By David A. Brown
Special to BassFan
Everyone knows the jig is a big-fish bait, but how often do anglers fail to take advantage of its potential by slacking on the presentation particulars? FLW Tour pro James Niggemeyer’s a big fan of the technique and while he’s very comfortable pitching jigs to a variety of shallow cover, he follows a disciplined approach to presenting the right look for the situation before him.
Water clarity, temperature, seasonal patterns, forage – all factor into his choice of trailers. He’s not one to overdo it on the options, but Niggemeyer has assembled a lineup that covers his needs with a range of motion and profiles.
Starting with the base unit, Niggemeyer does most of his work with a Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover jig. Here’s his choice for trailers (all Strike King baits).
> Rage Craw: He likes this one for warmer scenarios when the fish are most aggressive, as its relatively slender body and kicking pincher legs put on the type of display that appeals to active fish.
“This not only works to draw fish’s attention to it, but if the water’s dirtier, those legs are kicking out more vibration,” Niggemeyer said. “And, to a degree, it slows the bait down some.”
> Rage Bug: “This is just taking the action down one step,” Niggemeyer said. “It’s still a full-body bait, but the appendages aren’t as thick and when you swim it through the water, they don’t flare out nearly as much, they don’t catch as much water; but they do have a considerable amount of movement.”
Niggemeyer likes this one in similar conditions as the Rage Craw, but when he wants a slightly less boisterous package.
> Rage Menace: For cleaner and a little cooler water, Niggemeyer likes this trailer’s more streamlined form, smaller profile and subtle action.
“In clear water, I think they don’t want a lot of crazy action; they want something that looks natural,” he said. “I think the Rage Menace fits the bill.”
> Rodent (4-inch): When winter ushers in the year’s coldest temperatures, Niggemeyer wants a jig trailer with minimal movement. Here, the Rodent’s heftier body increases water drag for a slower fall, but displays only subtle movement from the thick legs and flappers.
“As the jig falls, the Rodent catches water and flaps on the way down,” Niggemeyer said. “It works in clear water and in dirtier water. When I don’t want a lot of action, it just kind of mimics the lower metabolism of whatever forage is in the water that time of year.”
Notably, Niggemeyer said he’ll either thread the Rodent on to his jig or cut it down and use it like a chunk trailer. In the latter form, leaving two or three segments above the appendages allows him a sufficient pad for pinning the trailer.
When temperature extremes, clear water or high fishing pressure make for a tough bite, Niggemeyer switches to a Strike King Fluorocarbon Flipping Jig. As Niggemeyer notes, this jig’s design features facilitate a less forceful style.
Niggemeyer pairs his Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Jig with (from left) a Rage Craw, Rage Bug, Menace or Rodent.
“The hook is a little smaller, so you can use this jig on fluorocarbon,” he said. “Usually, when you use the Hack Attack Heavy Cover Jig, you’re using braided line for heavier cover. The Fluorocarbon Jig has a medium-wire hook and you don’t need braided line to set the hook, you can use 16- to 20-pound fluorocarbon and be just fine.
“In this scenario, I need fluorocarbon because the water is clearer and I don't’ need such a bulky presentation. That’s when I need the Fluorocarbon Flipping Jig.”
Here, too, Niggemeyer adjusts his trailer selection based on what he’s facing. He also likes the Strike King Rodent, but opts for the 3-inch version for the smaller jig. Likewise, the Rage Bug’s toned-down motion fits the pursuit of moderately-active fish, but Niggemeyer trims off a few body segments so it fits the shorter hook.
Similarly, for a smaller profile with even less action, trimming a Menace yields the right amount of profile and motion. And when colder, clear water calls for a super-subtle look, Niggemeyer uses the 2.75-inch KVD Jr. Chunk.
Narrow the Field
Color selection can become quite an obsession for many anglers, but Niggemeyer keeps it simple
“I probably carry four to six colors in these plastics, but if I could only carry two for jig trailers, I’d carry green-pumpkin and black/blue,” he said. “I think nine out of 10 days, you’re going to be just fine with those.”
If you ask Niggemeyer to minimize his trailer selections, here’s what he’ll tell you: “I would probably take the Rage Craw and Rodent (both sizes). I might be missing some times when I would want something more subtle, but in most situations, I can get by day in and day out.
“But in an effort to take it to the next level and try to find the perfect (look) for that scenario, I add the other trailers to find exactly what the fish want.
“You don’t necessarily have to have all of those trailers to be a good jig fisherman, but I have them because I travel all around the country fishing tournaments and through that I’ve experimented with different things and I’ve seen times when the fish have preferred one over the other. I may catch a fish on one trailer and then think ‘They may like this even better,’ so I’ll try another one and find they don’t like it better.
“So, the key is keeping an open mind and having the thought to experiment. And, in true tournament fashion, you’re never satisfied with being good enough.”