Jigs are one of the hardest baits for beginners to learn how to fish. I think the biggest reason is because of plastic worms. Everyone is brought up bass fishing with plastic worms. They are a great way for a beginner to learn how to bass fish, they are weedless, the do catch a lot of fish, and they come in a giant array of colors and shapes that you can adapt to just about any kind of fishing. When a beginner sets out to learn how to jig fish, the only thing they have to compare the bottom crawling or bumping bait to is a plastic worm. The jig feels a lot different in the water than a plastic worm and it is very hard for a beginner to get over that fact. A beginner that started his/her fishing adventures with a plastic worm and then tries to learn how to fish a jig will always have the same common complaints: a jig is very heavy and sluggish feeling in the water in comparison and just doesnt feel right. So, because it is awkward and feels funny the beginner tends not to stick with it long enough to build up the confidence that will steam roll a die-hard worm fisherman.
Another issue is that a jig just doesnt get the number of bits a plastic worm will, but the bites you do get will be quality. A plastic worm will draw strikes from all sizes of bass from 6 inches and up generating a large quantity of strikes, but a jig very seldom is struck by smaller fish hence you will get fewer strikes. But at the end of the day when everyone is standing at the scales, a 5 fish limit caught on jigs will almost always be heavier than the worm fishermans.
Here are a few tips to help you get started fishing a jig.
First know that it is going to feel different. Most strikes will be a mushy feeling or you will notice your line moving. The reason for this is that 90 percent of the time a strike will occur while your bait is falling. Just like with plastic worm fishing it is very important to pay attention to your line and be in contact with your bait at all times. Very seldom will you feel a tap tap like you would with a plastic worm, it does happen but not often. The reason is that you will be attracting larger fish and even in worm fishing you usually dont feel a tap tap with your larger bites.
No wimpy hook sets. A lot of folks like to let a bass carry a plastic worm for a second or two before they set the hook. This is not the case with a jig; you will want to set the hook as soon as you notice something different. A jig usually has a very stout hook and it will take some power to punch it threw their mouth. Always set the hook up, a sideways sweeping hook set will usually come up empty handed or will result in the fish becoming unbuttoned. When you detect a strike set the hook hard and fast in a vertical direction. Always remember, to quote a friend Hook Sets are free, when learning to fish a jig set the hook anytime you notice your line doing something funny or you feel the slightest pressure. With practice you will learn the difference between a grass stem and a fish but if you dont set the hook on both a few times you will not learn the difference.
Knock Knock. Jigs are most productive around cover. Areas to look for are brush piles, blown down trees, grass lines, boat docks, basically anything a bass can get into and hide or set up in an ambush posture. When fishing a jig you want to cast or pitch right into their home. Get that jig right in their face and knock around in their house a little bit. If they are not hungry you will surely make them mad enough to eat it. Anywhere you would cast a plastic worm is a great place to cast a jig. Once there, let it settle to the bottom then pull it up and hit the cover then let it fall again, repeat this until you convince that fish to strike. When fishing boat docks I like to cast right next to the pylon and let it fall vertical down the side of it. If you are using heavy line (15 or heavier) you may want to feed line to your bait as it falls to prevent a pendulum effect causing your bait to swing away from the pylon. A word of caution though, most strike occur while the bait is falling and if you are feeding line to your bait when this happens you may not detect the strike or if you do by the time you close your bail and set the hook the fish may have already blown the bait out. If this becomes a problem, try down sizing your line or up sizing your bait. By doing either of these you are going to change the rate at which your bait falls and that alone may have been your strike-triggering factor. So pay attention and know what your bait is doing at all times.
Keep it simple. Dont get caught up in the variety game. Nowadays jigs are almost as bad as plastic worms when it comes to variety in color, size and shape. Stick with three basic sizes ¼, 3/8, and ½. These three sizes will get you threw most situations. Over time you will realize that the 3/8-ounce will cover just about all of your applications. During winter months or early spring when the fish are looking for a real slow falling bait (usually anytime other fisherman are using tube baits) you will want to try and use the ¼ ounce but it is very light and staying in contact with structure and cover can become difficult especially if the wind is blowing. You may be thinking that a ¼ ounce bullet weight on a plastic worm would seem a little heavy, but when it comes to a jig you have to take into consideration the skirt. The skirt will cause a lot of drag in the water and a ¼ ounce jig with a standard skirt will fall extremely slow. A 3/8-ounce jig will suit most applications well. It is enough weight to allow you to stay in contact with your cover and structure and it will easily work threw grass, brush piles, and rocks. A mild breeze wont affect this size and it will be the closest to the feel you may be used to with a plastic worm. Now if the breeze gets strong or water currents are strong you may want to go with a ½ ounce to help you maintain contact with your targets. There are specialty jigs out there that weigh as much as 1 ½ ounces but I would not recommend a beginner get involved with these applications.