Picture this: You've been stranded on an island in the middle of a large wilderness lake teeming with gamefish.
There are no swimsuit models to keep you company. It's just you and your spinning rod. However, you get to choose one small box of tackle to take along. What's it gonna be?
If your answer is anything other than a handful of leadhead jigs, you are in for some long, frustrating days and a diet heavy on plants and grubs.
Jigs are to fishing what Michael Jordan was to basketball, Jennifer Anniston to acting or Bill Gates to big business.
There's not much a properly presented jig can't do. They can be flashy or subtle, shallow or deep, proactive or reactive. They can be fished big or small, fast or slow, dressed or undressed.
You can pitch a jig, cast a jig, troll a jig or drag a jig. You can bounce a jig, hop a jig, snap a jig, swim a jig or wiggle a jig. You can fish them effectively in windy or calm weather, clear or stained water and cold or warm temperatures for nearly any species of gamefish.
As most jig anglers will attest, there are few more exciting moments in fishing than the "tunk" of a fish inhaling a jig. Nor are there many presentations more satisfying than those where the anglers has a rod in hand and is challenged with putting the jig into the motion that triggers strikes on a given day.
The only pertinent question facing us, as anglers, is whether we have the right jig for the job at hand. Serious jiggers probably own more styles, colors and sizes of jigs than all their other lures combined.
Fortunately, jigs are a lure than can be poured and painted in any well-ventilated area at home, such as the garage, at a fraction of what it would cost to stock up at the local tackle store. A 0 investment in products manufactured by Do-It Corporation will set you up for a lifetime of jig-making. And when you do it yourself, you will always have exactly the jig you need exactly the way you want it.
Fishing crappies with tiny tube jigs in the brushpiles? Pour them with softer, gold hooks that will often pull out of snags and can be bent back into shape and resharpened.
Fishing smallmouth using jigs dressed with shad bodies or large plastics? Pour them with longer-shanked hooks so the business end of the hook is in a better position for solid hook-ups.
Fishing walleyes by casting to structure or vertical jigging breaklines? Pour them with a hook at least one size larger than normal because walleyes feed by flaring their gills and creating a vaccuum that sucks in the jig, and larger hooks with wider gaps will hook and hold more fish.
Newcomers to the art of jig-making can put together a versatile arsenal by starting with a Do-It round-head mold like the JRS-5-A, which features five sizes, all with barbed collars. Eventually, you may want to invest in a Pro Series mold or two that are size specific and facilitate mass production of particular sizes.
You'll want jigs that can be used for fishing live bait and plastics, as well as jigs that can be tied with bucktail, craft fur or other materials and fished with or without live bait. Ball-collar molds produce jigs designed for tying, but that's a luxury you can add later. For now, just trim the barbs off the jigs you plan to tie.
For live-bait applications, the goal is to present a compact jig that fish will eat rather than nip. Use the shortest-shanked hook that will fit the mold, or better yet, invest in a mold designed to accommodate special short-shank jig hooks with an extra eye for attaching a stinger hook. Shorter hooks allow you to thread a minnow or crawler onto the hook and up to or slightly over the collar of the jig, making it look more realistic, giving it a more horizontal and lifelike action than a minnow hooked through the lips and hanging off the end of the jig and making it more likely the fish will eat the whole jig rather than nipping off the minnow.
There are many situations where plastics excel, and there are countless styles of plastics available. Whether it's a tube tail, grub tail, shad body, lizard or worm, it can be fished on a round head. Using longer-shanked hooks makes sense for applications involving bigger plastics in the 4-6 inch range.
Sometimes, it's hard to beat a hair jig, so you'll want a few of those in your box, as well. Body material depends on the application.
If you are casting to shallow water or structure, for example, it makes sense to use a jig dressed with a buoyant material such as craft fur that will slow its fall through the water column more than marabou or bucktail. If you are dabbling in the brush or fishing extremely slow, marabou offers a pulsating, tantalizing action that can trigger strikes. If you are casting to deeper water, bucktail or craft fur is effective.
The amount of material you use to tie a jig will dictate its profile and effectiveness in various situations. When you want a jig to look big and fish big but fall slowly, choose a smaller size and dress it with a thick tail of hair or fur. When the fish tell you to tip with live bait, that calls for a much thinner dressing that won't hide the part the fish want most.
Just as there are specific crankbaits intended for specific situations, you can improve your jigging success by expanding your range of jigs. While the Round-Head Jig can be adapted for use in many situations, it's not always the best choice.
Midwestern walleye anglers, for instance, know that some of the best fishing is in river systems like the Mississippi, Fox, Wolf, Wisconsin and Missouri rivers, to name a few. With rivers comes current, and when water levels are high or the gates open at the locks and dams, fishing effectively requires specialized jigs.
Walleyes tend to relate to the bottom and to current breaks in river situations. So, as anglers, the most important part of our presentation is maintaining bottom contact while drifting or slipping downstream.
Aquadynamic jig heads can solve the problem. Do-It's Arrowhead, Flat Head and Ultra Minnow jigs cut through current better than round heads, make it easier to keep your line at an angle between 45 and 90 degrees where you have the best control and feel of your jig and are balanced to help keep them horizontal in the water column. Depth and current velocity will dictate the size of jig you use, but these head styles tend to fish big, meaning smaller sizes will accomplish the same goals as larger sizes in other head styles.
As you enhance and build your jig supply, you can add other styles designed for specific applications.
Swim jigs are the rage in bass fishing, and they also have their place in the world of walleye angling. Ditto for worm heads that give a jig-and-plastic worm combination a more realistic and integrated appearance.
Jigs produced with built-in weed guards are a great tool for fishing nasty cover, whether it's milfoil and lily pads or buck brush and grass.
Stand-up jig heads are dynamite for fussy walleyes holding tight to the bottom in clean-water environments where sight and the scent of live bait take precedence over action in triggering strikes. True stand-ups can be inched along sand flats and hard-bottom areas, and they keep the bait dangling behind the jig off the bottom where the fish can find it and eat it with minimal effort.
Banana head jigs are a bridge between stand-ups and styles such as round heads and current-cutters. They fish big for walleyes that want a good-sized meal, they work the bottom effectively in moderate current, they can be fished at a faster pace than stand-ups and their design gives them enough stand-up properties to keep the business end in a fish's face rather dragging on the bottom where most jigs eventually get hung up.
Start with the basics and work your way up. You don't need to own a dozen molds if you talk your buddies into buying a few of those that you don't have so you can trade off as your jig supply demands.
Most of all, think about the jigs you will use in the situations you fish. Ask yourself if you have the right jigs for the conditions at hand.
You might get lonely on that wilderness island, but with a handful of jigs, you'll never go hungry.