By Jeremy Smith
Noisy clackers, spinner blades, and rattles are effective in provoking fish strikes. But most fish don’t need a loud announcement to notice your bait. In their watery world, predator fish are hyper-aware of nearby prey. In fact, subtle presentations often bring the most bites.
We’ll start out by talking about largemouth bass because they’re suckers for soft plastics. But they aren’t the only fish you’ll catch.
Location and bait
At this time of year, largemouths are spread out in most fisheries, mainly on shallow flats. Developing weedbeds are key, along with inside weedlines, docks, and woody cover. A lot of fish are there to be caught, and for a simple approach it’s hard to beat a jig with a “stickworm” plastic that’s about 3 or 4 inches long.
Often called the Ned rig, the classic way to make one is with a mushroom-head jig and a buoyant straight worm. The way I rig ’em is with the VMC Finesse Half Moon jig, sliding on a Trick Stick from Big Bite Baits for the worm.
Most of the time, I’m fishing with a 1⁄8-ounce jig. You can go to 1⁄16-ounce in gin-clear water with skittish fish, and as heavy as 1⁄4-ounce on windy days. A 7-foot, medium-fast spinning rod works well, or you can fish it on a spincast outfit, especially for youngsters. My kids fish this way all the time.
As for color, I go with green pumpkin or brown most of the time.
How to fish it
It’s the easiest thing ever. Just cast it out and every once in a while reel a little bit. A lot of time just let it sit.
If the boat’s moving, that moves the bait. You’re basically just dragging it along or letting it sit.
When a fish eats this bait, a lot of times you just feel extra weight. Or you don’t feel anything different, but the bite is detectable because the line jumps or moves off, indicating a fish is swimming with the jig in its mouth.
When you feel a bite, just start reeling and pull. There’s no need for a hookset. Tighten the connection and the light-wire hook almost always catches in the fish’s mouth.
Line watching is so important that I use high-viz Sufix 832 braided line with a 10- or 12-pound fluorocarbon leader. For tying the leader to the braid, I use an Albright knot because its conical shape slides quietly and easily through rod guides when you cast.
This is a great way to fish and so simple. In my boat, I have at least one person using it on most days, and you see that in addition to bass, you’ll catch crappies, pike, walleyes, perch, and pretty much any other fish in the system.
Tie on a jig, thread a worm, cast it out, and have your mind blown by how many fish you catch. Does that sound fun?