Ike: My secret Sturgeon Bay bait

Sturgeon Bay smallies get finicky just like they do everywhere else.

We’re looking at Sturgeon Bay for our Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the nation. That doesn’t mean that the sky will be perfect, the wind will be just right and the fish will be feeding with abandon, though. Sturgeon Bay smallies get finicky just like they do everywhere else.

If that happens, there’s a technique that’s been making the rounds the past few years that we ought to talk about. It originally came from Canada, but now it’s being used by a lot of savvy American smallmouth anglers. I guarantee you it’ll be used by some of us on Sturgeon Bay next week.

We call it The Black Hair. In reality it’s nothing more than an old-fashioned marabou jig worked real slow.

This technique comes in only one color — pure black. And, pretty much any size will do so long as your jig is no heavier than 1/8 ounce. (Actually, it’s usually better if it’s between 1/32 and 1/8 of an ounce.)

Of course, you must have the right tackle and rigging to be successful. I’ll first tell you what I think you need and why you need it. Then I’ll give you my specific choices. From there you can make your own decisions.  

There are tons of good black marabou jigs around. Make sure yours has lots of loose, free-flowing hair so you get plenty of soft movement. It’ll also need to be armed with a really good hook. We’re going to be using light tackle. You need a good hookset. I fish with a VMC jig.

Spinning tackle is the only way to go. Long casts are a necessity. A long, flexible rod and a reel with a big spool is a must. My choice is a 7-1/2 foot Abu Garcia model that I designed just for this type of fishing. I also use an Abu reel — their 40 series. It has a super big spool which helps me get more distance.

My reel is spooled with 10 or 15-pound-test braid. I attach a short, 6-pound-test fluorocarbon leader to the braid. Somewhere around 2 or 3 feet should be about right. Every now and then, if the cover or structure is especially nasty, I’ll go up to 8-pound-test. This line combo gives me plenty of casting distance and strength. I do retie frequently, however. I don’t want to lose a good fish because my leader broke.

I make long casts and let the jig float down to the bottom. It’s important to use the lightest jig possible. A slow fall is critical. Once it hits the bottom I let it sit for a few seconds and then pull it up so that it can float back down. Do this all the way back to the boat. Sometimes they follow it for a ways before it gets the better of them.

You can fish this thing anywhere you would any other lure. If the water’s shallow, look for dark places, rocks, boulders and any kind of transition edge. If the water’s deep, try breaks, drops and ledges.

If the hair on your jig gets matted, or if you think you need to push the hair out a little more, put a 1/2-inch section of black worm on the shank of the hook.

Give The Black Hair a try the next time you’re having trouble getting brown bass to bite. It’s inexpensive and seriously effective.

Mike Iaconelli’s column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website,