With so much fishing pressure on our lakes these days, lots of bass fishermen regularly downsize their baits; it’s become an accepted way to catch finicky fish. The same goes with clear-water situations. Clear water and small baits just go together.
October brings that double-whammy to fishermen across South Carolina. The bass in our lakes have been hit in the head by lures since February, and as dry as our summer was (except for the areas affected by Hurricane Irene), there are a lot of lakes with extremely clear water.
So even I’m thinking about downsizing what I’m throwing, only you know that doesn’t mean trading in what I’ve usually got tied on for a little compact spinnerbait like a Roostertail or a 4-inch worm.
When I scale down the size of my baits, I want to throw something that I’m comfortable with and have confidence with. Most of you that know anything about me know that a jig is my favorite bait, and a Buckeye Mop Jig is my favorite jig. I’ve probably won more money fishing a jig than any other bait; out of the $2 million I’ve won the BASS and FLW tours, a jig was involved in about 75 to 80 percent of that.
So I was thrilled when Buckeye came out with its Mini-Mop Jig this year. It was actually introduced at the ICAST show, but I’ve had some and have been throwing them for about a year. It is a perfect bait for me when I want to fish a jig but know that I have to downsize because of conditions.
The Mini-Mop Jig has a living rubber skirt, just like the big one. The living rubber is smaller in diameter — everything is smaller, but it’s the same design, just more compact. I’m using the quarter- and 3/8ths-ounce models, with a smaller plastic chunk for a trailer. It makes for a great combo in the fall when you have clear water and need a scaled-down bait.
By the end of October, fish are as pressured as they’ve been all year. The fishing pressure is tremendous from February and March until about mid-October, then it slacks off as people — like me — start to pick up a rifle and a shotgun more often. But even though October can be a tough month for a bass fisherman, you can still catch quality fish.
I’ll still fish topwater baits in October as search baits, but I’ll fish a jig a lot more than I did in September because I’m interested in getting those quality bites.
Years ago, spider jigs were seen as sort of a “finesse” jig. We went through that spider jig phase, and it was really big, but the skirts on those baits were plastic, and I’m a big believer in living-rubber skirts. Sometimes, I’ll trim back the skirts on bigger Mop Jigs, but on the Mini-Mop Jig, I don’t have to, because the bait has a smaller profile and is more compact, anyway. The fibers are smaller in diameter and a little shorter, and I like it fine just the way it comes out of the package.
One thing bears remembering: when you scale down the size of lure you’re fishing, you need to scale down the size tackle you’re using. Just because that big flipping stick says “jig” on it, doesn’t mean you have to use it. I tell a lot of people at fishing shows that scaling down means scaling down your baits, the size of your line, the strength of your rod.
The Mini-Mop Jig has a smaller hook, so I fish it on 15-pound Trilene Fluorocarbon instead of the 20-pound test I use on the bigger Mop Jig. I’ll use a 6½-foot All-Star rod, medium or medium-heavy action, instead of that heavy, longer rod. You want a slightly lighter action in your rod.
You don’t need to change colors, but that’s about all. Keep the browns and blues and green pumpkins that you use in the bigger models. And keep pitching and flipping them into the same places. Just know that you might have the perfect antidote for the clear water and fishing pressure that has fish turning their noses up at a lot of offerings.