By Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D. | May 28, 2015
Urban fishing football jigs
Football jigs are truly versatile. To me, they are one of the most exciting, effective jigs for bass all year round, in shallow or deep water, anywhere in the world. In this installment, allow me to share with you my perspective and tips on football jig selection and presentation styles for shallow water urban ponds during the prespawn period in Hangzhou, eastern China.
You may recall in Part 1, we talked about jig styles, environmental cues and fish behavior in somewhat similar seasonal conditions as those found in Toulouse, south-west France. Regardless of location, I want to emphasize that the late spring football jig pattern that has worked so well for me in various locations that I have bass fished is truly universal (period).
Whether I am fishing in Europe or Asia, I have every confidence in the football jig because in my experience, there is always a jig fishing situation on virtually any body of urban water known to me. To capitalize on jig bites in urban environments, it pays if you could also factor in elements of junk fishing and be enthusiastic to fish virtually anything that is in front of you.
Finesse and super finesse jigs
Football jigs typically range from 1/8 to more than 1-oz in weight, covering a wide range of applications and depth zones. In this installment, we will be focusing on football jigs in the lower end weight spectrum; 1/4 to 3/8-oz ones that most of us call ‘finesse’ football jigs.
Due to eastern China’s close proximity to Japan, it is interesting to note that Japanese football jigs dominate in China by market share. Finesse jigs sold in tackle shops in China are minuscule, some weighing as little as 1/16-oz. My expectations of those ‘super finesse’ jigs were unrealistic until I had one tied on recently, and I can tell you that they do not fish like any normal jigs that I know of. We will save that for a future installment.
Small and simple
Football jig fishing is all about feeling your bait in contact with underwater structures and its surrounding bottom composition. Without a good feel of your jig, you will have a difficult time detecting subtle bites and key areas with hard bottom.
I have fished on some urban ponds in China that typically have areas where hang-ups are literally unavoidable. For instance, urban ponds with construction activity may even contain submerged structures with exposed rebar mesh, cables and other nasty stuffs. On the other hand, those nasty stuffs also serve as fish habitat.
For that reason, jig selection in terms of size, profile and weight is crucial. I prefer 1/4 and 3/8-oz football jigs with 3/0 Owner Deep Throat hook by NorthStar Custom Baits. I normally pair that with a compact trailer, usually a 3.5” tight profile beaver.
Jigs with tight profile have better ability to pass through tight spaces far better than bulky ones. Even with that, I still carry lots of my favourite jigs as backup when I am fishing overseas, only because what you find in the local tackle shops may not necessarily be your confidence baits.
Presentation and retrieve styles
The easiest way to fish a football jig in urban ponds is to drag it along the bottom. As long as the bottom is relatively smooth and if you are fishing well away from those nasty areas which we will talk about later, you can just about crawl a football jig over most obstructions.
Most urban ponds are predominantly shallow. Though I do not intend to generalize what I mean by shallow depth zones, 6’ may be considered deep water in a pond environment. In late spring, you will find suspended bass that you can sight fish with jigs under bright sunny conditions in depths of 1’ to 2’, even along a 6’ depth column. Therefore, do not limit sight fishing to shallow areas because you could expand on sight fishing options available to you in deeper water.
Never overlook the importance of adjusting your angle of attack, even if you are fishing a small patch of cover. If I am pitching jigs on a fishy looking cover and do not get bitten after repeated casts, I make small but crucial adjustments, either by varying my casting angle or reposition my craft. Most urban bass fisheries in China are equipped with trolling motor powered crafts that will enable anglers to squeeze into tight backwaters with ease.
The most effective, efficient way to fish those nasty areas is reeling or swimming a football jig over submerged objects, just like a swim jig or spinnerbait. Turn your reel fast enough to keep your football jig off the bottom so that it glides over submerged objects. You can do this with any football jig with minor modifications.
To minimize hang-ups, I use jigs with firm weed guards that extend beyond the point. For jigs that I throw into nasty areas, I retain all the guards and fan them sideways to improve coverage. Once in a while, you will get hung-up and that is unavoidable. The key to minimizing hang-ups is to reel at constant cadence and do not let your jig fall overly deep.
There are many schools of thought on football jig hook set and every angler has ways of dealing with hook set timing. Basically, when a bass detects your jig and moves into attack mode, it will create some movements in the surrounding vegetation, especially in shallow water. After feeling the bite, I pay close attention to the movements of my line. Following that, I take up the slack and set the hook, only after I feel some of the fish’s weight.
I have seen some strange hook sets over the past few years. When I was fishing in France, I could not explain how I had set a football jig’s hook on the lower jaw of a bass. The jig’s hook penetrated the fish’s lower jaw from the inside, with the point outside. If I had lipped the fish and not fully paid attention to where the hook was, I would have headed straight for the ER for surgery and stitches.
Thank you for reading and I hope you find this article interesting. Stay tuned for more news and exiting articles on theBBZ. Fish hard, fish well and god bless.