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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Smallie Jigs of all kinds

Before tubes, before soft plastics, the mainstay of smallmouth fishermen everywhere was the hair jig or "doll fly". And with good reason they worked amazingly well. And still do. In fact there has been a huge resurgence in interest in hair jigs for smallmouth the last few years. Almost without fail half or more of my biggest smallmouth every year come on some sort of jig.
One of my most cherished possessions is a signed copy of "THEM OLE BROWN FISH" by Billy Westmoreland. Billy Westmoreland has to be considered the greatest trophy smallmouth fisherman of all time. He caught one fish over 10-pounds, three fish over 9 pounds and 50 to 75 fish over 8 pounds! Here's a photo right out of the book:

Yep that's a smallmouth. Most of Billy's giant bass came on a spin rite or a Fly n Rind. Later Billy also used a plastic grub quite a bit which is how I came to meet him. My brother at the time had a small business selling plastic worms, grubs, and marabou jigs. Well Billy liked the grubs so well that he offered to endorse them at first for free. Here's a photo of one of the old packages with Billy's photo on it:

It was quite a learning experience for me as a kid riding along as my brother peddled his lures. I think I went in every fishing tackle store and bait shop in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana that was open back then. And every now and then we would do a trade show like the big one coming up at the Cincy convention center or at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Which was where I got to hang around and listen to Billy Westmoreland talk fishing.
Back then lots of the older fishermen called hair jigs Doll Flies. All because of another legendary figure, Elmer "Doll" Thompson.
Elmer Thompson founded Thompson Fishing Tackle in 1952 and it grew unbelievably. At first all his jigs were tied with polar bear hair and Elmer soon became the largest buyer of bear hair in the world. Every Mom and Pop gas station, bait shop and hardware store in America it seemed had a card of Doll Flies hanging up. At peak production the company churned out 27 million jigs a year:

All for the price of nineteen cents each:

Remember Virgil Ward, one of the early TV fishing personalities? According to an old In-fisherman article Virgil's son Bill Ward was the first to tie and sell marabou jigs. His father did so well using them that he came famous as a fisherman. Another pioneer in selling marabou jigs back then was Leroy Spellman. Here's a picture of some of his old jigs.

Nowadays there are a million makers of hair jigs made out of hundreds of different kinds of materials. Why? because they flat out work. Like I said Billy in later years also fished a plastic grub on a jighead as well as a hair jig. Plastic grubs burst upon the world as the famous Mr. Twister:

Like the Doll Fly, Kleenex, and Velcro, the name Mr. Twister became so famous that the brand name just about became THE name.

Today a curly tail grub is still just about my number one go to lure for smallmouth bass. Besides having great action they come in every color you can think of. I'm partial to smoke metalflake to imitate most minnows and motor oil metalflake to imitate a central stoneroller, the most common little fish in the LMR. But I carry grubs in a variety of fishy colors. Here's a good photo of a grub:

I remember helping my brother hand pour our first grubs out of molds he bought from the Netcraft company. These first grubs were flat on one side and not completely round like modern grubs. It's ironic too because now I but my grubs in bulk from Netcraft. I think their Dominator line of grubs is just about perfect.
Mr. Twister later came out with the Sassy Shad which had a flatter more shad or shiner like profile and a paddle tail. This is the grandparent of todays swimbaits like Big Joshy's or the great Keitech. The one I use the most and love is the River Rock Striker:

This guy perfectly imitates the shiners that are so common in the pools of the LMR and GMR. This is also great lure to throw in January and February for trophy saugeye below the low head dams on the Great Miami.

I fish the different types of jigs all just a bit differently. The swim baits like the RR Striker I try to keep swimming just off the bottom and fish them mainly in pools and below dams. The grub I will also swim but I try to keep it really close to the bottom and ticking it every now and then. I'll also throw the grub right below a riffle to imitate a darter. When I do this I sometimes add a triangle cut out of old grubs to imitate the distinctive fins of a darter:

The Jewel Sculpin, another soft plastic bait, also does a great job of imitating these guys:

As for the hair jigs I really like to throw them in runs and current seams and let them sweep down on a tight line. Ill also throw them in slower water and hop them along the bottom like you might a living rubber jig. Hair jigs are a must have in cold water where their subtle action triggers smallmouth better than just about anything else. Most hair jigs I tie myself just because it's fun:
Personally I don't use rubber skirted jigs as much as other kinds of jigs. Not because they don't work great but instead because I just really enjoy catching fish on hair jigs I've tied myself. But in treetops or other places I might hang up a lot I'll throw a Bitsy Bug Jig. Again if I didn't tie so many jigs I'd probably throw them way more than I do now. If push came to shove, I'd probably give up all the other lures in my box before I'd give up my jigs when stream smallmouth fishing. If your not throwing them in the river you owe it to yourself to start.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Woof Jigs

So I've been looking around for some longer craft fur for tying hair jigs. I love the way craft fur jigs move and look in the water. They move like marabou but don't flatten out as much when you swim them as marabou does. They just seem to fit my style of jig fishing perfect. But the craft fur you see everywhere is just a bit too short. I found some at Bass Pro that was okay but just okay and everyone elses just stunk. Then I saw some great looking stuff online at Feathercraft and was going to buy that any day. Well today I found a years supply here in town for fifty cents! At goodwill of course. I just have to not let Kally see them! This craft fur is long enough to tie even 3/8 ounce jigs as well as the smaller ones I usually fish.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saugfishes and snow angels

Things didn't look good. The river was clear as glass. It was seven or eight degrees below freezing. And a light breeze was blowing up the river. Honestly if I wasn't supposed to meet Dan this trip might have ended right then and there. But Dan was due any minute, might as well fish. I had a pocket full of jigheads and some ugly sauger colored grubs. The colors were way too gaudy for the ultra clear water, I rooted thru them and found a white one. Ten minutes later I felt a solid thump and landed a nice saugeye. If I didn't catch anything else I felt okay about the trip considering the conditions. I decided to switch colors and headed back to the truck where I had some more normal colored grubs. I got there just as Dandrews (AKA the carp whisperer) pulled up. I chatted with him watching carefully as he geared up. Dan is a big guy and dressed in several layers for the cold plus waders and a backpack. It would be easy for him to smuggle a live carp in there somewhere. For you see every time we go fishing Dan manages to find a new and weirder way to catch a carp and it's starting to worry me. Ive seen him catch them on minnow plugs, on spinners, on jigs, on a fly rod. Hell if I remember right he even snagged a line someone had broken off only to reel it in and find a carp attached. It's a bit frightening. I tied on a smoke with red flake three inch grub and went back to fishing. A few casts later and in a zenlike moment I set the hook for no reason and was fast to another saugeye. I honestly can't remember feeling a strike at all. I think it was the product of being at the end of a long year of fishing three or five times a week when I'm about as sharp as a fat middle aged guy in nine layers of clothing can get. By spring I'll have lost it all and will have to relearn it over again. By spring Ill have forgotten as well how to wade with any semblance of grace or daring and will be wallowing around trying not to fall. The older I get the more I find fishing, like life, can be a matter of trying to relearn things we used to know already. What I'm relearning today is how to fish comfortably in frigid weather. My problem today is gloves, mine are too bulky to fish well in. All day I find myself pulling them off and fishing for as long as I can stand it before putting them back on again. Soon I hear a thumping and look up. Sure enough there's a carp on the bank at Dan's feet flopping around making carp angels in the snow. A bit later I'll look up to see his rod bent into a capital C by another carp the size of a small goat that eventually pulls off. Like I said, it's a bit frightening. I quit after two and a half hours having caught three saugfish and snagging two carp of my own. Not bad at all considering the weather. I snapped some photos of the saugeyes in the gin clear water that I thought turned out pretty cool...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A good day on the river

Really any day you can fish in December without freezing is a good day in my book. But I did have a pretty good day. I guess I caught around 15 bass. The first part of the day all came on a marabou jig then as things warmed up I switched to a three inch River Rock grub. Both fished very slow
in slack water next to current. It seemed the slower I fished it the more they liked it. But even though I was fishing it super slow they thumped it pretty hard and two smallies even jumped! Not sure what the water temp was the thermometer was broken when I got it out. Im guessing in the low forties up from 39 or so from a few days ago. Its amazing how even a little jump in water temps will turn on the fish this time of year. I used jigs ranging from 1/16 up to 1/4 trying to keep the jigs swimming just off the bottom. Saw a doe swimming the frigid river and a kingfisher fished by me all day. A pretty sweet day, but looking at the forecast the fun's all over for a while.

No saugfish which was a bit surprising considering I threw jigs all day. I stopped by on the way home to visit Dave who was fishing downstream and took a pretty cool picture of him right at dark.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wipers, stripers and whites. Oh My

I left out a day early for the start of deer gun season and hit a couple creek mouths where they dumped into the Ohio. Its a good thing too as I had much better luck fishing than hunting. The fish seemed to staged just outside the creek mouth in the OR itself. The start of the day was really slow, I think by noon I'd had one strike. But as the day warmed up so did the fishing. Right around three there even was a five minute period or so where stripers were blowing up on bait at the surface. In a whole day of fishing I caught seven or eight hybrids and stripers, a few small white bass and four or five skipjacks. I also lost the biggest skipjack I've ever seen. Big enough that I texted House asking what the record skippy was. It was that big, looking like a little tarpon as it jumped and threw my jig. All fish were caught on a white bucktail jig tied from a deer I did happen to get bowhunting earlier in the season. Dandrews poured the jigheads and I painted them and tied the jigs so it was pretty sweet to get some fish on them. Two fish spit up small two inch shad, I imagine any white or silver lure in that size range would have gotten action. River wasn't up but it was pretty muddy.