August 13, 2023
I forgot to ask Jeff Gustafson if he’s a Kool & the Gang fan, however one factor is obvious: In terms of catching shallow smallmouth, he’s able to Get Down on It.
Down, as within the mild, fluffy poultry feathers used to create one of many deadliest of bronzeback baits—the marabou jig. Usually referred to as a “hair jig” or “fluff,” this delicate bait does a superb job of imitating a variety of forage gadgets with fish-tempting enchantment.
Gustafson, the reigning 2023 Bassmaster Basic champion does of a number of his shallow smallmouth work with this bait, so it’s no shock, he has a handful of agency opinions on its use.
“I get requested on a regular basis, ‘What does the fluff appear like within the water? Does it appear like a leech?’” Gustafson mentioned. “Yeah, you type of float it by way of the water column like a leech however the analogy I take advantage of is it’s type of like an after-dinner mint, whereas a spinnerbait or topwater is likely to be a steak that they don’t really feel like on a regular basis.
“More often than not, if the fish don’t know you’re there and you place one in every of these hair jigs in entrance of them, these smallmouth will 100% eat it. This bait can emulate any variety of little bugs (and different forage) and smallmouth will eat something they’ll match of their mouth.”
Gustafson, who makes his personal hair jig, retains 1/16-, 3/32-, and 1/8-ounce hair jigs helpful, however he finally ends up utilizing the three/32-ounce most frequently. Round shallow cabbage the place smallies prefer to lounge, he’ll use the smallest dimension to maintain it above the vegetation.
“To me, an 1/8-ounce hair jig seems like a rock as a result of it sinks quite a bit sooner and it’s a must to transfer it extra,” he mentioned. “However if you happen to’re on huge water and it’s windy, or there’s present, then the 1/8-ounce is the way in which to go.
“These sizes will cowl you for every thing you need to do. You might drop this bait down on deep water fish—I’ve caught smallmouth (this fashion)—but it surely shines in 10 ft or much less.”
Bulk It Up: Prior to creating a solid, Gustafson bites about an inch off of a Berkley MaxScent The Common stick worm and threads it onto the jig’s hook shank.
Video That Could Curiosity You
“The (worm chunk) is necessary in my guide,” he confused. “You’ll be able to catch fish simply casting and enjoying, however the physique provides the bait just a little greater profile and it additionally permits you to solid these jigs actually twice as far.”
Additionally, including girth to the hook shank builds a much bigger profile and retains a moist hair jig from wanting an excessive amount of like a drowned rat. Exuding scent doesn’t damage both.
Shade Code: Peak into Gustafson’s hair jig container and also you’ll discover a number of colours. Principally, he mentioned, that is for dimension reference.
“I’ve caught them on completely different colours, however I’ve by no means discovered a situation the place any coloration was higher than black.”
Deal with And Presentation
Gustafson’s a agency believer in correctly matched deal with, so he fishes his hair jig on a 7-foot, 6-inch medium Shimano NRX rod with a Shimano Stella reel. Spooling with 8-pound PowerPro braided mainline with an 8-pound Shimano Mastiff fluorocarbon chief.
“That lengthy, smooth rod goes to can help you solid that jig; you’re going to wish that whip to ship it on the market,” he mentioned. “On the Nice Lakes and a number of the clear water fisheries the place this jig shines, you’ve obtained to get the bait away from the boat.
“You should use 6-pound fluorocarbon, however I don’t really feel like I’m getting fewer bites with 8; I simply by no means have any points with breaking them off. You begin utilizing 6-pound take a look at to catch 5-pounders and also you’re going to run into issues right here and there.”
As soon as the bait hits the water, his No. 1 rule is: No backside contact. Depart that to the dropshots and Ned rigs. The marabou jig was made for the mid-depths.
“Crucial factor with the marabou jigs is you by no means need to allow them to contact the underside,” he mentioned. “I prefer to reel them midway by way of the water column. That’s a superb rule to dwell by and, as you fish with them, it turns into straightforward to type of discover that cadence of how lengthy to let it sink to hit that part of the water column.”
Eyes Open: Gustafson mentioned lots of the fish caught on hair jigs are visually noticed on shallow flats. The important thing, he mentioned, is a non-intrusive supply.
“You all the time need to lead them,” he mentioned. “Don’t solid it and land it proper on prime of them; solid previous them, or in entrance of them.
“Smallmouth can see your bait quite a bit baits quite a bit higher than you suppose they’ll (in clear water). I’ve visually seen them go 30 to 40 ft to hit one in every of these small finesse jigs.”