The eyes have it

Nowhere in bass fishing is realism more important than with the Damiki rig. Canadian Elite Series pro Jeff Gustafson agrees. He has been fishing a Damiki rig, which he calls moping, for nearly 15 years.

The essence of this presentation is to hang a Damiki bait vertically a few feet above the bass and to hold it dead still. The bass swims up to the bait and takes as much time as it wishes to closely inspect it. If the lure doesn’t pass muster, the bass rejects it. But if the bait looks like the real deal, the bass engulfs it.

Plain lead jigs and even jigs painted in a single color lack the realism needed to dupe bass consistently. Gustafson dotes on two highly detailed, lifelike jigheads that sport multicolor paint jobs and prominent eyes. Since the eyes are the most obvious feature on any minnow or baitfish, it is possible that the realistic eyes on these jigs may be the final inducement that convinces a bass to bite.

Northland’s Slurp Jig Head in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes has long been his mainstay for Damiki rigging. It comes in patterns that mimic a variety of baitfish and has two wire keepers on the hook’s shank to hold soft plastic baits firmly in place. The hook’s line eye protrudes out the top of the jig’s head, thanks to a 90-degree bend.

“You need a 90-degree hook eye so the bait hangs vertically,” he said. “Most swimbait jigheads have a 60-degree eye for swimming retrieves. They don’t work for this technique.

The Smeltinator Jig from Bass Tactics, which boasts a 90-degree hook and realistic 3D eyes, is another player for Gustafson. He matches both jigs with the 3.75-inch Z-Man StreakZ or the 4- or 5-inch Z-Man Jerk ShadZ.

“I’ve tried a lot of different baits,” he said. “The Z-Man baits are the best because they’re made from buoyant plastic. That helps the bait hang in a natural vertical posture.”

Not just for winter

Although Damiki rigging is generally regarded as a wintertime tactic, Gustafson claims he catches bass on it in the summer and fall in Canada. He also did well on big bass with it while fun fishing Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga in the month of June.

“I was fishing ledges 18 to 22 feet deep with a 3/4-ounce Slurp Jig and a 5-inch Z-Man Jerk ShadZ,” he said. “I caught more bass than my buddy did. He was fishing a drop-shot rig.”