Better Your Chances Of Catching More Bass…
Almost every fisherman who regularly fishes for bass hopes to catch a big one. In northern Michigan, the summer doesn’t last as long as it does in the south. Since the growing season is shorter, finding a bass that is five pounds or more is a trophy. The summer is shorter and therefore we have a shorter period of time to catch wall hangers. From the time bass spawn until the first ice appears is sometimes less than six months. In order to catch trophy bass, anglers up north need to focus their efforts and style of fishing to increase their chances of catching big fish. Some lure presentations work better at catching large fish than others. If big bass is what you are after, you need to present them with lures they will likely hit. I regularly fish with and write about Ernie Miller from Michigan. Miller enjoys catching big fish. Whether he is fishing for walleyes, bass or pike, he always focuses his efforts on finding large ones. He admits that fishing for big bass isn’t as much fun as fishing for any size of bass that will bite. “I typically use a variety of different jigging techniques to target large bass. When I target big bass, I often catch big bass or nothing at all. That’s the downside of fishing for big fish. If anglers are out to catch fish, some of my methods may not be the right approach. Often small bass won’t hit large jig presentations,” Miller said.
If large bass is what you are after, keep reading to discover a variety of jigging techniques that often pull large bass out of the weeds when nothing else will.
Swimming A Jig
One of Miller’s favorite jigging techniques is swimming a jig. He does this in the late spring and early summer to catch big bass on the beds. “Many of the jig heads come with skirts on them which makes attracts large bass to bite by it, but to sweeten the pot I put a soft plastic lure with a twister tail or swimming tail on the hook of the jig. The entire soft plastic lure isn’t needed; only half or a third of the tail is needed. I cast that combination into the shallows and let it crash on the bottom. I slowly jig the lure on the bottom and slightly jig the rod to give the lure a swimming motion. The tail on the tip of the hook will gently swim in the water and often catches the attention of the bass. One nice thing about this presentation is it doesn’t require a lot of action to make the tail swim. They often look just like a bait fish,” Miller explained. When swimming a jig, Miller prefers a ¾ ounce jig head and either a green pumpkin or blue soft plastic. According to Miller, bright colors along with the swimming of the bait’s new bottom, is usually what draws the attention of a big bass and causes them to strike.
As the water warms up in the summer, large bass often hang out in the cover most of the time. In some cases, that cover may be a boat dock and other times they hang out in weeds. Either way, Miller often focuses his efforts on areas with heavy cover that are close to deep water. The problem with fishing heavy weed structure is it is very difficult to penetrate the weeds with a typical lure. When Miller wants to fish heavy weed structure, he uses a heavy jig with a weed guard. When fishing in the heavy weeds, I usually use a ½ ounce or even ¾ ounce jig. When casted on top of the weeds, it is actually heavy enough to punch through the thick cover. The weed guard will help keep the jig from getting caught in the weeds. When using this tactic, Miller makes sure he has a large skirt on the jig or even uses a large freak bait like a craw fish in conjunction with the jig head. “I like the jig to have lots of volume. Once it breaks through the thick weeds, it will slowly drop to the bottom which may catch the attention of the bass. Once the jig hits the bottom, I move the jig slightly on the bottom to get it to wiggle around,” Miller noted. Because he prefers a heavy jig and freak bait combo when punching cover, he also prefers a heavy rod. “I typically use a rod rated for 20 to 30 pound test and have it rigged with Power Pro no stretch line which is extra sensitive and a flora carbon leader. “The no stretch line comes in handy when pulling a bass out of thick cover. Without it, I am sure I would lose more fish,” Miller added.
Pitching A Jig
Having spent a fair amount of time fishing with Miller and doing articles on his fishing techniques, I have determined that he fishes with extreme accuracy. He often casts from great distances and places a jig in the exact spot he wants it consistently. That skill comes in handy when he pitches a jig to an exact location. Miller prefers pitching a jig in areas with structure on the edge of deep water. “One of my favorite places to pitch a jig is into old docks that are lying on bottom or under boats that are tied up near shore or near dock posts. Many lakes in Michigan are home to large private boats and the areas around the dock must be quite deep to accommodate the large boats. What I typically do is pitch a jig alongside each post on the dock and let it sink to the bottom. I let it sit there a minute and then hit the other side of the same post. I typically cast alongside every post on a dock,” Miller added.
Miller believes one mistake many anglers make is assuming that when they don’t get a hit after one or two casts there aren’t any fish near that particular structure. “I’ve casted on one side of a large dock post only to come up empty handed and then cast on the other side of the same post and catch a fish. Sometimes these large bass don’t want to move so anglers need to cast along every piece of structure they can. Eventually, they typically get a hit. I’ve also noticed that for whatever reason, time and time again bass will be located near the same post on a dock. Sometimes I fish near a particular dock a few days in a row and catch a bass by the same post repeatedly. When pitching a jig, anglers need to be accurate and persistent. A couple inches can be the difference between landing a fish and going without,” Miller explained.
Drop shotting isn’t a new technique but using a jig instead of a standard weight is something we don’t hear about very often. In most cases when anglers are drop shotting, they place a weight on the bottom of a rig and place a hook and their bait about 12 inches or more above the weight. By replacing the weight with a jig, Miller catches more fish. “In most cases when a typical weight is used on the bottom of the rig, the weight causes a fair amount of commotion as it is dragged across the bottom attracting fish. Since the bass are typically suspended about a foot off the bottom, they come over and see the bait above the weight and strike. This technique works great. By adding a jig instead of the weight, the jig actually acts more as an attractant than a weight would and gives bass two options. Two options are better than one and having two presentations on the line increases your chances of catching more bass. The weight on the bottom is a jig that looks like a bait fish or crawfish swimming along the bottom which can really get the attention of a bass. I like this presentation because when I fish tournaments, I often look for big fish and large numbers of fish. The shaking action of a ½ ounce or ¾ ounce jig bouncing off the bottom attracts large bass. The drop shot rig above which contains a worm often attracts smaller bass,” Miller explained.
Shake, Rattle And Roll
Many jigs come with rattles or a rattle can be purchased to add to a jig. Either way, fishing with a jig that has a rattle is a tactic Miller enjoys using at certain times. “When we have a lot of rain and the water is muddy, I pull out a jig with a rattle and apply one of the many tactics I’ve already discussed. I don’t change my tactics when fishing with a rattle; I fish with one simply to get the attention of fish when they can’t see very well. When fish can’t see, they key in on their other senses and the sound of a rattle often attracts them,” Miller said. However, if the water is clear, Miller rarely uses a rattle because he believes that when the water is clean and calm, a jig equipped with a rattle will spook fish.
As you can see, Miller relies on a variety of tactics to put bass in the boat for his clients. Most pros don’t rely on a few proven tactics to catch fish. They are always searching for a new way to catch fish. Next time you head to the water, try a few of these tactics. Maybe you knew a few of them; maybe some of them are new to you. Either way, the more rigs you know, the better chance you have catching more bass.