UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Football-head jigs

Football-head jigs are finally enjoying the popularity they have deserved for so long.

Some lures are overnight sensations. Take the Chatterbait, for example. After this new lure scored big in several Florida tournaments last spring, Rad Lures was overwhelmed by the demand for it.

At the other extreme are deadly lures that go largely unnoticed for decades before they catch on. The football-head jig falls into this category. It has long maintained a following in the West, in the Ozarks region and with Great Lakes smallmouth anglers. Over the past four or five years, the football-head jig has quietly snuck into the tackle boxes of more and more bass pros across the country. It may be the least-hyped lure ever to become a major player.

It's easy to understand why the football jig has stayed on the backburner so long. The wide, sideways head grabs grass like an anchor, and the jig readily snags wood. Since the typical weed-guard jig slithers through cover, the football head appears to be a lousy design.

However, when it comes to fishing clean, hard, offshore structure, the football jig is in a class by itself. Curt McGuire of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., put a 1/2-ounce football-head jig to good use when he fished a Stren Series Central Division tournament on Kentucky Lake in June of 2005. He brought in four limits of largemouths that weighed from 14 pounds, 12 ounces, to 18 pounds, 8 ounces, and finished in second place.

McGuire claims he caught 80 percent of his bass on the football jig.

"I fished ledges at Kentucky Lake that were 12 to 15 feet deep on top," McGuire said. "I got most of my bites after the jig fell off the edge of the drops. The bass were too deep for most crankbaits."

Some of McGuire's bites came as deep as 27 feet. Though he had found several offshore structures that were holding bass, a ridge about 40 yards wide produced most of his fish on the first two days of Curt McGuire has found few baits produce as well as a football-head jig for catching ledge fish.the event. During the tournament, McGuire had to fish and refish a 100-yard stretch of the ridge to stay in touch with the bass.

"Whenever I found the bass, I'd catch up to six of them as fast as I could throw in there," McGuire said. "They'd usually be on a stump, rock, or a piece of brush. You needed to hit the cover with the jig."

McGuire began experimenting with the football jig four years ago after he noticed that more of his competitors were using it. Now he throws the 1/2- and 3/4-ounce sizes anytime he fishes more than 12 feet deep on points, ledges and humps. The football jig produces for him in the summer, fall and winter. He uses the same tackle and retrieves despite the season, though he slows down during the cold months.

In stained water, McGuire opts for a black Booyah football jig with a hand-tied black and blue skirt. He fishes a black and brown jig in stained and clear water, and a green-pumpkin jig in clear water. Whatever the jig's color, he dresses it with a 3.75-inch YUM green-pumpkin Craw Papi, which features flailing pincers.

A 7 1/2-foot flipping rod serves up McGuire's football jigs. He matches the rod with 12-pound fluorocarbon and a high-speed baitcasting reel. The long, stiff rod quickly takes up slack during the hookset, and the low-stretch fluorocarbon line ensures the barb buries with authority. Since fluorocarbon sinks, it doesn't bow as much as other lines, which lets the jig sink faster. The fast sink rate sparks reflex strikes. McGuire never uses more than 14-pound-test because heavier line slows the jig's fall too much.

Football-head jigs come in a various colors and styles, but the basic shape is the same. Most anglers use jigs in the 1/2- to 1-ounce range.McGuire's basic football-jig retrieve consists of quick, short hops. He starts with his rod tip at 10 o'clock and hops the jig three times as he works the rod to 12 o'clock. Then he quickly drops the rod tip to 10 o'clock while taking up the slack and repeats this process.

"Small hops keep the jig close to the bottom and keep me in touch with the bait so I can feel bites better," McGuire says. "Sometimes the bites are extremely subtle."

When the jig falls off the edge of a drop, McGuire lets it sink all the way to the bottom before he continues his retrieve. He always makes bottom contact after every hop. If McGuire thinks bass are suspended above the bottom, he snaps the jig off the bottom 3 feet at a pop. This rips the bait up where bass can see it. When the jig plummets down, bass strike reflexively.

Bottom drag

Hopping a football jig is the last thing you'll ever see Frank Divis Sr. doing. He fishes a football jig one way and one way only: He drags it on the bottom.

Divis, a Fayetteville, Ark., angler, has been fishing FLW Outdoors tournaments as a co-angler since day one and competes in Wal-Mart FLW Series and Stren Series events. He has pocketed more than $100,000, and most of that money has been won with a football jig. He has made thousands of football jigs at home.

PJ"I've been fishing it for 20 years," Divis said.

A 3/4-ounce football head is Divis' basic weapon. He never uses a 1/2-ounce jig, a 1-ounce jig, or any other size.

It's always a 3/4-ounce jig. Divis dotes on the football jig made by PJ's Finesse Baits of Fayetteville because it features a 5/0 wide-gap Gamakatsu hook, a bulky hand-tied skirt, durable paint, and a soft weed guard for better hookups.

Divis always dresses the jig with an unskirted 4-inch twin-tail grub, such as the one made by Zoom or YUM's Muy Grub. A brown and purple jig with a cinnamon-purple twin tail, and a green-pumpkin with red-flake jig and a green-pumpkin twin tail are his main colors. Divis claims these combinations are the best crawfish imitations ever.

"A constant bottom-dragging retrieve is the key to fishing a football-head jig," Divis said. "I fish it like a crankbait so that a bass has to strike before the jig gets away. I never stop moving the bait because I don't want the bass to get a good look at it."

The retrieve speed should be varied to match the mood of the bass, but it must never be so fast that it pulls the jig off the bottom. This presentation pays off for Divis from May through November when he fishes offshore structure from 20 to 35 feet deep. The best structures have rock, gravel, sand or shell bottoms, and these are often found along creek and river channels. Many bites happen when Divis drags the jig off the edge of a drop.

A sensitive 7-foot extra-heavy graphite baitcasting rod and 15-pound fluorocarbon line allow Divis to feel the football jig crawl over every rock, shell and pebble. When he feels the jig hit a rock or stump, he pops the bait up 2 feet and lets it drop back to the bottom. "That's what a crawfish does when he's trying to get away. When you do that, bass jump all over the jig."

Bass often hit hard enough to knock slack in the line when Divis jumps the jig over a piece of cover. But, the strikes can be very light when he's dragging the jig. He describes it as a "mushy feeling" or "weightless" feeling.

Many anglers fish Carolina rigs in the same types of places that Divis fishes with a football jig. When his pro partners throw Carolina rigs in front of him, Divis claimed he usually outfishes them two to one, whether they are fishing for largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass. "And, I'll catch bigger bass with a football-head jig," Divis said. "I've caught bass up to 10 pounds with it."

Divis can entertain you all day with stories of how he has put the whammy on renowned bass pros with a football jig. One pro who doesn't mind admitting this is Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala. Kennedy has fished the FLW Tour since 2002 and has two tour wins. Divis drew out with Kennedy on the third day of a Stren Series Central Division tournament on Kentucky Lake in early June of 2004.

Kennedy pulled up to one of his structure spots and began casting a Norman DD22. Divis followed suit and they both managed to put a keeper bass into their livewells. Then Divis switched to his football jig and limited out in 30 minutes with nearly 14 pounds. Kennedy was still fishing for his second bite with the crankbait.

"I handed Steve one of my football-head jigs and gave him a quick lesson on how to fish it," Divis says. "He threw it out and immediately caught a bass on it. You should have seen the grin on his face."

That day Kennedy weighed in a strong limit of bass he caught on a football-head jig. He finished the tournament in sixth place while Divis won the Co-angler Division.

Kennedy's best showing with a football-head jig came in late spring of 2006, however, when the FLW Tour made its fifth stop of the season on Kentucky Lake. Though some pros did well by catching bass from shallow bushes, Kennedy won the event by dragging a football jig on offshore ledges. He caught a limit each day of the event, the smallest of which weighed 14 pounds, 8 ounces, and the largest, caught on the final day, weighed 21 pounds, 6 ounces.

Steve Kennedy is a huge believer in the football-head jig. His latest accomplishment with the jig was an FLW Tour win on Kentucky Lake.What Kennedy likes best about the football jig is that he can fish it almost as fast as a crankbait and it stays in contact with the bottom throughout the retrieve. He has his best luck with the jig when it bumps along over clean, hard bottoms covered with gravel or mussel shells.

"My wife calls places like that `tickle bottom'," Kennedy said. "When you feel that, prepare to get thumped."

Touchy

When fishing a football-head jig, or any other bottom bait, you need a good sense of feel to detect light bites. Curt McGuire helps his cause by cupping the reel with his rod hand and placing his thumb on the line above the reel's line guide.

"I didn't do this intentionally," McGuire says. "My thumb just found its way there by itself. It's comfortable, and it definitely helps me feel more bites."

Tags: mark-hicks  tech-tackle-reviews 

/tips/2016-07-28-flw-podcast-128-mark-rose

FLW Podcast 128 - Mark Rose

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-23-1000-islands-day-3-midday-update

1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-22-1000-islands-midday-update-day-2

1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-19-flw-podcast-126-icast

FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-14-2017-walmart-flw-tour-schedule

2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-12-si-se-puede-yes-we-can

Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-5-rookie-lessons-learned

5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-flw-podcast-125-scott-martin

FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-review-lew-s-custom-speed-stick-lite

Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-reunited-and-it-feels-so-good

Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-2016-icast-preview

2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-07-flw-canada-kicks-off-at-tri-lakes

FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-tour-pro-cooksey-recovering-after-accident

FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-podcast-124-jeremy-lawyer

FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-29-stetson-blaylock-s-recipe-for-a-wacky-rig

Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-28-morgan-claims-third-flw-tour-angler-of-the-year-title

Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-24-three-things-by-dd-kentucky-lake

Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-23-how-to-catch-smallmouths-with-hair-jigs

How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-22-two-exciting-events-to-look-forward-to

Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-21-tagging-along-with-sprague-in-kentucky

Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »