A football jig is one of the best big bass baits out there. There is absolutely nothing quite like the thump of a jig bite. Don’t get me wrong, having a bass annihilate a topwater bait or load up like a stump on a crankbait gets my blood pumping too. But nothing makes me want to jack something’s jaw like a bass knocking slack in my line on a jig bite.
Traditionally, a football jig is best suited for colder weather. Not just the dead of winter but in particular the pre-spawn and early post-spawn. I’ve had some of the best fishing days and tournaments of my life fishing a football jig in Costa Series events on Lake Guntersville in February and Wheeler Lake in May. In this article, we’re going to take a look back at those events.
Football Jig Fishing | Costa Series Southeastern Division: Lake Guntersville – 02/28/2013
On Guntersville, I was fishing rocky points and bluff walls with my football jig anywhere from 10 to 25-feet of water. There was a pretty good stain to the water and a decent amount of current. These two factors were key in my decision to go with a football jig. The current pushes the fish to the bottom where they are able to hide behind rocks and other pick-off points waiting for food to wash by.
I believe the stained water also pushes the fish to the bottom where they don’t have to rely as heavily on sight to hunt. In swift, stained water, bass have a better chance of success when targeting crawfish moving along the bottom than they do chasing baitfish suspended in the middle of the water column.
While I proved this theory on day one with 4 of my 5 fish for 26-pounds and 6-ounces coming on the football jig, I also proved it in a lot less exciting way on day two as I delivered 17-pounds and 5-ounces to the scales and my co-angler dropped near 20-pounds on an Alabama Rig. Both my co-anglers threw the Alabama Rig days one and two along with 90% of the competition back then. I fished the same places both days and tried to force the football jig but the current had slowed and the water clarity had improved quite a bit from day one.
Day one on the left and day two on the right… I was still catching some fish, but the bite certainly wasn’t as consistent on day two.
Day one my co-angler only had a couple of bites. But my day two partner smoked me with the A-Rig and I was too stubborn and ignorant to adjust. I was reluctant to throw the A-Rig on principle and that arrogance cost me money and a shot at a top 10 as I fell to 15th for the event.
Video from Guntersville Costa Series
Football Jig Fishing | Costa Series Southeastern Division: Wheeler Lake – 05/09/2013
For our final Costa Series event of 2013, we made our way to Wheeler Lake in north Alabama. I only had one full day to practice and decided to check the bluff walls right away. I wanted to go shallow since I knew there should be a few fish still trying to spawn but thought I had better rule out the bluffs first. The little shelves on the bluff walls of the river are perfect for smallmouth, spotted bass, and largemouth to move up from deeper water, spawn and then return to deeper water without having to travel far. Once I made it out to the river, I also noticed the water was moving and there was a pretty good stain, so you know what I went with.
The great thing about a football jig is that it can be used to cover the whole bluff.
I would throw the bait up to the bluff wall and it would often land on a shelf anywhere from 1-to-5 feet deep. If I didn’t have a bite from a spawner, I would gently pull the bait until it fell from that first shelf to the next one a few feet further down.
It was imperative to do this slow and easy so as not to move the bait far from the vertical bluff between the shelves. If you go and look at the aquariums at Bass Pro Shops, you’ll notice the bass hanging alongside the rocks and in little crevices in the bluff wall itself. That artificial habitat was created to mimic the very same style bluffs I was fishing. I would let my bait fall on a semi-slack line: slack enough so as not to pendulum the bait away from the wall but tight enough that I could tell when the bait stopped. Often times while doing this I would feel a thump or just see my line start swimming off to the side where a fish had bit the bait on the fall.
On my one full practice day I got a few bites in the first hundred yards so I picked up my trolling and moved to another bluff. Two bites almost immediately. So I picked up and moved another ¼ mile. Another bite on my first or second cast. And almost all of the bites I was getting were 3-pounds or better. I sampled miles and miles of bluff wall that day trying to figure out exactly where the better concentration of bigger fish were and I had one of the best problems I’ve ever had fishing, I couldn’t dial anything in because they were everywhere. I was only setting the hook about every 4 or 5 bites but all the fish I was catching were solid with the occasional 4-to-5 pounder mixed in. I finally gave up after who knows how many bites and just elected to run around and fish as much water as I could on day one.
Unfortunately, when day one came, the bite slowed way down. I was devastated.
There was no way I had hurt them by catching what I had caught along 6 or 7 miles of bluff wall two days prior. I tried to keep my bait in the water and not get rattled and run around too much but that proved difficult knowing all the places I had gotten bites the previous day. The water was still stained, the current was still on (though possibly not as strong and that may have been the culprit but I can’t say for sure). I scratched out 14-pounds and 1-ounce and ended the day well outside the top 10 with a quite nauseous feeling as though I had let a good tournament slip through my fingers.
On day two I picked up where I had left off but the bite was still much slower than it had been on that magical practice day. With a little over an hour to go in the day, I made long run to the back of Elk River but as soon as I shut the boat off I knew I had made a mistake. It just didn’t feel right.
I ran back to the bluffs and caught three fish between 4 and 5 pounds in the last hour on the football jig to weigh 19-pounds and 11-ounces and finish the event in 18th.
Looking back I’m still not sure what changed. I caught the fish late on day two up near the bluffs and beside laydowns, though I had fished those exact laydowns and several more like them during the tournament. I wasn’t as diligent about checking generation schedules back then as I am now and the most likely culprit was a change in current.
I do remember catching a few fish when the bite was slow way off the bluffs in 20-feet of water near the boat. Perhaps they moved out and suspended and a jerkbait, spinnerbait, swimbait or scrounger would have been a better presentation when they weren’t biting the jig as well. Another learning experience where the main takeaway was that I needed to become more versatile.
Video from Wheeler Costa Series
Shaye’s Football Jig Gear
The rod and reel I used in these videos have been discontinued. My current big football jig setup consists of the following gear.
Reel: Lew’s Super Duty 7.5:1
Line: Seaguar InvizX 15, 17 or 20-pound test (Depending on cover and water clarity)
Jig: Nichol’s Football Jig 1/2 to 3/4 ounce (Depending on current and depth)
Trailer: Strike King Rage Craw