The Great Jig and Minnow Migration in Bass Fishing

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So there is a subtle movement in bass fishing right now that is picking up a lot of steam and honestly the nomenclature around it is getting to be a little nuts and just mudding the water so to speak. But the jig and minnow bass fishing soft plastics and forward facing sonar effectiveness is undeniable now. And more and more big events are getting won now with what most of us old timers would call a crappie jig.

But guys are calling it everything from Damiki Rigging, Moping, now Cindy Rigging, and just plain-old Crappie Jigging. So I am going to shed a bunch of light on it and make several cases for why it’s becoming the norm in bass fishing especially in competitive fishing circles. And I’m going to reference a lot of history and past pieces and fishing tournaments as well as ones that just happened a week or two ago to explain it all as succinctly and make the case for why you need to hone your skills with these finesse jig and minnow options.

damiki rig original

Damiki Rigging history

I was keyed into the Damiki Rig back in 2012 or 2013. I had fished with some guys on highland reservoir impoundments who were mopping up fish just vertical fishing with small plastics on a ball head. The rig was deemed the Damiki Rig because Damiki made the best and pretty much only little plastic, the Damiki Armor Shad, that the smallmouth and spotted bass on these clear fisheries wanted to eat with any regularity in the winter.

As the water got colder and the bite got tougher, the Damiki rig seemed to catch them better. What was different about it was that you just dropped the bait down on 2D sonar and sort of held it there. Maybe you would lift it slowly and let it back down slowly or just shake it in place a little, but usually that was just to get a fish that had eased up that you saw on sonar to do more than just look at it.

It was a do-nothing approach that fit the ultra-slow metabolisms of winter bass in deeper water. And it was a great way to catch a variety of fish just straight up and down vertical fishing.

ice out smelt imitator gussy

Moping History with Gussy back to 2011

Most folks know by now that Gussy won the Bassmaster Classic tournament on the Tennessee River in Knoxville in 2023 basically fishing a similar Damiki rig that he calls a moping rig. Which was a Z-Man Jerk Shadz on a Jighead.

The Damiki rig purists got terribly upset that they were saying Gussy was Damiki rigging even though he wasn’t using a Damiki Armor Shad. But he also wasn’t just letting his bait sit their under the boat with the do-nothing approach. He was pitching out to fish, dropping it down in front of them and letting it go all the way to the bottom and then getting them to react on the bottom. He was doing what he calls just “moping around” looking for fish to pitch and drop on. Not exactly the same thing as Damiki rigging and using it with a bit bigger head and plastic.

I chuckled a little about the naysayers, because no offense to my friends that love Damiki rigging, but crappie guys have been catching crappie like this since the 1990s on Bobby Garland Baby Shads. Literally the exact same way bass guys fish a bit fancier plastics for bass with a Damiki rig.

Truth be told, we featured an article with Gussy back in 2012 on his Smelt imitator he always slayed big smallmouth on up in Canada and Lake Erie right at ice out. He had told us about it at a media event in 2011, and we got our freelancer to do a piece with him in 2012. It was a very cool technique he used with basically a jighead and soft minnow jerkbait plastic hopping and bouncing it around to imitiate dying smelt. But it was before I had really been introduced to the more finesse version of Damiki rigging.

jenko fry daddy catching big bass

Crappie Jigging at Wally Expo on Table Rock

Fast forward a few years ago when Wally Marshall was having his 2020 Crappie Expo and championship on Table Rock Lake. The weather was brutal at the event with cold rain making fishing tough on the competitors.

A couple of the Jenko fishing pros, Tony Sheppard and Kevin Rogers, were fishing with the larger Big T Fry Daddy crappie jig on a 1/8-ounce Jenko Warhead in practice and said they couldn’t keep the 2 to 4-pound spotted bass off their baits. They told me on some of the brush piles, they would get that jig down to depth, wind it over the pile, and 3 to 4-pound spots would come drill it. Sheppard said one of the days he probably had 5 limits of spots doing that.

I remember checking the bass fishing reports and nobody was catching any bass to speak of and here the crappie guys were slaying the bass on forward facing sonar and 3-inch crappie baits. Now all the Jenko bass guys (and myself included) keep a bunch of Jenko Fry Daddys and Warheads in the boat for finessing on livescope.

hover strolling a basstrix flash trix

Hover strolling

This year we featured a piece on Hover strolling as that was a big player in some early spring tournaments and it was gaining a lot of ground as it had been a quiet secret for a few years in the finesse circles. Hover strolling was another minnow plastic with a jig hook and a nail weight in place of a jighead to give the jig and minnow offering a different weight balance and then it was fished with pops of the rod tip.

Some guys would jerk it and let it flutter down. Other guys would just straight reel and incorporate a non-stop rhythm of small rod tip shakes or pops as they reeled it, and the bait simply shimmies back and forth much like a small swimbait but more natural without a big flutter tail flopping around in the back.

It proved to be a dynamite way to trick spots and smallmouths, and I had a fun time whooping up on some smallmouths this spring with it.

cindy rig great lakes finesse luke palmer

Cindy Rigging Smallmouths

A few weeks ago Luke Palmer finished second and was leading going into the final morning of the Bassmaster Elite Series event on St. Clair. He caught his big bag on what he called the “Cindy Rig” with a Great Lakes Finesse Drop Minnow on a Great Lakes Finesse Stealth Ball Jig.

The rig was showed to him by the owner of Great Lakes Finesse, Dan Miguel, who recently caught a record limit of smallmouth on the St. Lawrence. He actually coined the phrase the Cindy Rig because the incredible Great Lakes angler that took him under his wing as a kid and taught him about finesse fishing for big smallmouth had put the Drop Minnow on the Stealth Ball jig and gave it to his wife, Cindy, to just cast around while he sight-fished for smallmouth up front. Before long, his wife Cindy was whooping his butt with the minnow and jig rig. And thus it came to be known as the Cindy Rig.

Palmer was casting to fish he saw on his forward facing sonar and then just straight reeling the jig and minnow above the fish to get them to come up and react. No action. Just a straight reel. The tail on the little Drop Minnow is a ball and it shimmies on a slow steady retrieve and that was enough to get the big smallmouth to commit on day three for Palmer to take the overall lead going into the final day.

The conditions worsened on the last day, and Palmer’s fish never setup the same again. But on day three it was the best way to catch the best string in those sunny calm conditions.

jig and minnow smallmouth bass

Why is the Jig and Minnow taking over now

While I mentioned that crappie fishermen have been catching giant crappie on do-nothing minnow plastic shapes on ball heads for decades, the stouter jigheads and more refined plastics have brought it to be a major player in bass fishing circles.

With the advent of forward facing sonar and the increased pressure on fish that has created because, frankly, we are finding all the same fish now, the need to implement ultra natural realistic profiles and actions comes as no surprise. We are definitely seeing times where color, less action, even just a more subtle hue or matte colored bait matters more in catching and not catching. Especially on ultra clear fisheries with very wise old big fish.

We all love to power fish. Every bass fishermen does. But honing your skills with these finesse presentations and ultra realistic lures is going to matter more in bass fishing, especially in competitions. Heck I have it on good authority that the College National Championship on Pickwick was won on a form of jig and minnow combination and forward facing sonar. So it’s been a major player in 2023 in major tournaments of all levels, and we see no signs that it won’t continue to be more dominant and evolve even more with new offerings and ways to present them.

minnow jig options for bass

My Favorite Jig and Minnow Combinations for Bass Fishing

So if you don’t know where to start with all of this, I thought I’d take a few minutes and lay out a few of my favorite jig and minnow bass fishing combos I’ve used and caught fish on this year and years past as well as other recommendations I’ve gotten on these setups from my personal network of solid sticks in bass fishing. So here’s a good list to get you started, and let me know if you have a dynamite combo that we missed!

These are the baits in the first photo starting top left and down then top right and down: