Elite Series professional angler Luke Palmer tells why he likes a football jig for cold-weather fishing and details where and how he uses this bait to catch winter bass.
Football season may be nearing its end, but football jig season for catching largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass is just hitting its stride. Now is the best time of the year to fish a football jig, according to Elite Series bass pro Luke Palmer of Coalgate, Oklahoma. The bass are in their winter haunts, close to the bottom and feeding on crawfish, and a football jig offers the perfect profile and movements for thoroughly working that zone and appealing to those fish.
Palmer spends a lot of winter days with a War Eagle Pro Football Jig tied to his line, so we spoke with him about his total approach.
Prime Football Jig Real Estate
Palmer pointed toward the deep ends of bluffs and channel swing banks as the types of areas he focuses on for fishing a football jig and cited12 to 22 feet as the primary depth range in the Oklahoma lakes he mostly fishes during winter. The most productive areas are typically on the lake’s main body or the far lower ends of major creek arms.
As the year progresses, the bass will work farther into the creeks, and the specific holding areas will get a bit shallower, but the types of spots will remain very similar.
Bottom make-up is a significant factor for this approach because of its importance as crawfish habitat. Palmer looks for rock bottom, favoring craggy, rocky areas and bottoms littered with rocks of various sizes, where the crawfish have plenty of places to hide. He also looks for sand drops and has found that a mix of sand and clay often holds crawfish and consequently bass.
Unlike what is the case with so many bass fishing techniques, given modern technology, Palmer does not necessarily need to see fish on his electronics before he will fish an area with a football jig. The bass often hold very tight to the bottom in this situation and aren’t always visible even with the best electronics, especially if there are a lot of rocks. So, if everything else looks right, Palmer will go ahead and fish, and he’ll let his jig do the fish-finding work.
When Palmer gets bit, he’ll work that area very thoroughly and will study the area by watching his electronics, looking both for fish and for key, distinctive features that create a sweet spot. The fish can get quite concentrated at this time so he’ll repeat productive casts but will continue searching more areas if he doesn’t catch fish.
Football Jig Presentation
“Slow down” and “maintain bottom contact” are points of emphasis when Palmer describes his winter football jig presentation. He’s targeting bass that are holding close to the bottom, feeding on crawfish, and that are winter chilled and therefore not inclined to chase.
After casting, Palmer lets the jig sink to the bottom before doing anything. Then he drags the bait slowly with short, sideway rod sweeps. “Instead of hopping the jig, like you might during summer, it’s more of a sweep, moving the bait 8 to 10 inches with each movement,” he said.
Palmer wants his jig to crawl over every rock and drop between them, to places where crawfish try to hide and bass lurk, and to look like an easy and therefore irresistible meal to the bass.
Winter football jig bites typically are not decisive thumps, Palmer noted, but create more of a mushy feel. “It just feels different,” he said. When something feels different, he reels down to get the line tight and sets the hook with a sweep that pulls the hook into the bass. The hookset is strong but not explosive.
War Eagle Pro Football Jig
Palmer really likes the head design of the new War Eagle Pro Football Jig, which has a bit of a point in the front and differs a bit from most football-stye heads. “It comes through the rocks better, without getting hung, so you can keep it right on the bottom,” he said.
The Pro Football jig sports a medium-heavy 4/O hook that is plenty stout to handle big bass but that achieves the penetration needed even after a long cast. It has a multi-strand weed guard and detailed colors in the skirt
The Pro Football Jig comes 1/2- and 3/4-ounce sizes, each in seven natural colors:
- Black Blue Shiner
- GP Orange Craw
- Green Pumpkin
- Frank’s Blue Craw
- 3D Green Pumpkin
Pro Football Jig Setup
Palmer uses both the 1/2- and 3/4-ounce Pro Football Jig sizes, opting for the heavier one when needed to keep solid bottom contact and maintain a tight line, based on water depth and the amount of wind. He keeps color selections simple, generally favoring Green Pumpkin unless the water is stained, in which case he opts for Blue Black Shiner.
In terms of trailers, Palmer’s most common choice is a YUM Wooly Bug, because of its flat profile and the muted action he prefers when the water is cold. As winter begins giving way to spring, he’ll sometimes turn to a YUM Spine Craw or Christie Craw. For all trailers, he generally sticks with basic Green Pumpkin.
Palmer fishes a Pro Football jig on a Falcon Cara Amistad baitcasting rod, which is 7-feet, 3-inches and has a heavy action. He spools his reel with 16- or 20-pound test Sunline Sniper, going heavier when the rock are extra ragged.