Since men began fishing for crappie nothing has been a game changer like the jig has. A jig to crappie fishing is like a worm to a bass fisherman. It’s a dominate lure in almost every type fishing including bass, snook, trout, pike, salmon, walleye, and crappie fishing. It began as a glob of deer, squirrel or cow hair wrapped around a lead headed hook. Because of the pulsating action of the hair in the water it could mimic a bait fish sitting still in the water.
For some fisherman it’s the only way to fish, for others it’s used in combination with live bait. Either way the jig catches fish and lots of them. I’m not trying to convince you that one technique works better than the other; I’m only to tell you how you can enhance your jig fishing and move to the next level.
Some fishermen use jigs exclusively and refuse to use live bait, while others will use only live bait and no jig. I’ve got good news; the combination of the two can become an effective tool on those slow days.
In the old days you had very few choices, it was either marabou or bucktail jigs. Back then crappie would bite them as good as they would live bait. Guess what? Crappie have become smarter, they’re more finicky now days. It’s called survival. Used correctly they’re still killer baits.
After the evolution of the hair jig came the soft plastics like the curly tail grub. Now we have host of other grub shapes that including soft plastic infused with scents. Today many scented soft baits rule the marketplace. In many cases soft plastics stay on the hook much longer than live bait.
Another advantage soft plastics have over live bait is the fact that you can change sizes quickly. You don’t have to carry multiple size minnows. Another advantage is the colors available allow you to change quickly to attract fish that would otherwise not bite.
I tested several scenarios and combinations. On a recent fishing trip to Grenada Lake, a lake known for producing huge crappie, I tried minnows only, jigs only and the combination of jigs and minnows on different poles while spider-rigging. I caught fish on all three combinations but the combination of minnows and jigs by far out fished the other two.
Grenada has a 12” minimum, keeper fish must be over 12”. Not only did I catch more fish with the combination, but the crappie were larger and I had fewer throwbacks. However you must realize when crappie are actively feeding, they can be caught on a variety of jigs or minnows. When the bite slows is when you must make an adjustment or move to another spot.
If you like to feel the bite or the thump, then your preferred presentaton is going to be single pole vertical jig fishing. If you want a more efficient way of presenting the jig, you should try trolling or spider-rigging. Simply put, spider-rigging takes the feel away and it becomes more sight fishing. You’re constantly watching your pole tips or your line.
Expert spider-riggers place their hand on the poles in the rod holders. They can feel a hit when not watching the tips. This gives them an extra advantage when they turn their attention from the pole tips.
I’ve mentioned two well know presentations for jig fishing but it would not be complete without mentioning long-line trolling or trolling out of the back of the boat. I mentioned the other techniques first because you can combine jigs and live bait. Long-lining seldom involves the use of live bait.
Vertical jigging requires a jig that hangs horizontal; it can be a hair or soft plastic. It can be a round or shad head, it really doesn’t matter. The most important factor is how it’s attached to the line. Vertical jigging requires a double loop knot that allows the jig to hang horizontal and the hook to ride upright.
Trolling or spider-rigging with jigs allows more flexibility. You can use ball head or bladed jigs. Both jig type work well because of the boat movement. It only takes a little movement to cause the blades to spin on a bladed jig such as a Blakemore Road Runner. Road Runners are very effective for the reaction strike. The strike that occurs when fish are simply reacting to what they think is a bait fish passing by. Live bait and fish attractor (power bait or crappie nibbles) can be added to jigs to form a scent trail. I’m often told by fishermen around Grenada Lake that “these fish didn’t get 3+ pounds eating soft plastics”. In other words, the larger crappie can tell instantly between the live bait and soft plastics.
Pitching a cork or corking is another productive technique that can be used from the bank or a boat. I use this technique during the spawn in shallow water. Crappie are easy to spook. I use a jig under a cork to pitch past a target and pull it back to the target without spooking the crappie.
I will not hesitate to mention what cause lots of fishermen to miss or not catch many of the bites they get during their fishing trips. The number one common cause is the reluctance to invest in good rods. In my opinion the rod is much more of importance when crappie fishing than the reel. A good rod investment pays you back with more catches in the long run.
Whether you’re vertical jigging, spider-rig trolling, long-lining, or pitching a cork, the most important piece of equipment you can invest in is a quality rod. One that is lightweight and sensitive enough to feel the delicate bite of a crappie. Each presentation requires a different rod. Personally I favor B’n’M Poles for all of my rods. Their motto is, “We have a rod for that”.
If I’m vertical jigging there’s no better rod than the Sam Heaton Super Sensitive Rod with Bottom Seat and Touch System. This rod comes in 9’, 10’, 11’, and 12’. It’s and IM-6 graphite blank with a Portuguese cork handle. The reel seat is placed at the bottom of the rod to give it perfect balance. The Touch system is unique to B’n’M rods, it’s a cutout in the cork handle where you place your finger to detect the light bites.
When I’m spider-rig trolling I use all B’n’M 16’ Buck’s Graphite Jig Poles. These poles have the handle that’s long enough to fit perfectly in any rod holders on the market. The 16’ pole puts the bait far enough in front of the boat to eliminate the spooking noise. While there is a learning curve when it comes to landing a fish in shallow water, it’s well worth it for the extra bites.
If I’m long-lining I employ the B’n’M Difference Rod designed by legendary guide Roger Gant. Roger uses this rod for a technique called side-pulling. The tip is extremely sensitive; it allows you to see the lightest tap and thus this makes all The Difference. My partner, Don Terry of Jackson, MS, says, “it hooks them before they know it”; it also as the backbone to direct a fish through multiple lines without tangling. This rod comes in 8’, 9’, and 10’ lengths.
For pitching or corking I like the B’n’M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive rod in 9’. The 9’ rod allows me to make long casts even into the wind. The cork handle has the expensive feel in a rod that affordably sells around $60. The longer 9’ rod allows me a good hookset at a long distance. With or without a cork, I can feel the lightest bite.
We’ve looked at jigs, soft plastic bodies, jig presentation, and jig rods. There’s only one way to become proficient at jig fishing and that is to spend time on the water. It matters none if you use jigs only, jigs and soft plastics, or jigs with minnows, nothing comes without effort, in order to become a better jig fisherman you’re going to have to go fishing a lot more.