When it comes to retrieving a jig, whether he's casting, pitching or flipping it, Long usually likes to "scratch" the bottom, inching the bait over, around and through the best cover he can find. The late Bill Murphy, himself a legendary trophy bass angler, once told Long, "You know you're in a good spot if you're losing lures."
"On a good trip when I'm fishing a jig around cover, I'll lose 15 or 20 jigs a day," Long admits. "That's just the price you pay for getting your lure where the bass are, and if you're not willing to make that kind of commitment, maybe trophy bass fishing isn't for you."
When you're crawling the bottom with a jig, you're almost certainly emulating a crawfish. For Long, knowing the available types and colorations of the crawfish in the area he's fishing is very important. You want your bait to be realistic, and with more than 300 species of crawfish in the United States alone, it can be a challenge.
"Where I do most of my fishing," Long says, "there are two types of craws that I try to imitate. I'm not sure of their scientific names, but I call them 'creek craws' and 'cold water craws.' The creek craws have a red tint and will hibernate in cold weather. The cold water craws are larger — almost like a mini-lobster — and they're turquoise in color. I try to match their color based on the seasons and their molting patterns. Purples and browns are my fundamental colors much of the year, but I'll go to black in dirty water to get better contrast. In the spring, I use a lot of green, but go darker when I'm fishing deep water."
Because bass can be very specific about their feeding preferences and often narrow their forage to one particular option, Long can be just as particular about matching the hatch. A lot of his focus on color, however, goes out the window during the spawn when he's targeting a big female on a bed. Then he typically opts for a white or black jig.
"If the bottom's dark, I like a white jig; and if the bottom's light, I use a black jig," he says. "I want as much contrast as possible so I can see the bait and know what it's doing at all times. And I always use a jig with a rattle when I'm sight fishing. I want them to hear the bait as well as see it."
For more on how Mike Long uses jigs to catch trophy bass, check out this video.
When Gary Yamamoto introduced the Senko more than a decade ago, he inadvertently created a new lure category (the stickworm) and gave Mike Long one of his best tools for catching monster bass.
"I love fishing big Senkos," Long says. "My favorite is the 7-inch model in green pumpkin with red flake. It's extremely lifelike and effective all year long."