changing the trailer, I can do several things. Number one, I can completely change the type of presentation I'm making, or the way that the jig appears in the water. I can also change the rate of fall with the trailer. By changing trailers, I can speed it up or slow it down. And probably most important of all, I can change the color appearance of the jig with a different trailer.
What type of trailer should an angler fish? Well, I'm still a big believer in fishing pork since it adds a lot of those characteristics that I mentioned above. With pork, I have more control over heavier baits in my flipping, pitching and casting techniques with a jig.
Still, I have to admit that plastic trailers certainly have their time and place for bass anglers, especially since such trailers give an angler a lot more color and style options. There have been many times in my career when that made a tremendous difference on the water.
Even though the jig is a great lure to present to fish, many anglers get frustrated because they miss fish when using it. Why is that? Primarily, I think it's because many anglers don't know how to set the hook properly when using a jig.
How do you avoid that mistake? Don't set the hook when you see the bush shake, the water swirl, or your line move. Instead, lift up your rod tip and when you feel the weight of the fish against the line, set the hook.
And when using a jig properly, there should be many opportunities to do just that on your favorite bass water.