Recently I got a chance to do some dock fishing and decided to try out some new jig heads that I ordered online. The company, B&P Jighead, advertises itself as the “Home of the Tru Set Weedless Ned Rig.” If you’ve read my columns, you know I’ve done a lot of Midwest Finesse fishing recently and have a lot of love for the Ned Rig, named after Lawrence resident Ned Kehde. One of the problems I have with Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ mushroom jig head, though, is that my hooks will often get tangled up in weeds or snagged on structure during retrieves.
I also used some high-visibility Mr. Crappie line so that I could watch the line move as the fish started to take off with it. Typically, when people fish the Ned Rig they use light fluorocarbon leaders so the fish can’t see the line. It may be more of an issue for bass or trout, but the crappie and bluegill I was targeting don’t seem to mind a higher-visibility line, and what it lacks in stealth it makes up for in your ability to detect a strike.
On my first cast, I caught my only bass of the day. If the sun had come out, I probably would have had a lot more, but it was overcast and cold and they weren’t bunched up in the shallows and acting aggressive like they usually are this time of year in this particularly spot. The bait hit the water and slowly fell to the bottom, where it sat a few seconds before the line started to tighten up and move away from me. I set the hook to my right side and reeled quickly, then swung it up on the dock. The only other problem I have with ShroomZ jig heads — I really do like them, as they attract a ton of hits and work great with the TRD — is that I have a lot of fish get off the hook. With the small size of the ShroomZ wire hook, there isn’t much open space between the soft plastic and the hook tip, which I think is part of the problem as it doesn’t allow for a very deep hookset.
With the extra space created by the sickle hook, that isn’t much of a problem. I only had one fish get off, likely another bass, but it threw the hook because there was too much slack in the line. The hooks also are sticky sharp, which helps them stay lodged in the fish’s mouth. A few casts later, after the lure hit the bottom I shook it a bit and got a nice thump from a medium-sized crappie as my line tightened quickly. All I had to do was basically turned my rod clockwise and the hook was set. Also, the Texas style works well with the TRD and other ElaZtech baits because of how durable it is. Other baits might get torn up quickly doing this method as the hook often gets yanked through the plastic, but Z-Man’s plastics are nearly indestructible so you can keep resetting the hook.
I also tried fishing with a Toad Tamer tube jig from Top Secret Jig Co., but a cold front was moving in and the bite slowed quite a bit on plastics, so I switched to nightcrawlers under a bobber and put it out over deep water. The next five fish in a row were all good-sized crappie, and they all had nice, fat bellies on them. After that, I caught several small bluegill that kept swallowing the hook, so when it got dark I decided to head home. I didn’t feel like cleaning fish, so I threw them all back soon after catching them, but I could have had a really good fish fry just off the crappie I caught that day.
Incidentally, a couple days later, I got some of the crappie I’d caught during previous trips out of the freezer and fried them up. The best batch I made was the one I dipped in egg, pepper and a little bit of liquid smoke and then threw in a pan with olive oil and seasoned with lemon zest and lime juice. It came out nice and flaky with a citrus aftertaste that was excellent, sort of a different take on crappie than the typical breaded-and-fried route. And the liquid smoke, though it was subtle, had me licking my lips for an hour with that tasty grilled-fish flavor.
If you’re interested in trying out the B&P jighead, you can check them out at http://www.bpjighead.com. They’ve also got weedless crappie jigheads and shakyheads. If you do a lot of jig fishing near trees or cover that can get easily snagged with regular exposed jig heads, I’d recommend using any of these.