Jigger Bobbing: The Latest Stealth Tactic For Bass And Trout Anglers
Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
Fishing tactics are like diets, there is always a new one on the horizon and some of them actually work! Let me rephrase that. Most of them work if you learn the proper approach and invest enough time in them to see some positive results.
When bass and trout are playing hard to get or even when they aren’t one of the most effective presentations an angler can make with an artificial lure is a vertical presentation. When fish are aggressive and feeding, horizontal presentations produce consistent strikes. For the bass angler examples of horizontal presentations include plugging with crankbaits and spinnerbaits or even hopping a jig or dragging a plastic worm across the bottom. For trout anglers, effective horizontal approaches include tossing and retrieving spinners, spoons and small plugs or trolling these same offerings behind a moving boat.
These horizontal presentations rely on the fact that the fish being targeted will react to the lure quickly and grab them before they move out of range. In contrast, vertical presentations allow anglers to keep their offerings in the strike zone of bass or trout for an extended period of time, arousing their curiosity and allow them to take a crack at the offering without investing a lot of energy.
When bass and trout are holding in relatively deep water, say deeper than 30 feet, making a vertical presentation is a simple proposition for the boater.
Up until recently if the fish were holding in shallow water making a vertical presentation became more difficult since the boat hovering over the fish tends to spook them and of course the shore bound angler was pretty much helpless when a vertical presentation was called for.
These days both boat and bank anglers sprinkled around the country are starting to use a new technique that allows them to stealthily present an artificial lure to bass, trout and other fish vertically regardless of how shallow the fish are holding. Regionally these approaches are known by different names. I like to call the approach “jigger bobbing” since in their essence all these new approaches with their different kinks and twists consist of jigging an artificial lure beneath a slip bobber.
Over the past few years I’ve spend a good deal of time introducing folks to the virtues of slip bobbers both here in the pages of the Fish Sniffer and at many of the various fishing seminars I present around the state.
If you are unfamiliar with slip bobbers they work like this, a spinning rod’s line is passed through a small plastic sleeve that has a pre-tied string knot attached to it, known as a bobber stop. Once on the line the string knot is slid off the plastic tube and snugged down tight on the monofilament. The plastic tube is slid back off the line and discarded. Next a bead is slid onto the monofilament followed by a slip bobber.
After that a swivel is tied to the end of the main line and one or more split shot are place an inch or two above it. Finally an 18 inch 4 to 6 pound fluorocarbon leader tipped with a hook is tied to the swivel. Once you’re finished what you end up with is a rig that has the ability to fish a bait at virtually any depth without compromising casting distance . In the past slip bobbers were exclusively the domain of anglers fishing natural baits. Yet when you think about the various plastic, hair and feather offerings on today’s fishing scene that bare such a close resemblance to live bait, combining them with a slip bobber seems like a natural extension of the bait anglers approach.
While there are several slight differences between the way bait anglers and anglers using artificial lures rig and fish slip bobbers the major difference comes in the way the anglers manipulate their baits. When natural baits are used the angler takes a do nothing approach, meaning that they don’t add any action to their bait, allowing it to drift naturally. With artificials, the angler uses the rod to impart subtle movements to the lure in order to draw strikes.
Slip bobber fishing is basically a light tackle stealth approach, so a 7 foot fast action spinning rod rigged with 6, 8 or 10 pound test line is the best choice for both bass and trout anglers.
For fishing with natural baits a 3 or 4 inch cigar shaped bobber with a tube inserted through its center is standard. These bobbers are used in conjunction with artificial lures too, but many lure anglers prefer using a standard round plastic bobber like the ones used for bluegill fishing. To convert an old school red and white bobber into a slip bobber, anglers place a swivel under the clip on the end of the bobber that sports the push button.
Regardless of which type of bobber is used most lure angles dispense with the bobber stop. Unlike natural bait anglers, they don’t want their offering to suspend at a give depth. Instead they want their lure to sink all the way to the bottom, allowing them to work the bait close to the bottom or at any level in the water column between the bottom and the bobber. The reason that many anglers prefer a round bobber teamed with a swivel over a traditional slip bobber is that they feel the round bobber rigging style gives them better control of their lure and better feel.
Now that we have a basic grasp of the tackle and rigging used for “jigger bobbing” let’s look at some specific lures and approaches for catching bass and trout.
In recent years the Senko has really taken the bass fishing world by storm. Some anglers Texas rig their Senkos, but most prefer to wacky rig them by placing a small hook in the center of the bait. Using a jigger bobber rig a more stealthy and subtle wacky presentation can be achieved by pinning a 4 inch hand poured worm on No. 8 octopus hook. When using a hand poured worm, you’ll want to employ an 18 inch 8 pound test fluorocarbon leader. Above the swivel where leader is connected a slip shot or two should be attached to get the worm down.
The wacky rigged worm can be worked in a number of different ways. The most common approach is to raise the bait a few inches off the bottom and then impart a shaking action to it with the rod tip. You can give the impression of a dying baitfish by allow the bait to set on the bottom for few seconds before twitching and jerking it upward from several inches to a foot or more and then let it free fall back to the bottom on a semi-tight line.
Another great bait for the bass angler to employ is a small 1/8 or 1/4 ounce bucktail jig. In plain white, white/green, white/black or white/blue these small bucktails do a fabulous job of mimicking both the coloration and shape of a baitfish. As with plastic worms, jigs should also be rigged on a fluorocarbon leader, but you won’t need to add any split shot, since the jig head alone will get the bait down.
If you can’t get you hands on a selection of small bucktail jigs, marabou jigs will also work. The only problem with using marabou is that you can’t really team them with the Pro Cure Super Gel scents I like to use with both plastic worms and bucktails. Using a gel on a marabou jig will cause the marabou fibers to stick together and that will kill the action.
When it comes to working a jig the possibilities are boundless. The bait can be jigged and wiggled just off the bottom, it can be twitched upward and dropped or it can be worked all the way back up to the bobber and then allowed to filter all the way back down.
Jigger bobber offerings used for trout are similar for those used by bass anglers. My number one choice is a small 1/16 ounce tube jig in either pearl white or smoke/glitter colors. Most trout are suckers for a small minnow and nothing does and better job of imitation the shape and mannerisms of a tiny minnow than a tube jig. I recommend that you put some herring or anchovy scent on your tube baits and you’ll need to add a split shot above the leader to get them down. A tube jig should be dropped to the bottom raised up a few inches and then shaken. This raise and shake pattern should be employed until you work the jig back up to the surface and then the jig should be dropped back to the bottom.
Other great offerings for trout include small Lip Ripperz worms rigged wacky style or life like wet flies such as marabou streamers or woolly buggers. I fish Lip Ripperz worms in the same way I fish a wacky rigged worm for bass. When using a woolly bugger or streamer fly, I add split shot above the leader to get the fly to the bottom and then slowly swim the fly back to the surface. Instinctively trout are hardwired to attack hatching aquatic insects that ascend from the bottom to the surface. As often as not when they see your fly slowly moving up through the water column it will trigger their instinct to strike.
Unfortunately, I’ve only scratched the surface of the exciting new approach of “jigger bobbing” and I’m already out of space. Remember, teaming artificials with slip bobbers is a new technique and you are only limited by your imagination!
Cal Kellogg is the author of the Trout Fishing Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide For The Conventional Tackle Angler. For more information or to order a copy call (530) 320-0368.