To a lot of people across the Southeast, the arrival of September means high school and college football, and you can count me in that number. I am a football fanatic. As it turns out, I’m a fan of footballs that never see the gridiron; in the fall, I love to fish football-style jigs for bass.
Not many people think about fishing a football jig in September; it’s a great bait in the spring, but it’s not often thought of when it comes to fishing in the fall. Here’s why I like it.
In September, I’ve found that crawfish are starting to mill around a lot more. They’re digging around, getting ready to bury up, and they’re the biggest crawfish I see all year. That’s when I’ll dig out a football-head jig. I fish a Texas-rigged worm in July and August, but when September rolls around, I switch to that jig.
I see crawfish around rocks, so I target them. It depends on the lake, and really, on the year you’re fishing, because crawfish may relate to different types of rock. It could be riprap, pebbles, river-stone rock, slate, chunk rock, and at Murray and Clarks Hill, there’s a lot of white rock on points. You can fish all of them, and when it becomes apparent which kind of rock the crawfish are using, that’s half the battle. The other half is figuring out how deep they’re holding.
What I notice is that along with seeing really big crawfish, I see them mostly in reds, browns and blacks, so those are the color combinations I’ll use. I’ll use black/red, brown/red, black/brown — one of those combinations. I’ll fish a Buckeye football jig with a soft-plastic crawfish trailer, and they’ll be those colors.
While I normally fish a jig with a living-rubber skirt, if the water is really clear or the crawfish and bass seem to be shallow, I’ll tie on a VMC swimming rugby head jig that doesn’t have a skirt. I’ll fish it with a plastic trailer, a 4-inch Yamamoto Kreature. I think that gives the bait a smaller profile, and often, that works — even when I’d rather be fishing a bigger bait.
I’m fishing a 3/8- or ¾-ounce jig, and I’m typically casting it — not long casts, but more like long pitches — because the longer a cast you make fishing a jig, the harder it is to get a good hookset. The fish get a lot better leverage on you if you don’t get a good hookset. On those white rock points on Clarks Hill and Murray, they tend to be flatter places, so I might make a longer cast on those, but normally, it’s the length of an extra-long pitch.
I like to keep that jig right on the bottom. I’ll make a cast, hold my rod out to the side and drag the jig along the bottom the way you drag a Carolina rig. The jig will stay on the bottom, and it might hang up a little on a rock, then pop off, and when it bounces off or pops up, you’ll sometimes get a reaction bite, and that’s a good deal.
I’m not fishing in heavy cover; I don’t need to get the bait back through brush or grass where I need heavy tackle. I’ll fish a football jig on a 7-foot, medium-action Bass Pro Shops Carbonlite rod with 14-pound XPS fluorocarbon spooled on a Basss Pro Shops Johnny Morris signature series reel.
Now, remember that I’m looking at fishing from the viewpoint as a tournament fisherman. In the fall, you might be able to go out with a Senko and catch more fish, but if you can get six or seven bites a day on a football jig, you’re going to have a pretty good stringer of bass to weigh in.
So when you hear the marching band playing on Friday nights or start to see cars and trucks waving school flags or colors on the highway on Saturday mornings headed toward a stadium somewhere, know that it’s time to break out a football jig. It’s a time of year and a bait that I really love to fish. I just wonder if I’d love it if they called it a volleyball jig.