Smallmouth Bass Jigs

March 22, 2011 by  

Our Outdoors: Smallmouth Bass Jigs
By Nick Simonson

Learning how to fish on the Sheyenne River in southeastern North Dakota during my late teens and early twenties allowed me the luxury to go after smallmouth bass from the first warm-up in early April until the fish really got going in May. Throughout the years, my spring staple has been a standard ballhead jig dressed with plastics, hair or synthetics that helped me find what worked on any given outing. From lunch breaks on the shore to evenings in the boat, as the spring water warmed, I ferreted out five go-to jig patterns that worked on my home flow, and should work for you too from ice out (where legal) until mid-June on your favorite smallie stream.
Smallmouth Bass JigsBucky
Before the world of synthetics, like tinsel, flashabou and other fine-stranded materials opened up to lure makers and anglers, there was the naturally-occurring fiber found at the back of last November’s buck. Bucktail jigs remain one of my favorite lures, particularly once the river is just free of ice and the water had begun to warm, drawing fish to the edge of the shallows. Fished in a slow fall over a break or channel edge with occasional twitches, the bulky body of tail fibers expand and contract in the flow, gently pulsating with the moving water, but showcasing a larger profile. This provides a target that looks like a big enough morsel to snap up for still-lethargic early spring bass. Bucktail jigs have been a staple in most smallmouth anglers’ boxes for generations and they still work today.
Another classic jig which I come back to each spring for my smallmouth angling trips is the venerable marabou jig. Usually showcasing marabou feathers in bright colors, like orange, pink or the hallmark yellow of Bass Buster fame, these easy-breathing lures transmit motion in unbelievable fashion. Black and brown should not be overlooked either, as both trigger spring strikes from smallmouth bass. Worked slowly, in sizes from as small as 1/16- up to 1/4- ounce, depending on the flow, the marabou triggers a response due to its airiness and responsiveness to the slightest twitch of the rod tip.
Fuz Buster
When working live bait on a jig in spring and wanting to bulk my presentation up with some plastic, but keep that breathing presentation with some marabou, the Lindy Fuz-E-Grub has always provided a nice compromise. The plastic body, in a color usually complementing the tail feathers, provides a bit of bulk that doesn’t get in the way of the hookset. The shorter marabou tail still gives off that triggering action sometimes needed to seal the deal. Fuz-E-Grubs remain present in several compartments in my tacklebox and have always proved to be a successful presentation as the water warms.
The Flash
In the past few seasons, I’ve been fixated on flashy jig dressings of all kinds. From flashabou to krystal and moon flash, to sparkly synthetic hairs and tinsel, these materials make up some of my favorite hand-crafted patterns and are the basis for my long-time favorite springtime lure, Northland Tackle’s Gypsi Jig. The shimmer and shine puts the presentation on autopilot and is perfect for fishing spring smallmouth, especially after a cold front. Whether tipped with a minnow or not, the showy skirt material draws fish in and the movement – nearly as free flowing as marabou – seals the deal. I can make the tails as long as I want when I tie them myself, using shorter ones in the early part of the season, and going with my longer-skirted models in May when fish are more aggressive. These jigs remain an effective choice all season long.
No lure, however, has been more responsible for getting my thumb pads rubbed raw from lipping spring bass than the standard ballhead jig dressed with a curly-tailed grub. Once the bass are up in the shallows after the first warm days and are jockeying for prespawn positions, the activity of a curly tailed grub worked through the water is a sure shot for success. I’ve always been a fan of the Mister Twister brand of curly-tailed grubs, particularly those in white/black dot and yellow/black dot. An entire section of my jig box is devoted to them because they work throughout the openwater season on a variety of species, but especially smallmouth. Pick up a wide selection; you’ll find they’re cheap and easy to work in a variety of ways and locations. They remain among the most versatile lures I’ve ever used.
While the cost of everything is rising these days, these jig options will be light on your pocketbook and put a heavy bend in your rod this spring. Try them out, come up with your own color and material combinations, and find what works best on your waters for springtime smallies…in our outdoors.


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