There's a saying about showing your support: Stand up and be counted. Northern bass anglers have been standing up for stand-up jigheads for many years.
Take a plastic worm, stick it on a stand-up head, and go fishing. For over three decades, that's how many Yankee bass chasers learned to interpret bottom structure on natural lakes. Although the proliferation of new techniques and lure designs has overshadowed the stand-up head in recent years, there remains a hard-core following throughout the northern region of the country.
Still a standout
"Stand-up heads are a primary lure in my approach to bass fishing," says smallmouth guru Jeff Snyder. "The characteristics of northern lakes cry out for this style of head. Rocky bottoms and clear water — more typical of lakes in New England, the Great Lakes region and the upper Midwest — are particularly suited to stand-up jigheads.
"That's not to say you can't use stand-up heads on Southern waters — I've done that with success on river reservoirs like Kentucky Lake and Pickwick Lake," notes this professional angler from Ohio. "But stand-up heads were designed with the hard bottoms and defined weed edges of natural lakes in mind. Depending on when and where you fish them, this bait works equally well for largemouth and smallmouth."
The upright position provides several advantages. First is visibility to bass. A conventional Texas rigged worm or a round or football jighead allows the bait to lie on the bottom. But a soft plastic body on a stand-up head yields the classic defensive crawfish position or bottom feeding minnow position.
Second, the perpendicular position provides significantly better hook setting ability than soft plastic baits that lie flat. Yet it's not solely the upright position of the bait that attracts bass anglers to the jighead.
"An important characteristic of a stand-up head with its broad bottom is the ability to slide over rocks," explains Snyder. "Narrow heads are more likely to become wedged in small crevices. Because it is a great design for cobble and rock rubble, as well as sand and marl bottoms, the stand-up head can be used in a wide variety of circumstances. Although somewhat snag resistant, this is not a jig for heavy cover. Weed edges or sporadic wood, yes; the really thick stuff, no."
Tournament angler Dave Lefebre utilizes a stand-up jighead for precise presentations.
"When I started fishing CITGO BASSMASTER Open events," he says, "I had to figure out suitable presentations for bedding bass. Adapting a northern stand-up head for bed fishing was a natural. I use a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce stand-up head with a 3- to 4-inch soft plastic body for targeting individual tough-to-catch bass that have been spooked by other presentations."
For bedding fish, Lefebre demands a plastic body for his stand-up head that has built-in action so the appendages will undulate when sitting still in the mildest current. "I prefer the Berkley Bungee Trailer, but on occasion, I may use a small worm, crawfish or creature-type soft plastic."
Lefebre employs a long cast to the selected bed, landing the lightweight bait just beyond the bed and slowly dragging it onto the sweet spot. Once in position, he simply lets the jig sit there, perhaps jiggling the line occasionally. The body remains upright and waving in the current, looking much like a minnow pecking at the eggs.
"I like to create a neat, compact package by snipping off a small piece of the plastic body so it mates flush with the mushroom-shaped stand-up head. For years, I used the Gopher Mushroom heads, but I recently started using a stand-up head from B.A. Baits that is molded with a long-shank Gamakatsu Hook."
For bedding bass, Lefebre generally prefers lures in subtle colors matched to an unpainted jighead. But sometimes, when fishing for smallmouth, he uses a chartreuse colored bait. In this case, he matches the body to a painted stand-up head.
Another instance for stand-up heads, according to Lefebre, is fishing for smallmouth in creeks or small rivers during the summer and fall. River darters in particular, as well as various other chubs and shiners, feed on bottom on plankton-covered rocks. In turn, smallmouth feed on minnows that forage on the bottom. Lefebre employs a 1/4-ounce stand-up head with a minnow-shaped body to imitate this prey. His soft plastic choice may be a Zoom Fluke, Lunker City Fin-S-Fish or Fin-S-Shad.
"This jig rig is particularly effective when cast to the feeding area at the head of a riffle," details Lefebre. "Once the jig settles to the bottom, alternately apply light pressure to the jig, and then give it slack line. This makes the jig roll up and down in the current, appearing very much like a feeding minnow."
While Lefebre uses stand-up heads in a few specific circumstances, Snyder sees broader applications. He says the key to a stand-up jig presentation, as with any bottom bouncing jig, will be bass relating to the bottom. During periods when bass suspend or concentrate on baitfish near the surface, obviously the stand-up jig is not effective. With these exceptions noted, Snyder believes the use of a stand-up head is wide open.
"I use the stand-up in northern climes as soon as the ice goes out — not so much for largemouth, which tend to relate to wood cover, but for smallmouth that tend to be staging on flats in fairly open water or along chunk-rock riprap. The stand-up becomes a stand-out presentation throughout the summer and fall for largemouth and smallmouth relating to deep weed edges, rock-rubble points and shoals, as well as ledges."
The number of stand-up heads on the market is small. Snyder says he has experimented with Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head and Bait Rigs' Odd'ball Jig — two companies perhaps better known in walleye circles. He finds them acceptable; however, his jighead of choice is the ISG Weedless Stand-Up Head.
"The ISG stand-up head is molded with a Mustad Ultra Point Hook — a point that rocks can't easily dull. I prefer the single strand of braided wire as a weedguard to a nylon bristle guard. With the wire strand, I am able to change the shape to match the cover. For fishing rocky bottoms, I leave the guard as is. But for fishing around wood, I put a curl into the wire by raking a knife blade along it, like you do to ribbons on gift wrap. The curled wire provides a better bump guard in deflecting brush and limbs."
Snyder fishes a spider grub on a stand-up head perhaps 75 percent of the time; he believes a spider body can be representative of either a minnow or crawfish.
"Although I am partial to the ISG Skirted Grub, any quality spider body will produce, including those from Yamamoto, Chompers and Kalin's," continues Snyder. "I also like regular single tail grubs, such as the Hypertail or Kalin's 5-inch Salty Grub. This gives bass a different look, because few anglers use a standard grub on a stand-up head. And don't overlook a small lizard or straight-tail worm as a possibility in some circumstances."
Snyder refers to a stand-up jig as a fast way to fish slowly. "Even though fishermen usually consider a jig to be a slow fishing technique, a 3/8-ounce stand-up head is a great search lure. I use it as others might use a Carolina rig — dragging the lure across the bottom. It can be used in any open water area to locate small rock outcroppings, and to identify crucial transition areas of softer-to-harder bottom. These are key bass holding areas, particularly in natural lakes."
But Snyder is equally at home hopping a stand-up jig down ledges and riprap of a reservoir. "If I'm not dragging a stand-up head across a flat, I'll be working one on a breakline. I work ledges and riprap by casting ahead of the boat and toward the shallower part of the structure, then walking the bait down the ledge at an angle. When looking for smallmouth on these structures, the key is current, or wind blowing on the bank."
Works for spots, too
Mark Burgess, a B.A.S.S. pro from Massachusetts, discovered a stand-up head presentation also works great on spotted bass. "I was recently fishing a CITGO BASSMASTER Eastern Open on Lake Martin under some very tough springtime conditions — blue skies, bright sun and completely calm (water). My preferred shallow water largemouth presentations weren't producing, and I realized I needed to go for spots. I found spots along a steep bluff, but they would only hit a 4- to 6-inch straight-tail finesse worm that was standing upright — that is, perpendicular to the bottom. The fish would not take a Texas rigged worm of the same size and color. For some reason, the spots only wanted that worm on a stand-up head."
Burgess positioned his boat in 80 to 100 feet of water and cast into 20-foot depths. Using a simple lift-and-drop retrieve, he hopped the stand-up down the steep ledges. "The fish were just beginning to move up, so they were at various levels. Even though the worm was presented slowly, it was a presentation that allowed me to cover a wide range of depths rather quickly. The result was my best finish yet in a CITGO BASSMASTER event."
Burgess joins other anglers in recommending that a selection of stand-up heads be included in your bass arsenal. In some instances, the stand-up head may be the best fish catching option.
Be a stand-up guy. Show your support for stand-up heads!