Hows' It Hang'n
By: John Bacarella
This tip is singularly the most important thing I have learned over the last 10 years of tourney competition.
Your Jig Orientation has to be correct to catch fish.
I grew up fishing primarily with vertical style presentation baits, like banana style jigs. We commonly referred to these as “Moon Glows”, because that's who manufactured them. We also used spoon style baits like jigging spoons and Ken's Hooks. We usually used micro sized snaps designed for fly fishing to attach our baits. About the only time that I used any sort of horizontally hanging baits was when I used Jigging Rapalla's. We used these same snaps for the Rap's as well. All of these baits worked fine using these little snaps. They hung straight and were easy to change. So when I started fishing tourneys, I naturally used the same approach.
The first tourney that I fished was Devil's Lake in Brooklyn, MI. The water was gin clear and so was the 3 inches of ice that we had. The fish were buried deep in the weeds and most of the teams got skunked. We managed to catch a 15 fish limit of super tiny bluegills to squeak into 4th place for a spot in the national Championships. That set the stage for a pretty major butt kicking at the Nationals up in Minnesota. Our vertical style presentation just didn't work there, especially for the deeper water bluegills that we couldn't seem to catch.
As I fished more events, I found that many of the “better” teams were fishing with horizontal jigs like small shad darts or Little Atom Optic jigs. I tried these baits with my snaps, but had very limited success and it took me quite a while to figure out why.
Horizontal jigs must be fished “HORIZONTAL”!!! Sound simple right? But here's the kicker: most of the time they don't hang horizontal naturally. If you use a loop knot or a clip of some kind they will hang consistent, but not necessarily perfectly horizontal. So, what's the answer to getting your jigs to hang just right?
You have to tie direct to the eye of the hook or use an eyeless European style Marmuska style jig. I prefer tying direct. But tying direct only gets you half way there. You also have to pull the knot towards the barb in the hook. This forces the jig to hang horizontal or with the head tipped slightly toward the bottom, a very natural position for a small fish. Ok, that's pretty easy, just tie direct and position the knot. Done!
Hold on now, not so fast. There's a little more to it. That only gets your line down for the first bite of the day. But as soon as you set the hook and roll a fish or catch a fish, the knot will get pulled out of position, down toward the front of the jig. So here is the hardest thing to remember, you must adjust your knot position every time you roll or catch a fish. It's just that simple. If you don't you're not going to catch fish consistently on a horizontal presentation.
Some of you are still going to argue with me and tell me that you have a favorite horizontal jig that catches fish all the time. Yep, so do I and it naturally hangs horizontal with out direct tying. I try to make it a point to check all my new jigs for “balance” as soon as I get them. If they balance nice, I either tie them with a loop knot or rig them with a little snap. But hat's not the norm. Even high priced tungsten jigs won't always hang perfect. So you have to make sure that they are hanging correctly. Tying direct assures that you can adjust how your jig hangs every time.
One of the first things I try to determine at a tourney lake is if the fish prefer a horizontal or vertical presentation. Most of the time, horizontals product bigger fish. But if you don't fish them right, you'll never know how many big fish you're missing out on.