There is a reason why the simple lead head jig was part of US military survival kits. It will just plain catch fish anywhere, anytime, in fresh or salt water!
Its such a simple lure. A small bit of lead cast onto a hook. But it can be made to resemble nearly anything that a fish eats from baitfish to bugs to bottom crawling critters. Depending on your quarry or the depth of water you are fishing, jigs can vary from a miniscule 1/64th ounce to several ounces. No matter the size, they all catch fish.
I’ve always said that when you learn to fish a jig, you jump to the next skill level of angler. A lot of lures have their own built-in action. You cast them out and wind them back in. The lure does most of the work. The jig needs you the angler and your rod tip to give it life. You are the marionette, and your jig is the puppet! When you learn that skill, you can catch fish anywhere in the world!
As I mentioned, jigs come on a variety of sizes but in general, the 1/16 to 3/8ths ounce weights are the most commonly used sizes in fresh and light saltwater fishing situations. The tiny 1/16th and 1/8th is generally used for panfish species like Crappie, Bluegill, and Perch on 4 to 6 pound test. For Bass, Walleyes, and Pike, go a little heavier such as ¼ to 3/8th ounce heads. Smaller weights generally have smaller hooks and are for smaller fish. Heavier heads feature larger stronger hooks for larger fish. The lighter panfish jigs on light line are effective in that two to ten foot range. The heavier sizes will cover you from 5 to 20-foot depths.
The jig is a delivery system for the bait it is paired with. In some instances, that can be as simple as a wax worm, a red worm, or small minnow for panfish. For Bass, walleye and Pike, a live minnow, leech, or half of a night crawler are all great choices. Beyond that, todays soft plastic jig bodies are so versatile, have incredible action, and are available in a myriad of colors to fit any water conditions. Some days these fish want a lot of action in a plastic tail and sometimes they want a lure with a “do-nuthin’” attitude. It all just depends on how aggressive they are that day.
Don’t over-fish a jig! Cast it out and let it get near, or on the bottom. With the rod tip at three o’clock, raise it to one o’clock while reeling up two turns of slack line. Pause for a second and repeat. Strikes may feel like a lighting jolt, a subtle thump, or what we call the “push” when the fish eats the jig moving towards you and you suddenly have a bunch of slack like. In any case, reel up and set the hook. The single exposed hook of a jig has a very successful hookup ratio and you rarely have them escape.
While most lures have a pre-determined depth that they run, jigs run at any depth you want them to be at. So, whether you want to tip it with live bait, plastics, or even bucktail, the jig may be the most versatile lure in you angling arsenal and make you a better fisherman.