A life changing moment can happen quick growing up in central Florida. I was addicted to fishing at a very early age and it is an addiction that has followed me into my adult life. My wife and I now live in North Carolina so I have gotten to learn different parts of the country when it comes to fishing. I love bass fishing but more than anything I am addicted to that feeling of setting the hook into a true giant. The last few years I have had the opportunity to travel and fish all across the country with the Big Bass Tour. In my opinion it is the most exciting tournament format in fishing today. One bite can win a brand new Nitro so you are always in the game. Every hour pays 10 places ranging from $100-$1000, the biggest fish over two days takes the boat. I fish ten events a year from Florida all the way to Texas so finding ways to target quality fish has been a skill I have been honing the last few years. Every event the only thing that matters is getting a big fish to bite. Catching five fish is irrelevant if they’re not big enough to weigh in, so I fish for that one big bite. There is one technique and bait I have tied on at every stop of the tour. Bladed jigs have changed the way I fish the last few years and I wanted to take a moment to share some of things that have worked for me and what I’ve been learning since using them. This is only what I’m finding works for me, I am by no means the absolute truth when it comes to bladed jigs. Brett Hite holds that title and when he talks bladed jigs we all listen. Let's dive in and I hope you find something useful for the next time you pick up a bladed jig.
Rod and Reel Setup. Distance matters when it comes to fishing moving baits effectively and longer casts can translate directly into getting more bites out of the day. I have found two big factors play into casting farther- rod length and line capacity on reels. The rod I use for this technique is 7’3” medium heavy moderate action Lew’s TP1 Speed Stick. I pair this with a 6.3:1 BB1HZ Lew’s reel with 17-20 fluorocarbon line (depending on where I’m at in the country). The longer rod and bigger spool will allow you to cast a mile and it is a pretty inexpensive combo compared to a lot of other setups I’ve used. If you use too stiff a rod fish will have a tendency to pull off on the initial bite and not get the bait down. Moderate action rods have enough give to allow fish to swallow the bait when they bite.
How to Fish it and Where. Retrieve is crucial when it comes to fishing bladed jigs and the type of cover you are fishing should directly impact your retrieve. Keep in mind with bladed jigs the faster you reel the higher the bait rises in the water column so it's important to figure out the depth you are wishing to fish the bait and retrieve it accordingly. If you are fishing deep channel swings in North Carolina in the summer I’m using a heavier bladed jig 1/2 - 3/4 ounce and my retrieve could look more like fishing a Carolina rig. However, if you are running grass in the spring obviously that’s an entirely different animal. You’re probably fishing 3/8 ounce weight and your retrieve will mostly likely include intentionally allowing the bait to get slightly hung to snatch it free, moving at a pretty quick pace. Always fish the moment in front of you, your retrieve might even change throughout the day. Every day is different so pay attention and allow the fish to show you what they want. Often in tournament situations the local hot spots get hit first and often. However this bait excels when fishing behind people who are only throwing crankbaits or spinnerbaits. It has a much different action than most baits so don’t be afraid to fish behind anyone. Keep in mind though, as you are fishing this bait you’re not fishing for a lot of bites but instead targeting quality. So if getting a bunch of bites is your thing this bait is not always what you are looking for. This is a great kicker fish bait if you're looking for that fish to anchor your bag at weigh in.
Bladed Jigs. When it comes to the bladed jig itself there are a few very important details to pay attention to. Is the blade attached directly to your jig or with a split ring? If it is attached with a split ring the bait seems to lose some side to side action and vibration. Second, the smaller the diameter of a hook, the more action the bait has so consider smaller diameter hooks on vibrating jigs when you can. When it comes to skirts keep it simple, green pumpkin, white, black, and blue are the only colors you will find in my boat. Something that has made a difference for me is that when fishing white I tend to get more bites on translucent white skirts than solid white. Now something I don’t hear people talking about often on the bladed jig scene that has made a massive difference for getting one or two more bites a day is adding reflective stickers on the blade itself. Especially in sunny conditions I’ve noticed a difference between sticker and no sticker. Something about that flash triggers a couple more bites in a day. How many bites you get in a day can be the difference between winning and losing.
Here are a few brands that I would recommend if you are looking to add a few bladed jigs to your line up. I love the Z-man Jackhammer, they can be a little pricey but worth checking out, along with D&M Piranha or Phoenix Bladed Jigs. There are numerous trailers to try but a few I love are the Keitech 3.8 Fat Swimbaits, Strike King Rage Craws, and lastly, my favorite, the Gary Yamamoto Zako.
I hope these tips give you confidence and success in your pursuit of big bass. If you find yourself fishing the Big Bass Tour stop by and say hey!