Winter fishing with a micro jig

The skirted jig has long been a mainstay for bass anglers. I remember in the ‘80s watching Denny Brauer, Dee Thomas and Lonnie Stanley hammering bass with them. Thanks to innovations over the ensuing decades, we have a wide variety of skirted jigs to choose from today.

A relatively new category of skirted jig is what I call the micro jig. It is an ultra-light, ultra-small finesse jig that you have to throw with spinning tackle. It has become a staple for me during the winter months.

A micro jig measures 2 inches or less, has a fine, sparse skirt and is typically built around a No. 1 or 2 hook. It is also light, from 1/16 to 3/16 ounce.

The bass lie on the bottom in the coldest months. They don’t chase, and they don’t prey on big forage. They eat small stuff that’s easy to catch. That includes little crayfish, bottom dwelling minnows like darters and nymphs and insect larvae. A micro jig can imitate all of those things.

Better than a Ned rig

A Ned rig is a great cold-water bait. A micro jig is even better. Look at the Ned rig. It’s a short, stubby piece of plastic that scoots around over the bottom. Most of the plastic baits you put on a Ned rig are motionless. When you stop the bait it just doesn’t do anything. But the skirt on a micro jig continues to breath when I pause the bait. That’s why it gets the nod over the Ned rig.

I never fish a micro jig without a trailer. Under the coldest, toughest conditions, I want a thin, no-action trailer. My favorite is a 4-inch Berkley Powerbait Max Scent The General. When I fish this bait in warmer seasons, I save the ones I’ve ripped up. I use the back inch and a half of those baits as a trailer for my micro jigs. It gives the jig more bulk but has no action. However, the skirt still moves subtly when I stop the bait.

Winter bass get more active after two or three days of relatively mild weather. Under those conditions, I want a little action on the back of the jig. A lot of companies make micro craws that work well. I also use the back end of a Berkley Powerbait Water Bug. It has two little rabbit ears on the tail that give the jig a little bit of action.

As with a Ned head, a micro jig should have a 90-degree line tie. That keeps the jig in a horizontal posture when you drag it on the bottom. I use a jig made by Missile Baits, which is called the Micro Jig. It comes with two microfiber weed guards. When I’m fishing moderate to heavy cover, I dab super glue on the end of one of the guards and stick it into a hole in the head of the jig. I don’t use the guard in open water because I get a way better hooking percentage without it.

I keep the colors super simple. My number one rule is to match the hatch. Nymphs and larva are often black, crawfish are typically greenish brown and mud minnows are more pumpkin in color. So, my jigs are black, green pumpkin, watermelon and brown — simple, natural tones.

How to fish a micro jig

I work a micro jig exactly as I fish a Ned rig but with longer pauses. I often target riprap and channel-swing 45-degree banks with it. I let the jig sink to the bottom. Then I slowly drag it by lifting my rod from 3 to 12 o’clock. Then I pause for five to 10 seconds. If I feel anything, a rock, a stick, a sprig of grass, I stop the jig immediately. A wintering bass always gets next to something.

I fish a micro jig with a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch, spinning rod, a size 30 Abu Garcia Revo reel filled with 10-pound Berkley X5 Braid. I add a 12- to 36-inch leader of 6- to 10-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon. The clearer the water the longer the leader. The braided line lets me feel everything.

That’s critical when it comes to interpreting the bottom and sensing soft bites. You don’t need to set the hook with a micro jig. All I do is step back and reel that tiny hook into them.