Jig heads can be a versatile and deadly bait in your fishing arsenal. Whether the bite is off or on, or the water conditions are not ideal, throwing a jig could mean the difference between catching largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or getting skunked. That’s why you need to learn how to fish with jig heads.
Jigging is an active fishing method with the fisherman snapping and popping the lure in the water. The movement of the jig attracts the attention of fish, but learning how to jig takes time and practice.
You won’t be an expert the first time you head out.
The benefit of using jigs for bass fishing (or almost any fishing) is that you can fish them all year long in various conditions. There are few times, if any, when fishing with jig heads is a bad idea.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to fish with jig heads.
Related: What Do Bass Eat: Pick the Best Baits & Lures
What is The Point of Jig Heads?
If you are new to fishing, you may wonder what is a jig head or what is the point of using one while fishing.
A jighead is a fish book with weighted material – often lead – molded at the end of the eye of the hook. The point is to hold the bait in a way that looks more natural with the intention of luring more fish to your bait.
Jigs come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. While they are all similar in form, they aren’t all equal. Differences come from the kinds of molds used, such as silicone or resin, manufacturing, or the composition of the lead. The actual weights of the jigs vary from one to another, which is why I often stick to the brands I like the most.
Jig heads come by themselves or as a complete package, with a skirt trailing the head that covers the hook. The hook extends from the jig as one piece, so they are more than a bait – they’re a hook too.
Some fishermen also use jig heads with soft plastics or live bait. It’s your choice if you decide to try soft plastic baits with the jig to see if you get more bites!
Jigs are meant to be casted in thick vegetation, under docks, and fallen trees. Places a bait with treble hooks may get snagged.
What Fish Can You Catch with Jig Heads?
Jig fishing works for freshwater and saltwater fishing, but most use this setup when freshwater fishing.
You can catch a range of fish on jigs, such as:
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Sun Fish
- White Bass
- Rock Bass
Can You Fish with Just a Jig Head?
Yes, it’s possible to fish with just a jig head, but you get better results with a trailer. A jighead looks more realistic with a trailer because it looks flashier and more enticing to the fish.
What Time of Year Do You Fish a Jig?
This is one of the reasons why I regularly fish with a jig; you can catch fish with jigs all year round. There is no specific season for jig fishing; a jig is a good choice if you want to fish.
No wonder anglers love them!
Picking a Rod & Reel for Fishing with Jig Heads
You’ll first want to select the right rod and reel combo when you fish with jig heads. Using the wrong rod and reel impacts your casting, and you may miss out on landing your PB.
Typically you’d want to use a longer, heavier action rod. You will work the bottom, throwing it in the brush, rocks, heavy cover, etc. You’ll need at least a 6.5-foot or longer rod, so you can really work that jig up and down and get the right presentation.
Basically, the longer the rod, the more movement your lure gives off. You may want to try different long rods to see which works best for you.
A heavy enough action to get a fish out of that heavy cover when they strike your jig. Either a medium heavy or heavy action rod will have enough strength to battle the fish, with any obstructions along the way.
Since you’ll battle weeds and vegetation, a fast-action rod is a good idea since you will be able to feel the nibbles as you move through the brush.
Setting Up Your Reel When Jig Head Fishing
The reel setup will depend on your rod style and preference.
Yes, there are multiple speed and gear ratios to use when you fish with jig heads, which can be confusing to wrap your head around.
For beginners, I would recommend sticking to whatever reel best pairs with your rod. If you’re using a spinning rod, then a medium, 4000-5500 size reel, would be a good choice. These reels are made for rods in the 6.5 to 8-foot range.
If you’re using a casting rod, I would suggest using a 7.1:1 through an 8.1:1 gear ratio. You’ll want a faster casting reel to be able to reel in slack fast when fighting a fish. I would pair this up with a 20-30 lb braided line.
Baitcasting reels are set up with minimal line vacillation because of the way the line rolls off the spool instead of unraveling like on a spinning reel. It increases the accuracy and casting distance of a lure. This is a reason why baitcasting reels are a popular choice for many bass fishermen.
I would pair it together with 20 lb fluorocarbon or 20-30 lb braided fishing line. You want a stronger line to be able to stand pulling a fish out of thick heavy cover. Fluorocarbon is an excellent choice for jig fishing because it’s clear, sinks in the water, stays taut underwater, and is more sensitive than a monofilament line.
6 Types of Jig Heads
Now that we’ve covered the basic rod and reel setup, let’s talk about the skirted jigs, to be exact.
These are your standard jigs with a twist; there is an added colored skirt to give it a bigger profile, with a fiber or plastic weed guard to help avoid snags fishing the cover. Remember, the jig is just the head of the lure; the rest is the trailer. Most jigs come with a skirt, so that’s where the biggest differences happen.
There are really 6 different types of jigs for bass fishing that all serve their own purpose.
Swimming Jig Head
These types of jigs are designed for swimming; I use this regularly when fishing for bass. It’s the most popular jighead for fishermen and is easy to understand.
Swim jigs have a narrow pointed head, similar to a bullet style, that is designed to come through grass and wooded areas. They are best for the middle of the water column and for shallow water. Cast it out and retrieve it.
You can also pop your rod a bit to give it a different type of presentation in the water.
Flipping Jig Head
This jig is my absolute favorite when I fish with jig heads. Whether you’re onshore or offshore, you can throw this jig into anything.
These jigs are designed for heavy, thick cover. Throw them under docks, weeds, and fallen timber. Flipping jigs are built a bit stronger to withstand getting bounced off of cover, or getting hung up. It doesn’t matter how dense or mucky the water is; the weed guard on flipping jigs is tense and strong.
With their cone-shaped head, stout hook, and strong weed guard, they’re designed to be thrown in the heaviest of covers. They can take quite the beating. Typically, since they are strong, they are also larger in size, often running up to a full ounce.
Football Jig Head
Football jigs allow the jig to roll over and fall off of rocks and rubble without falling into the cracks.
Spoil alert, if you’re fishing the bottom with anything, you can always expect to get hung up from time to time. Don’t get frustrated!
Cast it out. Let it sink, and slowly retrieve it. Work it over and around the cover on the bottom. That’s what these football head jigs are designed to do. When you get a strike, set the hook hard and get that fish out of there!
Punch Rig Jig Head
This rig allows you to fish thick heavy vegetation. The jig is able to punch through the grass and get to the bottom, where bass likes to hide.
The punch rig gives you the profile of a skirted jig and the weedless ability of a Texas rig. Use a heavy bullet weight on your punch rig, and you’ll be able to get your rig down through the thick vegetation.
These jigs are lighter and more compact in size. These jigs are used when the bite is slow, the fish are lethargic, and you must finesse them into striking your bait.
Fish these jigs slowly, with a couple of pops, or slowly raising and allowing the jig to hit the bottom. You can use lighter tackle using these jigs to feel when that bass strikes it. You can fish this jig shallow or in deep water.
Casting Jig Heads
Casting jigs are also known as structure jigs.
These jigs are equally suited to beginners due to their all-purpose capabilities. They have a lighter hook than flipping jigs. You fish these jigs with lighter tackle, and the lighter, less thick hook allows for better penetration during a hook set.
This jig isn’t built for power fishing like a flipping jig or football jig, but you can still fish it around cover. This jig is great for fishing clear shallow waters.
Casting jigs are often used with craw or grub trailers.
Understanding Jig Weights
All jigs, with the exception of floating jigs, are weighted. You’ll find several jig weights for freshwater fishing, such as:
- 1/64 ounces
- 1/16 ounces
- 1/8 ounces
- 3/8 ounces
- 1/2 ounces
- 3/4 ounces
Choosing the right jig weight really comes down to reaching the right depth, and how slow or fast you want your fall rate to be. The lighter the weight, the slower the fall. The heavier the weight, the faster the fall.
You must also consider what type of weather conditions you may be up against.
One minute you may have a nice calm current, and that half-ounce jig head might be perfect. Then the wind starts picking up, along with the current, and you need to adjust.
Here’s a good starting point for talking about weights.
- ¼ ounce for fishing shorelines or shallow waters with 3 to 5 feet of water.
- ½ ounce for fishing shorelines or rock edges with drops down to 8 to 12 feet of water.
- ¾ ounce for fishing in 8 to 15 feet or vertical jigging in water to 20 or 25 feet.
- An ounce or more for retrieving or vertical jigging in 20 feet or more of water.
Picking Colors for Jig Head Fishing
There are so many types of colors when we talk about anything fishing-related. When you pick colors to fish with jig heads, base it on the time of day, the time of year, and the circumstances. It’s more than just picking a color; thought goes into picking an appealing choice for your jigs.
You have thousands of choices of color combos and skirts with jigs.
Summer, sunny, and warm temperatures generally call for bright and attractive colors. You want to excite the fish. Fall, winter, clouds, and cold temperatures call for natural and matte colors.
Here are a few fan-favorite colors to start with.
Green Pumpkin – Bluegill
Bass love bluegill, and green pumpkin jigs imitate the coloring of bluegill, one of their favorite snacks. You can use this jig color anytime bass feed on bluegill, regardless of the water color.
A good tip is to add a bit of chartreuse to the tip of the trailer since bluegills have iridescent tails.
Black & Blue – Contrast
If the water has a bit of stain, black and blue work great for jig colors. This color combo offers a contrast, giving the bass an easy target in the water.
Use a black and blue jig when there is dirty water, low light conditions, and vegetation.
Crawfish – Brown
Another jig color to try is crawfish, which is a derivation of green or brown. Brown jigs work well around rocks, shells, and wood, especially if you fish in clear water.
Baitfish – White
If you think the bass in your lake feed on shad or other baitfish, white jigs are a great lure. It works well as a swim jig, imitating the baitfish as they swim near the bass.
Best Jig Head Trailers
Jig heads come complete with skirted trailers or without trailers. Some anglers buy those sold separately because they may want to pick a skirt or color combination they think will be more effective. Also, you may decide to use a different length.
A plain jighead without a skirt gives you more options.
No matter the color you choose for your jig, you’ll want a trailer that is very similar, if not identical in color, to pair up with it. A trailer adds better action, size, and overall appearance to your bait in a bass’s eyes.
When you rig your trailer up, you’ll want to keep it around 2.5 to 5 inches in size. The smaller jigs have a faster fall rate, while the bigger jigs have a slower fall rate and make your bait look beefier. There are a variety of trailers to use for jigs.
Here are a few of my favorites.
Many anglers use a crawfish trailer because they create a loud, flappy presentation in the water. However, if you are fishing in dense cover, this won’t work as well. Crawfish trailers are best for open and somewhat clean water.
I often use chunk trailers, a hybrid between craws and grubs. These trailers are smaller than crawfish but bigger than grubs, with a square, rectangular body, and one or two tails behind.
If you are fishing in deeper water with heavy cover, rocks, dams, or loose vegetation, chunks are great. They also work well with a swim jig because they move nicely through the water with an ideal presentation. These are great bass jigs!
Beginners love fishing with grub trailers! As long as the colors work for the water clarity and time of day, you should get bites with this.
Grubs are plastic worms with a tail covering the hook’s vertical area. My kids often use grubs on jigs and catch tons of bluegill, bass, and even a perch!
Creatures are similar to chunks. They have a thicker profile. Often have tiny legs and tails. My favorite creature trailer for a jig is Berklys Powerbait Pit Boss
Do I Need a Sinker with a Jig Head?
No, you don’t need a sinker always need a sinker when using a jighead because they have a weight attached to the head.
Fishing a jig doesn’t have to be complicated. Just having a good set up and choosing common colors will go a long way. Don’t be intimidated by all the brand names involved.
Get what’s affordable for you, and when it comes to the bait size. Stick to a ⅜ to ½ oz.
These are good, all-around sizes for jigs. The bigger and heavier the bait, the faster the fall rate.
The smaller and lighter the bait, the slower the fall rate. Take this beginners guide on how to fish with jig heads to get you started.