"Jigging" for Big Snook
It seems in recent years the old faithful "flairhawk" has emerged from the dead and become one of the most popular baits used to chase large snook that we have in our area. There are so many different companies that make them in our state that it's really senseless to debate over who makes the best jig. The jig is only as good as the angler who uses it. And usually the difference in success is determined by the color of the jig, the location, and the retrieve used.
The first topic I am going to cover is the color selection of the lure. Before I start I would like to say that fishing a color you have confidence in is a huge factor in being successful. With that being said the basic color selection rules I'm stating based on my experiences may be able to help you find a bite when your "go-to" color isn't getting it done. I have paid very close attention to the water/weather conditions in correlation to the color jig that gets bit and there are three things that determine what color I'm tying on when I pull up to the pass. The first condition is water clarity. You'll notice a ton of people love and rely on a chartreuse based jig pattern in our area. You'll also notice that most of the summer our passes have very cloudy and murky water due to the rain run off, strong winds, and fast moving current. The correlation here is that when the water is murky you want to throw something that will show up. A chartreuse or pink color pattern is my go-to when visibility is low. On the contrary when the water is cleaner you will find more success throwing something a little more translucent like a white haired jig. I believe that when throwing a jig in clear water, the bright and very solid colors are much too bold and unrealistic and I've seen first hand the difference in bites when switching from a bold color to something more transparent in these situations. Another pattern I've noticed is related to the surrounding light. For instance if you're fishing on a shadow line on a full moon or well lit bridge you will usually have more success throwing a very solid color. The thought behind this is that as the light shines down on a solid colored jig it casts a very obvious silhouette. This is mainly for when fishing shadow lines and retrieving towards the top of the water column. The fish sit down below and look up into the light waiting to ambush baits as they come through. I commonly will throw a black or very dark colored jig in this situation. And the very last color pattern rule is the oldest one in the book. "Match the Hatch", a statement that most any artificial fisherman has heard and more than like implemented into their technique. Although it doesn't always work, I've been on bites that have proved all my above statements wrong when matching the hatch. For instance I have been fishing a well lit shadow line with a darker jig that usually produces and watched snook after snook let it roll right above their eyes without even acknowledging its presence. This was because the snook were keyed in and feeding solely on the shrimp that were flushing through. Seeing this I tied on a pink and white colored jig and ended up catching multiple good fish. The ultimate goal is to keep a mental note of the many different bites you've been on and try to remember what color you were throwing when you got on good fish in similar conditions before.
The second determining factor is location. I'm not necessarily referring to a "honey hole" or a "secret spot" even though they are great to have no doubt. I'm more referring to being able to imagine why fish are where they are and being able to catch fish in a pass or on a jetty while other people are fishing with no success in the same general area. Reading the water and conditions can be the difference in having an all on bite or walking home tired with nothing to show for it. However its usually the difference in finding a bite or two. Being that snook are an ambush predator the obvious locations to find them are near structures. They are going to use these structures for multiple reasons. One being that they will be hiding themselves from the bait they wish to eat and the other is that they will be conserving their energy by sitting behind structure to alleviate the effects of the current. Usually these types of situations are created by bridge pilings, docks, or rock structure. That type of bite in my opinion is a very short lived one due to the size of the area the fish are sitting in. Areas to look for that may hold enough to fish to create a sustained bite are ledges or rolling bottom. These two bottom structures can be much larger and able to hold many more fish while also creating pockets in the current for the snook to take cover and ambush from. These areas are usually harder to find because of the lack of physical evidence of them. Without bottom machine it is hard to understand what the bottom may be like. A giveaway to look for when searching for these changes in depth is turbulent water and waves or eddies in the current. When there is a sudden change in wave pattern that is usually due to a sudden change in depth. The same can be said for big eddies or swirls in the water. Once you figure out how the fish want the jig presented through these areas try and replicate it to produce multiple fish.
The third key to being successful in jig fishing is learning how to retrieve the bait for different scenarios. There are a few different popular styles of retrieves that people use. I prefer "jigging" a lot of people like to "stop n' go" and there are people who use a "steady" retrieve. The steady retrieve is exactly what it sounds like it should be, you let the jig get to the desired depth and then you wind in a consistent speed that keeps the lure in the strike zone. Many of great snook fishermen use this method and there are times when I do as well. I find it to be effective in a little shallower water and in slower moving current. The second method ill speak on is my preferred method, jigging. This method requires you to have to be able to feel your lure at all times so you know the instant it touches the bottom. To perform this method you usually would cast a little up current and keep your line tight until you feel the jig hit the bottom. From there you would give the rod a quick snap up which would pull the lure back up into the current where it would in theory drift down current through the strikezone. This method is great for keeping the lure in the strikezone for an extended period of time. The third retrieve is the stop and go. This method is similar to the steady retrieve but it includes some pauses which allow the jig to dive back down to the bottom. This method is great for covering a lot of water or for covering water that is moving too fast to get a good feel for the bottom. When fishing areas that are required to cast a very long distance to reach the desired area I find this method more successful than the others.
These principles I've noticed while jig fishing are not by any means the only way to jig fish. But if you're looking to give a flairhawk a shot or just looking to add another technique into your arsenal then maybe this will help you in the right direction. Remember to be confident and remain patient.
Written by Adam Stephany