Jig Head Worms: The Appetizer Bass Can’t Pass Up
Jig head worms have been around for many years but have gotten very popular the past few years, for a very good reason. They catch bass, especially in the fall.
If you asked a bass fisherman about “shaky head worms” a few years ago, your only response was likely to be a shake of the head saying no. Today you would have a hard time finding a bass boat on the water without a shaky head rig in it. It is one of the most popular ways to catch bass right now.
Shaky head worm rigs have many different names but the most descriptive is “jig head worm” since that is the basic rig. Fishermen have used worms and other trailers on jigs almost as long as there have been fishermen. But this system got real popular a few years ago with the introduction of jigs with big hooks, made especially for bass. It seems to catch bass when nothing else will work.
A jig head worm is simply a ball jig head with a plastic trailer on it. Most tackle companies make them now under a wide variety of names. They come in all kinds of shapes and colors and some have special ways of attaching the worm. Light wire hooks from 1/0 to 4/0 are common.
On a basic jig you thread a worm on the hook Texas style, with a quarter inch of the head of the worm against the jig and the hook inserted back into the worm to make it weedless. Some jigs come with a spike or small spring behind the eye of the hook. On them you put the head of the worm on the spike or spring then stick the hook into the worm body. This setup keeps the worm from balling up on the hook when you set the hook.
The reason a jig head worm is so good is it makes the worm stand up. Unlike a standard Texas rig, the tail of the worm sticks straight up from the bottom, looking like a baitfish or other bass meal feeding along with its head down.
Watch a jig head in clear water and you will see the trailer stand up when the head hits the bottom. It will fall over but falls much slower than a Texas rig. Some jig heads have a flat surface to make them stand up better, and some are a mushroom or football shape that is supposed to make them stand up when pulled.
A finesse type straight-tail four inch worm is the most common trailer to use and fishermen have their favorite colors. But other trailers work great, too. A bigger worm like a six inch straight tail worm sometimes draws more strikes. And don’t hesitate to put a big worm, up to 10 or 12 inches long, on a jig head that has a hook big enough to handle it.
Creature baits like the Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver or the Berkley Little Chigger Craw that imitate crawfish are especially good in the fall. Bass are feeding up for the winter and crawfish are one of their favorite foods. The jig head makes the crawfish imitation stand up and be more visible to the fish.
When jig head worms first became popular most fishermen cast them on a spinning rod and light line. They were a finesse way of fishing with one-eight ounce heads, a four inch worm and eight pound test line the standard. And that still works. But don’t hesitate to tie a jig head worm on a bait casting outfit spooled with 12 to 15 pound line. And use bigger three-sixteenths to one quarter ounce heads with bigger, heavier hooks.
Fluorocarbon line is the standard for jig head worms since bass usually have a long time to inspect the bait. And this bait works best in clear water, so the invisible line helps you get more strikes. Some fishermen use braid line but tie a two to three foot fluorocarbon leader to it. If you go that route it is best to use a swivel to attach the two lines since braid will cut fluorocarbon.
Trailer colors are your choice. It is hard to beat a standard black worm in any color water but darker colors tend to be better in stained water. Try clear colors like watermelon in clear water. And dipping the tail of the worm in a chartreuse dye like JJs Magic will add a flicker of color bass like.
For craw trailers dark colors work well in stained water but try to match the color of local crawfish. You can find them at night in the shallows. Their eyes look ruby red when hit by a flashlight beam. Some lakes have very dark, almost black crawfish. Other lakes have populations with brown to almost red coloration. Match your bait to the color of the food the bass are eating when possible.
Jig heads shine on hard bottoms from clay and gravel to hard mud, so these kinds of points and banks are some of the best places to fish them. Since crayfish live in clay and hard mud bottoms and around rocks where they make their burrows, working a jig head with a crawfish imitation where they live is deadly in the fall.
Let your bait hit bottom and sit for a few seconds, then slide it along like a crayfish crawling along. Suddenly hop it like a startled crayfish swimming off. When it falls back it will stand up with claws raised and waving, just like the real thing. Bass will eat it up.
Also try a worm trailer on these hard bottoms but fish it a little differently. The name “shaky head” comes from one of the most popular ways to fish a jig head worm. Let it hit the bottom and sit for several seconds. Then tighten up your line and shake the rod tip, making the bait dance in place.
You don’t want the bait to move across the bottom, you want it to stay put and vibrate and shake. This is especially effective in clear water where a bass might sit and look at a bait a long time before hitting it. Give the fish a reason to eat the bait by shaking it in one place.
Jig heads don’t come through chunk rocks very well but are great around them. When fishing rocks like riprap use a very light head, as light as you can throw on your outfit and fish effectively in any wind that is blowing. Crawl and hop it over the rocks. The light head is less likely to get hung but expect to lose jigs when fishing rocks.
Round jig heads come through wood better than some other shapes. When working blowdowns or brush piles use a light head and fish slowly. If the jig gets hung up try popping your line. Put some slack in your line, pull it to the side with your hand while tightening up with your rod tip, then let the line pop free of your hand. For some reason this often frees a jig head that is hung up in brush.
Bass hang out in brush and other wood cover so you need to fish it. Fish very slowly with your jig head. Let it fall to the bottom by the brush and sit, making it work most effectively by keeping the trailer up and off the bottom. Fish the outside edges first with your jig head; you are less likely to get hung up.
When a bass takes a jig head worm you will sometimes feel a “thump” as it sucks the bait in, but often you won’t feel a hit. Watch your line for any slight twitch of sideways movement. Raise your rod tip carefully and tighten your line before hopping the bait. If you feel any weight, set the hook. Or, if you don’t feel anything, if your line is slack, reel up some of the slack and set the hook. A bass is probably swimming toward you with the bait. It doesn’t cost anything to set the hook so if in doubt set it.
Driving a nail into a board is much easier if you tap it with a hammer rather than trying to push it in. Sticking a hook in a bass’s mouth is the same way. Try to pop the hook rather than making a sweeping hook set. Most jig heads come with light wire hooks so they penetrate the bass’s mouth better and you don’t need to rock the boat when setting the hook.
When using heavier line don’t set the hook too hard and be careful fighting the fish. The light wire hooks can straighten out. Set your drag a little lighter than normal so it slips a little on the hookset. That will lessen the likelihood of a bent hook and also keep you from breaking the lighter line when you set the hook hard.
Give a jig head worm a try. Call it anything you like but keep one in the water and you will catch bass when other baits fail.