Jigging Your Way To More Trout
Here in the west, trout are one of our very favorite gamefish and why not? They have a wide distribution and can be found in literally hundreds of lakes and rivers, ponds and streams. In addition to their widespread distribution, one of the other factors that make trout such a popular gamefish is the fact that they are free strikers. They will inhale baits, lures and flies with equal zeal.
When trout are in a vigorous feeding mode, they can be caught on a long list of baits and lures including worms, salmon eggs, Power Bait, Needlefish, Cripplures, Hum Dingers, Seps Pro Secrets, Panther Martins, Mepps, Apex Lures, Uncle Larry’s Spinners and Rapalas. But what about the times when the bite is off and the trout are playing hard to get?
Well, about a decade ago I, stumbled on a lure that often draws strikes from fickle trout when nothing else will. I’m talking about jigs, but not just any jigs. More specifically, I’m talking about tube jigs…small 1 to 2.5 inch tube jigs that weigh from 1/8 to 1/32 of an ounce. These tiny tubes are intended to be used for crappie and perch, but I’ve found them to be dynamite when targeting trout that require a subtle presentation.
There are few things that excite trout as much as an injured minnow. Now I’ve never spoken with a trout, but I’m pretty sure that that and injured minnow is what trout mistake a tube jig to be with it’s seductive dipping and darting action. Yet, the action a tube jig displays is only part of its charm as far as the trout are concerned. Beyond its action a tube jig has a soft lifelike feel and the hollow body lends itself perfectly to being filled with one of the various Pro-Cure Super Gels. All of these factors add up to a bait that trout hit and hang on to.
Tube jigs will take trout in both lakes and streams. When fishing in lakes I either cast and retrieve tube jigs on a light action 7 foot spinning rig spooled with 4 pound test line or I team the jigs with a slip bobber for a super stealthy vertical presentation using the same rod.
When casting and retrieving jigs without a slip bobber I like to work around areas of shoreline structure such as rocky drop offs and fallen trees. Typically I cast the lure out and count it down a few feet before I begin the retrieve. One of the key things to remember when retrieving a jig is not to overpower the lure. Give the lure a couple of light twitches and then wait a few seconds and then twitch it a bit more. Most strikes occur as the jig sinks, so it pays to keep an eye on the line and set the hook if you see the line jump or move in any unnatural way.
When teaming tube jigs with a slip bobber you’ll want to adjust your bobber stop such that the lure will come to a rest at the depth which you suspect the trout are cruising. This can very from 5 to 50 feet deep depending on the time of the year and the water temperature. When working at depths beyond about 15 feet you’ll need to add some extra weight to the rig in the form of slip shot from 16 to 24 inches above the jig to get the rig down.
Working a jig beneath a slip bobber is a pretty simple proposition. You should start out by dead sticking the bait, without adding any action. If that approach fails to produce, start giving the jig some subtle movement by wiggling the tip of your rod on a semi tight line. If this doesn’t produce you can get more aggressive by slowly reeling the jig upward several feet before lowering it back down to it’s original depth on a semi tight line.
In streams, my favorite approach is to pitch the jig up current and across the stream and “walk” the jig downstream toward my position. Once the jig passes my position I allow it to swing across the current on a tight line until it ends up along the bank directly below my position. If the water is deep enough and the current is strong enough I’ll allow the jig to hang in the current for several seconds while I jig it up and down with the rod tip before retrieving it and making another cast.
Strikes can occur at any point in this process, so you’ll want to stay on your toes!
In terms of color selection I like to go with natural minnow imitating colors first and if those fail to attract trout, I’ll deploy the bright colored stuff. Over the years I’ve used tubes from a number of different manufacturers and they will all catch fish, but the hands down most effective tubes I’ve ever used are Berkley Power Bait Atomic Teasers. Atomic Teasers come in a range of effective colors and they are rigged with a thin worm like tail that really adds a lot of action to my presentations.