How to Choose Between Jigs and Texas Rigs for Bass

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By the time the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Dardanelle concludes, just about every one of the countless shallow water targets along this sprawling 34,000-surface acre portion of the Arkansas River will have had a jig or Texas rigged soft plastic lure pitched to it at some point.  Choosing between bass fishing Texas rigs and jigs, however, is the tough part.

After slapping a 21-pound, 13-ounce limit of largemouth on the scales Thursday, Quantum pro Greg Hackney graciously shared his wisdom on when to reach for the jig versus the Texas rig, and vice-versa

With a Grizzly Adams beard and a Waylon Jennings sense of independence, Hackney is a very generous teacher of the sport from which he’s won more than $2 million and largely lets time of year guide his choice of lures to pitch with.

Cold water craws call for jigs

“Typically, early in the year, when water temps are still in the 40s and 50s during the prespawn, it’s gonna be a jig,” Hackney said. “When bass first start coming to the bank out of their deeper winter spots, they eat pretty aggressively and are looking for protein in preparation for the spawn. Crawfish are a substantial source of protein and a jig is an outstanding imitation of a crawfish.”

When the spawn is n

“Once the spawn is taking place, they’re not nearly as focused on eating as they are reproducing, so it seems like they prefer baits that are a little smaller, which is when Texas-rigged plastics come into play,” Hackney said.

Asked to choose just one soft plastic lure to Texas rig for the rest of his life, Hackney will roll with a Strike King Rodent, especially if the water is stained or muddy. If he encounters clearer water during the spawn, he’ll choose a 4-inch Strike King Game Hawg in a color like Candy Craw.

He ties both of those lures to 20-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, typically using a 1/4 -ounce tungsten weight and a 7-foot, 6-inch Quantum EXO rod.

A wrecking ball for fry guarders

Once the spawn concludes, it’s back to the jig for Hackney and interestingly enough, often times a very heavy 3/4-ounce jig on thick braided line””even in shallow water. Why such a wrecking ball approach in less than three feet of water? Because, it’s not about the depth””it’s about banging around in branches and laydowns right near the water’s surface.

“During post-spawn, often times the bass are guarding their recently hatched fry right at the water’s surface around laydowns,” Hackney said. “I’ll actually purposely get that big jig hung-up against the branch, creating a disturbance in that thick cover, and that’s when the bass will eat it. When it’s banging against that wood cover, they can’t stand it.”

“You also have a lot of bluegill spawning at about the same time bass are guarding fry. A bluegill is a pretty appealing meal to a bass. In my opinion, a jig does a great job of mimicking that larger profile. I really like to use green pumpkin skirts on my jigs accented by oranges and chartreuse when bluegill are the primary food source.”

When the heat is on

Once the spawn is long gone and sweat begins to run down Hackney’s forearms after each cast in the heat of summer, plastics come back into play, mostly in the form of 10-inch worms in deeper brush piles. But there’s an exception to every bass fishing rule, and he warns that not every bass lives deep in the heat of summer.

When targeting bass in the 18 to 25-foot range, he believes a deep diving crankbait or football jig is often more productive than soft plastics and traditional flipping jigs.

When the days get shorter

“Once that first major cold front hits in the fall and the days become shorter, it seems like jigs in shallow water come back into play again, just like the beginning of the year,” Hackney said. “It’s just a big cycle.”

And thanks to his generous teachings, knowing whether to reach for a skirted jig or a Texas-rigged soft plastic lure becomes a far easier decision””based simply on time of year.