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SARLEY: Keep it simple, pick the right weight, when choosing a jig

The only thing simpler than fishing with a plain hook and bait is using a jig. There is really nothing more basic. You can find them in most tackle stores in bins where you can mix-and-match a few jigs by size, weight and color for a buck or so.

Of course, there are upgrades. Some jigs have premium hooks or are made of exotic metals like tungsten. Some jigs can be purchased dressed with feathers, plastics and tinsel. Noted Lake Geneva guide and tournament angler, Doug Becker, markets his “Defender” jig, a big football headed model, loaded with options. Lindy’s Fuzz-E-Grub is probably the most famous of the many premium jigs.

The basic jig is a round lead ball with a hook on one end and an eye sticking out near the front. I have every color imaginable resting in my tackle box, but my best days of walleye fishing on the Fox Chain have come with the late Darrell Baker using an unpainted jig tipped with a piece of nightcrawler or a small minnow. It truly doesn’t get any more basic than that.

I’m not saying that color in jig selection isn’t important, just that there can be times when it doesn’t matter. I always have to have a couple of chartreuse and orange jigs with me and, for some reason, blue works well for me on rivers. I’ll rotate my colors until I find the one that the fish prefer at times when the color makes a difference.

More important than color is weight. You should always use the lightest weight jig that you can, as long as you can get it down to the bottom. If the jig is too light and you can’t feel the bottom, then move to the next heavier one. If the jig is too heavy, you’ll snag the bottom an awful lot and the fish will drop your bait as soon as they feel the weight of the jig. You want to be as stealthy as possible.

Another option that makes a difference is the shape of the jig. I like the football shape when using very heavy jigs. The omnipresent round jigs are good for most applications. I am using jigs that are made to stand straight up when dragged across the bottom more often than not lately. These jigs keep the live bait or plastic that I put on them to be the most visible to the fish for the longest amount of time. Jigs with pointy heads are perfect for swimming them back through weeds. These jigs cut through the weeds and snag up much less.

As artificial presentations keep getting more exotic and more expensive, nothing has been able to replace the simple jig. It works for most species of fish and is definitely cost effective, as well.

Notes: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “Fishing in ponds and lakes that are open has been good for bass and crappies. This week we have seen a good jump in water temp and this is getting the fish active. Waxworms, small minnows or Berkley Gulp plastics will work for crappies. The live bait of choice for bass would be golden roach minnows or a nightcrawler. Senkos, spinnerbaits or shallow running crank baits will work for artificial lure users. Catfish are hitting cut bait.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.

For up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River, go to or call 847-587-8540.

You can call Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Fishing Hotline at 414-382-7920 to hear the latest fishing information for Lake Michigan and its tributaries. Wisconsin’s regular inland game fish season opens on Saturday.

The Illinois High School Association announced that the 2013 IHSA Bass Fishing State Final Tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Carlyle Lake, has been postponed due to potentially dangerous water levels. The date has not been announced yet, but it will be later in the spring.

Hopefully, the water will recede in time for the first tournament on the Fox Chain. Thousands in fishing and raffle prizes will be awarded on Sunday, May 19 at the eighth annual Fox Lake Fishing Tournament. The entry fee is a reasonable $40 and includes a post-tourney bash featuring music by the Rural Route One Band. The sign in starts at 6 a.m. and the tournament kicks off at 7. The weigh in is at 2 p.m. For a complete list of fish categories, prizes and rules, please visit

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