Whether it’s deep or shallow, aggressive or inactive, lakes or rivers, or largemouth or smallmouth, jigs factor heavily in mid-fall bass fishing. Tailoring jig weight to the many autumnal bass-fishing situations means getting the most production from this reliable tactic.
Western Pennsylvania’s Deron Eck – a consistently high finisher on the Keystone Bass Buddies Circuit – is looking for reaction strikes from inactive fish when he drops three-quarter to one-ounce jigs along deep weed edges. Eck seeks out the heaviest clumps of weeds -- typically milfoil and coontail on the clear-water reservoirs and small natural lakes he fishes -- allowing the Zoom Big Salty Chunk-dressed Picasso spider jig to bump along the cover on its way down, and then hit the bottom with a resounding “thunk.”
If a pick-up doesn’t occur during the initial fall, Eck stirs things up by imparting three or four quick six-inch lifts, before moving along to the next target.
Florida Elite Series pro and guide Preston Clark also favors a heavy jig when the first cold fronts of the fall push his local largemouths to heavy mats of weeds.
“On reservoirs, the cooling water of fall pushes shad back into creek arms,” explained Clark. “Our natural lakes don’t have creek arms, but baitfish still look for warmer water. And they find it around the thickest mats of hydrilla and Kissimmee grass, which act like blankets.”
Clark relies on the pointed profile of a locally-produced bullet-shaped grass jig to penetrate the thick mats of vegetation. In addition to the weight of the ounce to ounce-and-half chunk-tipped jigs – typically Junebug in color – his presentation style also helps ensure the jig infiltrates the weedy tangle.
“You want the jig to turn over, just like a good football punt, so it enters the cover nose-first,” he said. “That way its momentum helps drive it through the cover.”
While cold front conditions can stack baitfish and largemouth under weed mats, he’s found under certain conditions both bait and bass will be roaming.
“At daybreak, especially, shore birds like egrets and herons will tell you where the bait is,” said Clark. “If they are clumped together, I don’t pay much attention to them. But if they are spread out, say 10 or 12 along a hundred-yard stretch, I pull up and start there, because something is going on.”
During this scenario bass are more likely out away from mat edges chasing the same baitfish serving as heron fodder. Clark pitches and swims a three-eighth or half-ounce Warrior Tomahawk jig with a swimming chunk, targeting the zone within 10 feet of the mat edge.
“It’s something Florida bass don’t see much of,” he added.
Converse to the outside edge of the weedline, Chuck Aurandt finds early to mid-fall green bass relating to the inside edge of the weeds, particularly when fishing pressure has moved them off the deep side of the vegetation band.
“They’ll get in that zone between the bank and the inside edge, which is usually about two to four feet deep,” said the Johnstown, Pa. tournament angler.
Aurandt lightens up to a quarter to half-ounce jig with a recessed line tie. He trims the fibers back on the weedguard, tips it with a small beaver and comes up with a finesse-sized compact offering. Holding the boat roughly on the inside edge of the cover, he inches along, making 20-foot pitches ahead of him, particularly to the thicker clumps of weeds.
“It’s a slow, in-close method of fishing, but one that’s especially effective on sunny days,” added Aurandt.
2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifier Ken Baumgardner often targets fall weedbeds with a swimming retrieve that blends a horizontal look with a vertical one. In areas where the weeds are located a foot or two under the surface, or are pushed over by a breeze, Baumgardner fires a three-quarter to one-ounce swimming jig over the bed. The 7:1 ratio of his Quantum Tour Edition reel allows him to swim a white-colored jig over the weed tops. He keeps the rod tip at the eight o-clock position, and shakes the tip during the retrieve. The bright color assists in keeping track of the lure, so he can momentarily allow it to flutter down in open pockets of weeds.
Skilled smallmouth bass anglers that ply their craft on rivers during the fall also understand the significance of matching jig weight to the presentation requirement. On the free-flowing portion of the Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River, Dave Lehman uses a three-sixteenth to quarter-ounce skirted jig like a Strike King Bitsy Jig or Booyah Baby Boo Jig tipped with a small Yum Craw Papi. Lehman pitches the jig to rocks in two to four feet of water. He casts past a rock, swims it up over it, and drops it down the near side.
Minnesota-based river angler John House anticipates the low river levels of mid fall to target bass that boat anglers can’t get to. House uses a quarter-ounce Booyah Boo Jig with the Craw Papi to target near-the-bank smallies. He finds bass holding in three to four-foot deep pockets between exposed rocks and rock ledges.
Finally, jig weight isn’t just a matter for skirted jig anglers. Come fall Jim DeZurik tends to go heavier with his Riverbug custom-tied bucktail jigs. In the deeper sections of the Minnesota rivers he fishes, by mid fall he finds smallies sliding into deeper water. During the spring, when bass are close to the bank, he rarely fishes a Riverbug heavier than eighth ounce. By this time DeZurik will be using quarter once ‘bugs, targeting eight to 10 foot depths.