As I sit here at my computer deep into January, my thoughts more and more every day are filled with budding trees, gobbling turkeys, flowery banks along the lake, 60 degree water and jigs! I guess it’s my favorite way to bass fish. Flipping a big ol’ football jig with a proven trailer into a likely spot that just might hold a photo op! My only double digit bass came on a big jig. The video loop in my mind is still vivid. Murky muddy April water less than a foot deep. I know of a place where the creek channel runs 6 to 8 feet deep with a brushy flat that runs about 15 or 20 feet wide from the edge of the creek to the shoreline. That flat is 2 feet deep or less. It was that flat that I was targeting with a ¾ ounce football jig, dark skirt and watermelon/red rage craw. The water was too stained to sight fish, or visibly locate bass on spawning beds, so I was flipping the big jig close to the bank and slowly hopping it, inches at a time toward the creek channel where I would let it tumble down.
Big females will visit the shallow spawning bed to lay eggs, then move out to the deeper channel nearby, and revisit the bed, or even another nearby bed to lay again. On one particular pitch I landed the jig within a couple of feet of the bank. Hopped it back slightly 2-3 times, and then it happened. The visual that all jig fishermen are familiar with. My line started swimming out towards me. A large percentage of the time the fish will swim with your jig towards deeper water. Along the way she is trying to crush the meal in her mouth while she goes. In other words, she’s likely gonna hold on to it for a bit. A fast reel is necessary. Many times you’ll need to “catch up” with her or reel up your slack line before setting the hook. When I did set the hook that day and the fight began, I quickly realized that this was a new experience for me. I had never felt that “setting the hook in a stump” feeling that I’d heard about with giant bass before, but this was it.
When I set the hook, she didn’t turn, but she did shift gears and pulled the nose of my boat lake-ward. I always use 55 lb braid so breaking off wasn’t likely. When she surfaced I looked into a mouth that was similar to the top of an oversized coffee can. The big 3 pound can. I was alone, so I did the netting myself, and the weighing (10.3), and the photography then released her to finish her springtime chore. Away swam the only 10 pounder that I’ve ever seen on the end of my line.
Since that day there has been one other that might have broken the magical mark, but I never got my hands on her. After a short fight, she came up, shook next to the boat and threw my jig. But I had seen a mouth like that before. She was quality. Sometimes, its swimming line, sometimes you can visibly watch the spring spawner pick up your bait, sometimes you flip that jig into a bush and the whole thing shakes or the grass in the lake moves, the water swirls from a mighty tail doing a 180 to pick up your jig! It’s an exciting way to bass fish. Jigs are certainly not a spring only option, they work well all year, but for me in the springtime the flipping stick is in my hands more than any other weapon. I can safely say that the biggest majority of my 5 to 8 pound largemouth have come on a jig.
Set up your plan now, in January and February. Look at lake maps for ideal spawning areas to target. Go get a heavy backbone 7 ½ foot flipping/pitching rod and a quality reel that a giant fish won’t strip the gears in. It is truly a shock when you feel the strength of a BIG bass. A fast reel is crucial, 7:3 minimum. Practice in the back yard and get good at hitting small targets 20-30 feet from you. The before mentioned coffee can is a perfect pitching target.
*Keep an eye on the water temp. 60 degree water is the number that I watch for. Bass will start thinking about moving shallow at 55 degrees, 65 degree water is game on!
*The bigger females will spawn first. I don’t know if it’s a pecking order or a metabolism thing or what…but they do.
*As mentioned before, the females won’t spend all of their time on the nest or bed. Try running a chatterbait in nearby deeper water as well. I like a chatterbait that mimics a sunfish. Sunfish are bass egg eaters, and bass will attack them in defense of the nesting area.
*Send me a picture! www.bbkoradio.com
January 22, 2020