Why Lester chooses a jig in winter

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Alan McGuckin

See the Alabama Rig near Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Lester’s left hand in the photo? It’s the only one he owns.

See the Alabama Rig near Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Lester’s left hand in the photo? It’s the only one he owns. Like literally, he owns one A-Rig, and you’re looking at it. 

And he’s got plenty of proven cold-water crankbaits laying there too. But every lure in the universe plays second fiddle to a jig on the coldest days of winter for the easy-going Tennessee pro who is closing in on $1 million in career earnings after just seven years as a full-time pro. 

“I realize a lot of guys have come to depend on an Alabama Rig in the dead of winter, but we’re not allowed to use it in the Bassmaster Opens or Elites. So there’s no reason for me to get dependent on it when I’m fishing around home at this time of year,” says the Team Toyota pro.  

“And honestly, I believe with all my heart, when you’re throwing a jig at this time of year, you’re giving yourself a shot to catch the biggest fish in the lake,” he says.

Bringing the heat with the Z Train

His recent appearance on Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show epitomizes this point. The air temp was 18 degrees the day they filmed on Dale Hollow Lake, water temps were 42 and dragging a football jig brought the heat on quality fish more than any other lure the two tied on.

“We could catch fish on a Ned rig that day, and probably could have caught some on a crankbait too. But the football jig was hands-down the key to Zona and I catching all our bigger fish,” he recalls. 

Biggest bass of Lester’s life

However, Lester’s proof of a jig’s frigid-water prowess is certainly not limited to his day filming with Zona. Each New Year’s Eve, he and a good buddy make a trip to Nickajack Lake – and it was on that tradition-rich trip last year that Lester believes he caught the biggest bass of his life – on a jig of course.

“I had just gotten a brand new boat. We didn’t even have my graphs mounted yet, let alone have a scale in the boat. I caught a 7-pounder first on a jig, and then I caught one that I know was over 10 pounds, which would easily make it the biggest bass of my life,” says Lester.

Callin’ bull on hibernating crawfish

While schools of shad, and specifically, the weak and dying specimens within the school, often become the focal point of the bass’ cold-weather dinner menu, crawdads remain a major player too. Lester simply doesn’t buy the dormant crawdad theory. “I’ve had guys tell me crawdads are so dormant in winter that they aren’t a factor for bass. That’s absolute bull! I’ve caught way too many bass in 45-degree water with crawdad pinchers sticking out of their gullets to ever rule out a jig,” he says emphatically.