Lake Taneycomo

Jig Fishing . . . with visuals (during generation)

Posted by Phil Lilley on January 23rd, 2014
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Jig Fishing

Fishing with a marabou jig is easy.  There, I said it.  You may think it looks hard but it isn’t.

What jig fishing is, is acutely focused  — and productive. I don’t want to say it’s intense (to scare you off), but it kind of is.  It’s not for the fainthearted.  It’s not for the daydreamer.  It’s not for the guy who wants to spend a laid back day on the lake trolling a cow bell or a line out with the end tied to his big toe.

You have to pay attention and you have to be quick on the draw — yes, as if in a gun fight.  If you’re too slow or your equipment isn’t aligned right, you might not live to fish another day.  Well, it’s not quite that intense.

Throwing a Jig Straight Line, No Float

I’m not going to spend much time with equipment.   You just need a six-foot (give or take six inches), medium/light action with a weight-appropriate reel and four-pound line.

Jigs — I either use my own hand-tied jigs, but mostly I use PJ’s Finesse Jigs, a line I sell in my fly shop.

The whole idea of a marabou jig is to make it look alive to a fish.  The fluid action of the feathers makes it look like it’s a real creature in water when it’s moved up and down.  The weighted head allows the jig to rock end to end, again appearing to look as if it’s swimming or diving.

In my fishing experience, I have more success making the jig dive or drop in the water.  This, I believe, convinces my targeted fish that this small bait fish is crippled or dying, and crippled and dying bait fish get eaten in nature, period.

In most cases, I do best if I get my jig close to the bottom of the lake where I’m fishing.  This isn’t always the case but 90% of the time it is, especially if the water I’m fishing is more than seven feet deep.  Why?  Most times, that’s where the fish are.

In this video, you see me raising the rod sharply and lowering it slowly.  I’m popping the jig up, then letting it drift to the bottom with control. I’m using my wrist more than my arm and I’m not moving my rod very far.  I’m not popping it up and dropping the line to create slack.  I do this to keep in touch with the jig so that when I get a strike I’ll feel it.

Here I’m slowing the boat in current.  The water is going faster than I am, so I can let the jig swing down below the boat.  I’m holding the rod angled at about 9 to 10 o’clock, lifting the rod tip slowly to make the jig rise and fall.  Tricky part: I keep the boat moving at a speed that lets the jig drop at the depth I want.  If I’m going too slow, the jig won’t get down far enough.  Too fast and it drops to the bottom and I get hung up.  I can adjust by reeling more or even letting more line out by opening the bale and lifting the rod, closing the bale and lowering the rod back down slowly, keeping a fairly tight line in case I get a bite.  At the end of the drift when the jig is directly behind the boat, pause!  That’s when you get the most strikes.

Here the wind is blowing downstream so I’m again keeping the boat moving slower than the current with the trolling motor.  I keep my rod low and the line close to the water so as not to let the wind affect my retrieve.  I don’t even lift the rod tip but keep it angled at about 8 to 9 o’clock to work the jig in the current.  The trick is to keep the jig down close to the bottom and swinging down below the boat.

Duane Doty isn’t an amateur when it comes to jig fishing.  He’s a fishing guide both in the Branson area as well as in southwest Alaska.  Here he works the jig slower, keeping the jig moving close to the bottom while jigging slightly.  You will tend to catch more rocks and lose jigs doing this, but I tell people that if you’re not losing jigs every once in a while, you’re not close enough to the bottom.

At the hook up, Duane is jigging up and feels the fish.  As I’ve said before, the fish will take the jig on the fall almost every time.  Either you’ll feel the strike while the jig is falling or feel the fish on the jig up.  You have to be ready for either, setting the hook hard and fast.

Knowing where the jig is in relation to the boat and the bottom of the lake is essential to working the jig correctly.  A tight, straight line helps but too tight causes the jig to ride up too far off the bottom.  Then there’s dropping the jig.  Sometimes you have to allow slack in the line so that the jig falls quickly, enough to trigger a strike.  Be in control of the jig and know what the jig is doing — where it is in relation to the bottom — and you will hook more fish.

Use the trolling motor to keep the boat moving slower than the current.  This helps you control your line, especially when there’s wind blowing either up or down lake.

Experience is the best teacher.  Practice makes perfect.  Both are excellent expressions for fishing jigs and it all comes from time on the water.

Feel the bite, see the bite, be the bite.

There are three ways to identify a strike.  The first and easiest is to “feel the bite.”  If a trout strikes hard and your line is fairly tight, then you’ll feel a tap.  If he just swims along and eats it without a hard tap, the line just feels sluggish or heavy all of a sudden.

The second way is to “see the bite.”  Watch the line as it drops from your rod tip to the water.  If you get a strike, your line will move, usually up or tighter for just a split second.  The other way is that it goes slack prematurely.

Imagine your jig dropping in the water and it hits bottom.  The line goes slack.  You lift it up head high and drop it again; it hits bottom at the same place in the same amount of time.  You lift it up again head high and drop it, but this time it stops halfway down and your line goes slack.  Wait, halfway down?  What happened?  Something stopped it.  That something is a fish.  It’s in his mouth and you need to set the hook.

The same thing occurs when working a jig in current.  Watch the line closely, and if it appears to go slack for no good reason, like it hit the bottom, then set the hook.  It’s probably a fish.

The third technique of identifying a strike is the tongue-in cheek “Be the bite.”  This one is hard to explain.  This is when you don’t see anything, you don’t feel anything, but you just know something’s different.  It’s instinct.  It happens so fast that you don’t have time to process what just happened.  You set the hook and a fish is there on the end of your line.  How you knew it was there you just can’t explain.  All I can say is — practice!

Jig and Float

Again, I’m not going to cover equipment, only conditions and technique.

Generation on Taneycomo comes in many varieties from a slow, shallow release to a full four turbines that’s fast and deep.  For jig and float, the slower the better.

The ideal drift, I believe, is 50 cubic feet per second (one unit) running at Table Rock Dam.  You can get a boat up to the cable below the dam fairly easy and the speed and depth of the water isn’t such that you can’t get a 1/100th-ounce jig down below the float.  If more than three  units or 165 c.f.s. are running, it’s pretty tough to keep a jig in a position to successfully catch trout.  Anywhere in between is good with some adjustments.

When drifting, I like to keep my boat pointing upstream and fish out of the side of the boat.  I know some anglers like to keep the boat sideways and fish downstream of the boat.  Either will work.  The idea is to not fish for trout that you’re disturbing first by drifting over or close to them.  Also I think the wind will dictate how you position the boat.  Work with the conditions you’re given.

Regardless of how you’re fishing from the boat, once you’ve cast out, keep the boat in a position away and moving the same speed as your float.  Also it’s important to mend your line so that you’re not dragging the float in any way.  Any drag on the float will cause the jig to rise and move in a strange fashion in the water column, peculiar to the fish anyhow.  It’s crucial to make your lure to look as natural as possible to the fish.

Depth is important.  Most times it’s a matter of trying different depths to find out what works best.  Generally I start with five feet between the float and jig and go from there.  If you’re dragging the bottom, move it up.  If you’re not getting bit, move it deeper.

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