Go into any fishing tackle store and you’ll confront an overwhelming variety of lures. There are crankbaits, spinnerbaits, top waters, poppers, plastic lizards, creature baits, and spoons—oh, my!
Beginning anglers might feel a bit like a preperestroika Soviet shopper suddenly dropped into an American mega-mart. Where to start with such a variety when your choices previously were limited to crickets and red worms?
Starting small, simply, and inexpensively with your initial choice of artificial baits is a wise course. That’s why the first lure in your tackle box should be a lead-head jig rigged with a curly-tailed grub.
This versatile lure imitates a variety of critters that fish love to eat. Bounce it slowly along the bottom and it can imitate a crayfish, underwater bug, or tasty minnow. Or reel it in slowly and let the tail flutter like a fleeing morsel.
The jig’s versatility makes it effective in a variety of settings, including streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes. This bait can catch a cornucopia of fish ranging from bluegill to
bass to crappie and walleye.
The jig is simply a fishhook with a ball of lead at the end. The eyelet is turned up so the point of the hook rides upward instead of pointing down when you fish with it. The exposed point makes it easier to hook fish, although jigs tend to hang up easily. However, the thin wire hooks of these jigs bend readily, making them easier to recover.
The grub, which resembles a first-grader’s thumb with a curl on the end, is made of soft plastic. To rig this bait, simply push the head of the grub through the hook point and thread through the center of the body to the lead.
Grubs come in a variety of colors and sizes. Stick to 3-inch grubs initially. Start with pumpkinseed and white, and then expand your color palette to black, lime green, and chartreuse as you gain experience.
Pay a little extra for scented baits. Plain grubs will catch fish, but they’re like cheese pizzas on a buffet. While some people will eat them, more will go for the pizza with extra toppings.
A 1/8-ounce jig is good for many situations. Toss your bait downstream of riffles in a stream, work it along rocky shorelines of lakes, or swim it past submerged logs or the edges of weedbeds.
A trip to the tackle store need not be overwhelming. Start with a basic jig—and catch some fish.
DAVE BAKER is editor of Kentucky Afield magazine, with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Visit www.kyafield.com or call (800) 858- 1549 for more information.