By David A. Brown
Special to BassFan
Bass equals grass, the old saying goes, but weedy Southern fisheries like those in Florida, Louisiana and anywhere shallow grass exists (Potomac River, Lake Champlain’s southern end) can present a significant challenge to lure selection. Historically, the jig’s large profile has consistently produced some of the larger fish, but flipping jigs into heavy cover – or attempting to punch through weed mats – would quickly deliver a lesson in frustration, as the salad relentlessly snags your bait.
Enter the “grass jig,” a subset of the larger lure category designed to remove the common obstacle that previously limited anglers to flipping and punching Texas-rigged plastics. Nothing wrong with those worms and creature baits, but jigs are straight-up toad stickers.
A few years ago, South Florida angler Joe Medlock introduced the Medlock Double Guard Flipping Jig with twin weed guards that help repel vegetation. This innovative design delivered impressive results by sending a jig where jigs weren’t supposed to go.
Recently, Witch Doctor Tackle turned a lot of heads when it refined the grass-jig concept by replacing the lead head with tungsten. Considerably denser than lead, tungsten allows tackle manufacturers to create baits of similar weight in smaller sizes.
Put it Where they Live
Built with a Mustad 3X black nickel hook, the Witch Doctor Tackle Tungsten Flipping Jig comes in 3/4-, 1- and 1 1/2-ounce sizes – all capable of tempting bass deep within their fortresses.
The Nichols Lures JT Kenney Grass Wizard is built with an angled head, which works its way through vegetation that would entangle other jigs.
“For a lot of years, they would bite a jig, but it was so difficult to get the bait to where the fish were that it made most people in (weedy) lakes come up with other alternatives like Texas rigs with heavier and heavier weights just to get through the cover that a jig wouldn’t,” said FLW Tour pro Mike Surman, who helped design the Witch Doctor jig. “Now, with this new tungsten design being (approximately) half the size of lead jigs, it really goes through the cover.”
As Surman points out, the Tungsten Flipping Jig’s double weed guards broaden the protective escort without hindering hooksets. Moreover, the head is designed for a vertical fall, which further minimizes entanglement risks.
“It has really changed the way I fish matted vegetation,” Surman said. “We used to never throw a jig in this scenario and now I’m throwing it a lot more.
“Normally, we could only use jigs on the outside of the reeds, saw grass or other cover because it just wouldn’t go any farther. Now, you can throw a jig right into the heaviest cover – even hyacinth. This has opened up a whole new avenue.”
Arrow on Target
Another new grass jig to check out is the JT Kenney Grass Wizard by Nichols Lures. Released at the Bassmaster Classic, this jig features an arrow-shaped, belly-heavy head with an in-line line tie helps the jig sneak in and out of cover.
As Kenney points out, the grass jig delivers in any dense environment, but he’s particularly pleased to finally have a tool that’ll take on the taller, vertical vegetation like reeds, bulrush, tules, etc.
“With a pointy head, the Grass Wizard slides right through to the base of those reeds,” Kenney said. “
So, what’s the benefit? Solid connections, says Kenney. With weight and hook unified in an unyielding form, jigs bring a truckload of efficiency.
“You can catch a lot of fish on a regular punch rig, but your hookup ratio is so much better with a jig,” he notes. “So, if I can get away with throwing a jig over a punch rig, I want to do so, because you hook way more fish and you land way more fish. It’s just such a solid hookset on a jig.”
A tungsten head makes the Witch Doctor Tungsten Flipping Jig smaller than lead jigs of equal weight.
Moreover, jig bites are usually the ones you want.
“A jig is probably the No. 1 big-fish bait in 90 percent of the country,” Surman says. “So if you could ever get fish to bite a jig, you had a great chance to do well in a tournament.”
Kenney agrees: “That’s the beauty of (a grass jig); before a jig would get all messed up (snagged on vegetation). Now, I can fish heavy reeds with grass and junk blown in there. This jig just snakes right through there.”
Kenney also favors a grass jig when the fish are buried in submergent grasses like eel grass or hydrilla. In any case, the ability to bring this type of bait through the salad typically yields big-time responses.
“If wiggles its way right through there and says ‘You can’t touch this’ to the grass!” Kenney said. “It gives the fish a different presentation than they’re used to seeing.”
The Grass Wizard and Tungsten Flipping Jig include keepers to hold your trailer in place while working heavy cover. For aggressive fish, Surman suggests a large-profile trailer with active appendages, like the Gambler Mega Daddy. If the fish shy away from the big-and-bold profiles, he’ll use a smaller Gambler Flappin' Daddy.
“The Mega Daddy has big flappers and big pinchers and the guys on Lake Okeechobee that have been throwing it on the Tungsten Flipping Jig have been catching some giant fish,” Surman reports. “You don’t get a lot of bites with that big trailer, but when you catch one, you’re really going to do good.”