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Finesse Hair Jig Smallmouth Bass | Best Rod Setup

Hair jigs catch just about every fish that swims, but there are a lot of design differences based on the target species and time of year. Wisconsin-based pro, Cody Hahner, discusses hair jigs for northern smallmouth bass: when to use and how to fish them, jig specifics, and the best rod, reel and line setup to get maximum performance from this lightweight offering.


Unlike the Preacher jigs of the south, small maribou hair jigs are more akin to flies and excel for springtime and early summer smallmouth. In particular, Hahner loves using them when prespawn smallmouth are cruising shallow flats in search of bedding sites. While you can argue they resemble natural forage: insects, leeches, crawfish, and even minnows, Hahner feels it’s their super-sneaky presence and almost floating appearance that perks smallmouth curiosity and generates bites.

Small jigs in the 1/32- to the 1/8-ounce range are at the opposite end of the spectrum from power fishing. Similarly, flinging lightweight offerings a country mile requires specialized gear. Hahner shares his go-to rod, reel, and line setup for max casting distance and line invisibility (lighter than you think!). As he notes, long casts are essential on the ultra-clear and heavily pressured waters of the Great Lakes (boat shy fish) and other northern natural lakes. Smallmouth will often follow the bait a long distance before striking, so you increase your odds with a long rod, large spool spinning reel, and light braided line. Are you still fighting it to get the bait out there on a cast? Hahner recommends adding a chunk of a Senko. You get added weight and scent trail without negatively impacting the bait action.