JIGS – THE Ultimate Inshore Lure
Could a simple lead head jig be the best saltwater lure of all time? Think of it like this – a jig can be used 24-7 just about anywhere along the entire Gulf Coast to catch a variety of fish. But when it comes to catching trout, reds and flounder this lure can’t be beat. While fishing with Matagorda guide Charlie Paradoski we got to a talking about the best lures of all time. He held up an Assassin soft plastic rigged on a ¼ ounce lead jig head. “More fish have been caught on jigs than any other lure,” he said. “Look at the fish we’ve caught today. With the exception of an early topwater bite on Super Spooks the only thing catching fish right now is a jig.” Soft plastic jigs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. For years the go to jig was that of a shrimp tail, and the top color combination was red and white. Back in the 60s and 70s a strawberry and white shrimp tail rigged on a ¼-ounce lead head jig was the top lure to tie on and fish throughout the day. But in the 80’s, and on up to this day, a wide variety of soft bodied jigs have been produced. Some have flat paddle tails, some have rounded tails, others have rattails and some have curly tails. “We’ve caught trout and reds for years on jigs that are made with all shapes of tails,” says Sabine Lake guide Jerry Norris. “My favorite is a slick, or rattail jig. But if I’m fishing in real murky water I’ll switch to a curl tail jig for more vibration. Last spring I used a red shad Assassin jig with a rattail to catch some of my heaviest trout. I’m talking about fish up to about 10 pounds. The key was to fish fresh slicks in water that was two to three feet deep. I was rigging them on 1/8-ounce Bomber shad head jigs in red or white.” Several years back, before he retired from guiding, Skip James made a name for himself by using jigs to catch flounder, big flounder and lots of them, on Sabine Lake. In fact the best day of flounder fishing I’ve ever had was with James. We used white/yellow curl tails rigged on 1/8-ounce jig heads. The trick was to attach a dime-sized piece of a fresh peeled shrimp tail to the tip of the hook. The combination of the vibrating curl tail and shrimp smell was the perfect combo for getting the attention of big flounder in the bayous along the Sabine Lake shoreline. The development of jig color patterns over the past few decades has been nothing short of fascinating. But does color really make a difference? “I’m not so sure it does,” says Norris. “But here in on Sabine I don’t leave the dock without a red/shad Assassin. I’ve caught a ton of fish on that color pattern. It’s definitely a confidence lure for me. Boone Tout tails molded in the form of a shrimp with a fanned out tail – pink, white or orange ruled in the 70’s. In fact when people caught fish on plastics they simply said they caught them on Touts, regardless of what jig they used. KWigglers were originally founded as Kelley Wigglers in the late 1960's by Pat Kelley of Pearland. In the early days the soft plastics were poured by Kelley in his garage for friends and local fishermen. His first and most commonly recognized lure was the red and white shrimp tail he called Strawberry Cool Tip. This was one of the most popular of the Kelley Wigglers. On the middle Texas coast Guide Dwayne Lowrey says his number one color pattern has been, and still is, red/white for over 20 years. “It’s a color combination that I’ve used for years on the Galveston bay system and here at Port O’Connor,” says Lowery. “There are plenty of other colors to choose from but red and white is what I’ve used to catch thousands of trout and reds.” That red or strawberry colored body with a white tail was made famous by Norton Lures in 1987. Since then three more top color patterns that rose to fame are plum/chartreuse, glow/chartreuse and plain chartreuse. There are many other notable jig color patterns that have been solid producers over the years. Some of the best are rootbeer, clear/pepper flake, new penny, watermelon seed, green pumpkin, bone, white/pink, white/chartreuse, limetreuse, black/chartreuse, glow/chartreuse tail, purple/chartreuse tail, clear/chartreuse tail, pumpkin/chartreuse tail and pearl/chartreuse. Note how often the color chartreuse is mentioned. Chartreuse is a color that is just about unbeatable in just about any fishing situation along the Texas coast. The Assassin lure company gained a lot of attention by coming up with some crazy names for various color patterns. Some of those include monkey storm, monkey hippie, chicken on a chain and monkey milk. Sounds crazy but it was an excellent gimmick that has sold thousands of soft plastic jigs. Scented jigs have been a part of coastal fishing for decades. But Berkley took the scent phenomenon to a new level with their Gulp baits. There is no way you can talk about jigs without hitting on Berkley Gulp. These lures have been around for over 20 years. Berkley previously revolutionized the soft bait market with the development of PowerBait. Shortly after PowerBait Gulp was created. Standard soft plastic baits are made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, the same material used to make pipes and other items. To make a soft plastic bait out of PVC, the material must be heated up and combined with an oil-based resin. The more oil-based resin added to the PVC, the softer the bait will be. According to Berkley Gulp baits are made using water-based resins. This allows for much more scent distribution than with oil-based resins. That’s why fish hang onto Gulp baits longer than they do with others. By biting the bait, the fish is releasing a scent that makes them think it’s actually food. This result in more solid hook sets. Believe it or not a Gulp can be cast out, left perfectly still and will catch fish. I’ve done it. They will actually catch crabs, as well. On the topic of scented tails spray on concoctions are very popular among some of the best jig fishing guides on the Texas coast. The Yum spray attractant in garlic and shrimp scents are tough to beat. Selecting a lead head jig is not all that simple. They are definitely not all them same. Years ago an unpainted round jig head was the norm. Then we started seeing jigs painted white, then pink, yellow, red, etc. The most important thing a jig head can do is to be built with a collar that locks the tail on the hook shank. The Bomber Shad-Head jig is one of the best I’ve ever used. It’s available in three of the most productive colors – white, chartreuse and red. This jig head is built on a wide gap hook with a triple-ring collar that locks a tail on securely. The Bomber Stand-Up jig head is a great option when you’re fishing on bottom for reds. It’ll fish a jig with the nose down, tail up. It’s a killer on reds and flounder that typically feed along bottom. The most popular jig head weights are 1/8 and ¼ ounces. A 1/8 head is best for a shallow presentation. The ¼ ounce is best for fishing over deeper shell reefs, in the surf and at the jetties. A 3/8 ounce jig head is best in a fast moving current along the jetties or while fishing deep water rigs. The bottom line is this – don’t leave home without a good selection of jigs. They just might save day.