Jigs are phenomenal bass baits. No matter if you flip, jig, pitch or swim them through the drink, they always seem to attract the attention of those predatory bass. But are the jigs you're tossing giving you the full benefit of fish-catching power? Definitely not if they're being used straight from the package.
Tuning up your jigs should be a rite of passage for every bass angler. Not only will the underwater presentation improve, but your catch rates will soar dramatically.
Tools of the Trade. The basic tools for tuning up jigs.
Trimming the Weed Guard
Most flipping jigs come standard with a nylon-bristled weed guard. This is to make the lure relatively weedless, which is achieved by deflecting vegetation and debris away from the hook point. However, when weed guards are too thick or long, hook penetration will be poor due to a lack of contact with the fishes' mouth. This will result in lost fish and missed strikes.
Most flipping jigs are manufactured with approximately 30 strands of nylon in their weed guard. I personally prefer this number to be between 12 and 15. To remove the extra bristles, use a sharp pair of scissors and begin cutting strands from the base. Keep your cuts as close to the lead head as possible, making sure to remove nylon in equal amounts from the top, sides and bottom.
The next step is to concentrate on the length. A perfectly tuned flipping jig will have a weed guard that is trimmed to just past the hook point. I prefer to make my cut at a 45-degree angle, leaving the bristles closest to the hook slightly longer than the top section.
Once the thickness and length have been modified, bend the weed guard back and forth at the base 10 times or so to increase its flexibility. You will also want to fan out the nylon in order to offer less resistance to the fish, while also increasing its weedlessness.
Shortening the Skirt
Living rubber or nylon skirts make up the meat and potatoes of a flipping jig. I like to modify the skirt slightly, giving it a more streamlined approach when under the water, while also showcasing the trailer in a more attractive light.
Hold the jig by the head in one hand, allowing the skirt to fall naturally downwards. With a pair of sharp scissors, begin at the bottom middle of the skirt and do one 45-degree cut to the left, then make another cut to the right. Cut approximately one centimeter of skirt material when doing this. What you are left with is a skirt that is longer in the middle, while flared on both sides. The bass will like it.
Before and After. An unmodified weedguard on the bottom and a trimmed-up version on the top.
The overall length of the skirt is also an important consideration. A skirt too long may lead to short striking fish. In order to counteract this problem, ensure that the length from the bend in the hook to the bottom of the skirt is no longer than one inch. I have found this to be best in terms of performance and hooking ability.
Bending the Hook
Most flipping jigs are built with high quality oversized hooks. This is a necessity when big bass are on the line. For those that want to improve hookups this season, opening the gap slightly will benefit the cause.
With a pair of pliers grasped just behind the barb, bend the hook gap out approximately 10 percent. Doing so will enable the hook to find flesh more easily, leading to a few more fish in the boat. Be careful not to flatten the barb or bend the hook too much -- both these actions can lower the effectiveness of the modification.
Many of the hooks on the market are laser honed. If this is the case with your jig, do not use a file on it. You cannot improve the cutting power of these points, yet you can dull them by attempting to hone them.
If they are not laser honed, work them over with a hook hone directly out of the package. Giving them a quick touch-up after every fish, especially when making contact with heavy cover, as this will improve your hooking percentages greatly.
Gluing the Rattles
Most of the time I toss jigs with built-in rattles. Sometimes these rattle chambers stay pegged to the shank of the hook, other times they don't. If they do stay put, they can become loose over time, at which point they will slide up and down the hook shank, or twist side to side. This can cause problems when rigging trailers, and can also impede with hook penetration. A small tube of Super (Crazy) Glue will do the trick.
Apply a thin layer of glue along the shank of the hook where the rattle chamber is positioned. If the chamber has "lids" on each end, put a dollop or two on each of these to prevent the BB's from making an escape.
While you have the glue out, place a drop or two at the point where the weed guard meets the head of the jig. These bristles have been known to pop out on occasion.
Tuning Up Your Trailers
Plastic and pork are both common flipping jig trailers. Both work equally well, but much like the jig, their effectiveness can be heightened.
Plastic Makes Perfect. Plastic trailers can also be modified to increase action and speed of decent.
The larger the trailer you use, the slower the drop will be. If you want to speed up the rate of decent, trim portions of the length with a sharp knife or scissors.
The action of trailers can also be enhanced, mainly through the use of cuts or slices. If using frog or craw-style baits, cut from the "legs" upwards to the belly. This will make the appendages flap and flail more when moving through the water. Thin slices can be made on one side of the plastic or pork, giving the trailer more undulations when swimming or when moving vertically.
Commercial dyes can be used out on the water to create different hues, which can often be helpful when attempting to matching the appearance of the prey on which the bass are feeding.
No matter what modification you make to trailers, there is no right or wrong. It can really go as far as your imagination takes you.
Flipping jigs certainly catch bass, and they have become my go-to bait when out on the water. But much like any fishing lure on the market, they can always be modified to bring better results. Have fun tuning up your jigs — the bass may not like you, but your livewell certainly will.