My wife hates facial hair, but there's a good reason I haven't shaved in several days. First, she's had the bronchial flu crud for the past three weeks. Second, I shunned the razor in support of densely bearded defensive end Brett Keisel and his Steeler teammates as they continued to score wins en route to the Super Bowl.
Brett Keisel and my wife aside, it's 10 degrees with 13 inches of snow outside. Roads are impassable. Single-day snowfall records are being set this week in the Midwest. Winter is a hairy place — hairy like a hair jig or the bristly pork fat trailers cold weather bass anglers hang on them.
I'll never forget walking up to Mike Iaconelli's boat on the eve of the unusually cold 2010 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Ala. There was a sense of desperation among the world's best anglers that evening, but Ike had a plan. He was tying on a white hair jig his buddy Chris had hand-tied for him back in Jersey.
"When all else fails, I'll throw fur at them on 6-pound line with a 7-foot, 4-inch spinning rod. The longer rod helps you launch the super-lightweight lure a little further," said the 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Long-time Quantum pro Gerald Swindle agrees that hair has its place in winter.
"I've spent a lot of winter days throwing hair jigs on Smith Lake here in Alabama," said Swindle. "When water temps are in the 40s and there's a finicky winter bite, they'll still eat a 1/8-ounce hair jig thrown on 8-pound Vicious line. Bass want something extremely subtle this time of year, and a hair jig has very little action. That's why it works," he explained.
Like Ike, Swindle favors spinning tackle to help him throw light hair jigs on light line. "I use a Quantum Tour Edition spinning reel, and — don't tell Shaw (Grigsby) — I'm pretty fond of that 6-foot, 10-inch blue-colored Tour Edition spinning rod he designed," joked Swindle, who became one of the first-ever winners of BoatUS Angler's "Weigh-to-Win" cash when he won the Bassmaster Southern Open last month on Florida's Kissimmee Chain.
If you're uncomfortable with casting or being able to feel the bite with the super light 1/8-ounce versions Ike and Swindle prefer, go a tad heavier with baitcasting equipment. I've had success dragging around 1/4-ounce hair jigs dressed with Uncle Josh Phantom Finesse pork craws on 12-pound line. I rely on Quantum's super-smooth and lightweight Smoke reels to make casting and skipping these lightweight lures much easier.
Winter is not going to let up anytime soon. Lightweight hair jigs will remain fashionable for those living where the climate permits us to fish frigid but unfrozen waters. Just don't count on my beard reaching Grizzly Adams or Brett Keisel status. My mom told me she thinks it looks terrible, and my wife is finally feeling better.