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Written by Alton Jones   
Saturday, 05 March 2011 04:44

"What's your go-to bait?"

That's a question I hear all the time, and my answer is almost always one of two things: a soft-plastic lure, or a jig. Time of the year makes the biggest difference, and late summer is a major transition time when the jig becomes my go-to bait.

Fishing is not an exact science, but my experience has shown that bass prefer a bulkier bait later in the summer and on into the fall. I don't know all the reasons, but I have a couple of theories--and since bass don't talk, they can't prove me wrong.

By the end of the summer, a lot of the little creatures that were born in the spring have begun to grow. I believe bulkier profiles, like jigs, become more effective because they more resemble what bass see and eat from day to day.

Additionally, the water temperature typically turns a corner some time in the late summer. Slightly moderate daytime highs and somewhat cooler nights cause a momentum shift toward cooling, and that triggers the bass to key on bigger offerings. It doesn't matter how high the actual water temperature is. As long as the general trend is toward cooling, the bass seem to prefer bulkier baits. Another thing that happens late in the summer is bass begin using all parts of the water column.

Swim And Stroke

The jig is a highly versatile tool--far more versatile than most people realize--and it's one you can fish from top to bottom. One of my favorite ways to fish a jig during late summer, in fact, is to swim it. It's just like spinnerbait fishing, except without a blade, but for some reason most fishermen have a mental block against the idea of swimming a jig. There are days when you'll catch fish after fish swimming a jig, yet they won't touch a spinnerbait. The right speed for swimming varies substantially from day to day. Some days I pretty much have to slow-roll it to get bit. Other days I reel so fast that a 1/2-ounce jig is literally skipping on the surface. When the fish want it this way, you can't do it properly without feeling silly.

Another outstanding late-summer technique is "stroking a jig." Because so many jig bites come as the bait is falling, this technique repeats that falling motion throughout the retrieve. It's a great way to fish structural features, like ledges and humps, during late summer.

To stroke, I make a long cast across the structure and let the bait fall all the way to the bottom. Then I check to see whether anything grabbed it on the fall. If not, I make a big sweep of the rod from the 3:00 to the 12:00 position, usually with two quick snaps. Then I drop the rod quickly, let the bait fall on a slack line and again see whether a bass has picked it up.

It's important to watch your line when you're stroking jigs. You'll often see the line jump as the bait is falling. Even if you don't, though, a bass may just be there when you snap the jig up again.

Of course, I also do a lot of flippin' and pitchin' into cover this time of year. A jig allows for great penetrations into very dense cover, and precise presentations within the cover. Bass can become extremely cover-oriented during late summer, and bury themselves in thick brush, under mats of vegetation or in some other type of cover.

Trim It Up

I fish a fairly large Booyah Boo Jig for all late-summer fishing, never going lighter than 1/2-ounce, and sometimes going as heavy as 1-ounce. It's just the opposite of winter or early spring, when the jig needs to fall slowly. The bass are active this time of year and react best to a jig that moves quickly.

The Boo Jig has a head shape that makes it very versatile, a large, stout hook--critical for getting big fish out of cover--and a loud rattle, which can be removed when you don't want it. It also has a large barb at the base of the hook for holding trailers.

Regarding trailers, I always use them, and it's typically one of two styles. For swimming a jig, I add a 6-inch Yum Ribbontail Worm. I want something that hangs back there and creates plenty of swimming action. For other techniques, I add a Yum Chunk, which imitates a crawfish.

I also modify my jigs a bit. I trim the skirt, which causes it to flare out more, giving the jig a smaller but bulkier profile. I also trim the weedguard so the wires stretch only 1/8-inch or so past the point of the hook, then divide the guard wires in half, spreading the two groups into a V shape.


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