March 6, 2000 by Frank McKane, Jr.
The "spider" slithered down through the branches of a submerged fallen tree on its monofilament thread. It's tentacles and legs wriggled in the water as it bounced off the tree's branches. Into the darkness the spider went. Just before the spider reached the bottom, the monofilament thread twitched a bit.
Above the tree, Stan Gerzsenyi of Alba, Texas cranked down on his rod and made a swift upward jerk. The spider came flying through the branches with lightning speed. Caught in the spider's steel hooked jaw was a chunky largemouth bass.
Over the past few years, more and more anglers have found the same success with spider jigs, as has Gerzsenyi. This unique lure has become one of the country's top flipping baits.
"At times this type of jig works better than a regular jig," said Gerzsenyi, who competes on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and guides on Texas' Lake Fork. One of the main reasons for the spider jig's effectiveness is the amount of vibration the lure emits as it drops through the water, Gerzsenyi says.
The spider jig took decades to develop. In the past, anglers fabricated their own spider-type jigs by combining a twin-tail grub with the rubber skirt from a jig or spinner-bait. Soon, lure makers began to produce soft-plastic skirts to compliment the twin-tail grubs.
As the demand increased, soft plastic lure makers started to produce twin-tail grubs with head skirts molded together as one piece. The marriage of the skirt and grub produced a very alluring bait, generically known as the "spider jig."
The spider jig was originally designed to catch bass in open water on ledges and humps. It was basically a finesse bait, Gerzsenyi says. Light lines and limber rods were standard spider jigging tackle. The lure performed admirably and several major professional tournaments were won on the finesse spider jigs. But if the spider jig worked well as a finesse bait, it should also catch a fish in heavy cover!
Jigs vs. spiders
From the time the flipping technique appeared on the tournament scene, the jig-and-pork rind combination was the lure of choice. Occasionally, the angler would add a Texas-rigged soft plastic worm to the flipping arsenal. It wasn't until recently that anglers began tossing spider jigs into flooded brush and under boat docks.
"I think the spider jig presents a totally different look," said Wal-Mart FLW angler Terry Baksay of Monroe, Connecticut. "Besides, I think most big fish have seen jigs and are conditioned to them."
The spider jig, named for its spider like head skirt, has a few advantages over the old reliable jig-and-pig. Spider jigs have more action than other jigs, Baksay says. The twin curly tails on the end of the bait wriggle as the lure sinks or is pulled through the water. And the pre-molded skirt at the lure's head collapses around the body with each pull on the line. The skirt automatically flares back open when the lure comes to a rest on the bottom.
"The action on the spider jig not only looks like a crayfish, but also has the action of a minnow," Baksay said. "If bass are selectively feeding on one bait over another, you can better match the primary forage with a bait like the spider jig. You've covered all the bases for crayfish, shad, alewives, and minnows."
Since spider jigs are made from soft plastic, they can be produced in a wide array of colors. Several companies also make two-piece spider baits, such as the Cabin Creek "Salty Spider: and the Lunker City "HydroSpider". The two-piece spiders allow anglers to interchange skirt and tail colors to fit specific fishing situations.
Rick Lillegard of Atkinson, New Hampshire has simplified his spider color selection process. The New Hampshire fishing guide and Wal-Mart FLW Tour angler recommends black or black-and-blue for fishing in off-colored water. If the water is heavily stained, Lillegard will dip the spider's tails in a chartreuse of red dye. Lillegard says he prefers pumpkinseed, watermelon, and green pumpkin colors for fishing in clear water lakes.
Spider jigs also come in several different lengths. For example, Mann's "Mann-A-Live" spider jig is a mere 3 inches long, while the "Gag's Craw" stretches out over 5 inches. This length variety helps anglers select the appropriate lure to match the bait or the bass size.
Baksay says he uses smaller, more compact spider jigs in lakes known for smaller fish or lakes with an abundance of smallmouth bass. He switches to larger spider jigs on lakes that historically produce lunkers.
Finally, the soft "feel" of the spider jig is one of the lure's best features. When a bass slurps up a soft plastic spider jig, the lure squishes like a real minnow. Bass often will hold this soft bait a split second longer that they will a hard jig. For flippers, this second is very precious!
Using spider jigs
The spider jig is the prefect replacement for the standard flipping jig. It is equally at home around fallen trees, flooded bushes, sunken brush piles, grass beds, boat docks, and any other shallow flipping cover.
If there is one disadvantage to the spider jig, it occurs when flipping flooded bushes or multi-branched fallen trees. Because the lure has large curly tails, it sometimes clings to the branchlets. Spider jig anglers have two ways to overcome this problem. A heavier 1/2-ounce to 1-ounce jig or weight will reduce the hang-up tendencies. Should the spider's tail wrap around branchlet, simply jiggle the heavy weight until the lure pulls free. Lubrication is another option. Baksay suggests spraying the spider jig with Reel Magic. He says the spray softens the tails and adds a slick film to the lure that allows it to fall through branches instead of clinging to them. Lillegard has a similar approach. He coats his spider jigs with fish scent.
Spider jigs excel around boat docks. And in the past two years, several major tournaments have been won by working spider jigs around docks. Few know this better than Gerzsenyi, who has scored well with the dock pattern.
"We have a lot of docks down here (on Lake Fork). With the spider jig you can roll cast it with a flipping stick, you can pitch it, flip it, or skip it," he said. "The spider jig seems to skip better than a regular jig. When the plastic gets wet it doesn't hold to the water as bad as the regular jig."
Flipping grass beds has always been a tournament staple, but the taxis has become more popular as invasive weeds, such a milfoil and hydrilla, spread throughout the country. These weeds often grow in dense beds. Many weed anglers rely on the spider jig and heavy tackle to extract the weed-dwelling bass.
The larger 4 to 5-inch long spider jigs provide bigger targets for the bass to locate. In the thick weeds, the fish may not see smaller lures or jig-and-pork combinations. But the large spider jig, with its curly tails, sends out a strong vibration signal to attract the bass.
The main thing I like about the spider jig is that it has the perfect helicopter action when it punches through the weeds," Lillegard said.
Living in the Northeast has taught Lillegard how to fish dense weed beds. The water is crystal clear in many of the northern natural lakes, so the weeds grow lush and in dense mats. The clear water also means spooky bass.
Lillegard says he likes spider jigs because they enter the water quietly, which is very important for fishing clear-water weeds. To fish the northern weedbeds, he positions his boat so it will drift across the weeds in the wind. He will not use the trolling motor during his drift to ensure absolute silence. During his drifts, Lillegard says he pitches a Catch'em spider jig into weed pockets or around weed clumps.
There is no mystery to rigging a spider jig. Most spider markers market bullet-shaped jigheads to compliment their creations. These jigs usually offer a pointed nose that slips through grass and branches easily. The jigs also have strong weed guards to prevent snagging.
For flipping, the heavier jigheads ranging from 1/2-ounce to 1-ounce are desired. The heavier head helps punch the lure through the cover. It also makes flipping and pitching easier because the heavy weight counteracts the air drag of the curly tails and head skirt. But, the jig weight is still a matter of personal preference.
It is real important to get the lure on the hook straight. If you don't, the lure will tilt to the side. So take the time to thread the lure on the hook properly," Lillegard cautions. "Another thing, I try to go up the hook shank so the claws stick up into a defensive mode when the lure is at rest on the bottom."
The spider body can also be rigged Texas-style. However, Texas-rigging spiders requires a few simple modifications. The bodies of most spiders are thicker than those of standard soft plastic worms. Therefore, in order to increase hook-up percentages, spider anglers must use wide-gap hooks.
Many Texas-riggers prefer straight shanked hooks for worm fishing. But, offset hooks are preferred for rigging spiders. The offset shank puts the hook eye through the center of the head skirt. It also moves the hook shank down into the spider's body so the hook shank will not interfere with the natural action of the skirt.
Since spider lures are made of soft plastic, adding rattles is easy. Any worm rattle can be inserted into the spider's body, something not easily accomplished with the pork rind on standard flipping jigs.
Lillegard offers another spider tip: To keep the rattle from popping out of the spider's body, he seals the rattle puncture with super glue.
Spider jigs can be used with standard flipping gear. Line size is the only change. While 30-plus pound test line is the norm in flipping gear, lighter lines seem to have a strong following among the spider jig crowd. Perhaps the lighter line is a carryover from the spider jig's finesse reputation.
Lillegard says he uses relatively light 14-to-17-pound test line when flipping the grass beds. Conversely, Gerzsenyi opts for heavier 20-to-25-pound test line for flipping spider jigs into Lake Fork's standing timber. With all the flipping lines, remember to check for fraying and nicks. Even the slightest line damage can cost you a bass.
Next time you are out flipping a jig-and-pig without success, give the spider jig a try. You may just spin a web strong enough to catch a tournament prize.
Spider jig makers:
"Wal-Mart FLW Tour Jigs" available in Wal-Mart sporting goods departments nationwide
"Tentacle Twin Tail Grub" from Bass Pro Shops, 2500 Kearney, Springfield, MO 65898
"Power Skirted Grub" form Berkley Inc., 1900 18th St. S., Spirit Lake, IA 51360
"Dion's Classic" from Gambler Worms, 3711 NE 11th Ave., Suite 7, Pompano Beach, FL 33064
"Skirted Double Take" from ReAction Lures, 29900 Highway 191, Many, LA 71449
"HydroSpider" from Lunker City Fishing Specialties, P.O. Box 1807, Meridan, CT 06450 (203) 237-3474
"Mann-A-Live" from Mann's Bait Company, 111 State Dicks Road, Eufaula, AL 36027
"Pudd-Lur" from Zebait Company, 9559 Hickory Street South, Foley, AL 36535
"Salty Spider Jig" from Cabin Creek Bait Company, 828 Bypass Road #6, Winchester, KY 40391 (603) 744-6490
"Spider Jig" from Catch'em Lures, 956 Lexington Drive, St. Albans, WV 25177
"Crawlin' Craw" from Arkie Lures, PO Box 1460, Springdale, AR 72765
"Twin Tail Grub" from Chompers c/o Table Rock Bait & Tackle Co., PO Box 1000, Newton, IA 50208, (515) 792-5812
"Skirted Twin Tail Grub" from Gary Yamamoto Lures, PO Box 1000, Page, AZ 86040
"Zipper Spider Grub" from Zipper Worm Company, 2624 Lavey Court #201, Newberry Park, CA 91320