More than 10 years ago, Marty Robinson began experimenting with different ways to retrieve his jigs around heavy, shallow cover so they wouldn’t continually get snagged. Not only did the Yamaha Pro eventually develop a swimming and hopping presentation over the cover that eliminated snagging, he also discovered it produced more strikes, especially during the cooler months.
“Many bass fishermen think of jigs only as deep water lures, and when bass move shallow in the fall, they tend to use crankbaits and spinnerbaits,” explains Robinson, who will be competing in his second consecutive Bassmaster Classic® next February. “A jig is effective because it presents a large profile that appeals to bigger bass, and also because it’s a target-specific lure I can pitch to a single stump or laydown and work more carefully than I can with any other lure.”
Robinson likes to fish his jigs in the backs of pockets and coves in large tributary creeks where bass migrate in fall. He looks only for visible cover like stumps, brush, and laydown trees, and he seldom fishes deeper than 10 feet. He’s not really interested in fishing bottom structure like ledges and dropoffs, but he does target trees or stumps when he finds them along the edges of channels and breaklines.
“When I do see the type of cover I like, I’ll pitch my jig just beyond the target, let it sink one to two feet, then retrieve by mixing a steady swimming action with short hops,” he explains. “I think it’s a more natural action than simply crawling the jig along the bottom the way most anglers tend to fish these lures. In fact, most of the time, my retrieves never do touch the bottom.”
The Yamaha Pro also uses this same shallow, swimming and hopping retrieve on lakes with smallmouth bass, especially if the lakes contain submerged vegetation. During cooler months, smallmouth frequently hold over the top of the vegetation, and even on bright, sunny days when they move deeper in the cover, Robinson has learned the fish will still come up to hit his jig.
During the recent Bassmaster® Elite tournament on New York’s Lake Oneida, for example, he swam his jig over grassbeds only eight feet deep, catching enough fish to finish 25th and secure his place in the Bassmaster Classic® field. Although B.A.S.S.® does not conduct any regular-season Elite events in the fall, Robinson always has a jig tied on for local events near his home in Lyman, S.C.
“Because I’m staying in shallow water, I use a fairly light 3/8-oz. jig and rig with 20-pound fluorocarbon line due to the cover I’m always working,” continues Robinson. “I like a lure with long, rubber skirt strands, a model typically described as a ‘mop jig’, and I add a fairly large plastic crawfish-style trailer that creates even more swimming motion. The trailer also increases the jig’s buoyancy so I can fish it a little slower around each piece of cover.”
Using a jig also increases Robinson’s chances for larger bass. Many anglers, he says, are content to catch four or five smaller bass in these same shallow coves with crankbaits, but he’s looking for one bass weighing four or five pounds. His heaviest fish thus far using this presentation weighed eight pounds.
“The swimming, hopping retrieve I’m using creates reaction strikes rather than feeding strikes, which may be part of the reason this is a good tactic for larger bass,” believes the Yamaha Pro. “While most of the smaller bass are feeding on small shad, I think the heavier bass are still looking for bluegills, and my larger profile jig with its slower swimming motion may just be the combination that gets their attention and triggers a strike.
“Overall,” concludes Robinson, “I think jigs offer a strong alternative lure choice for cold weather bass in shallow cover. The fish don’t see nearly as many jigs this time of year as they do crankbaits and spinnerbaits, and as I’ve learned from more than a decade of fishing this way, a slow swimming and hopping retrieve will definitely get their attention.