One of the most enduring and time tested lure combos out there is the football jig. It is a favorite of hobbyists and tournament pros alike.
Learning the techniques to use it and the best time to use it will help you reel in more bass on every fishing trip.
What is a Football Jig?
A football jig is a fairly simple setup. The basic idea is a football-shaped jig head, with a brush in front of the hook to protect it from snagging. Football jigs are usually used with a slightly buoyant rubber trailer.
The benefit of having a football-shaped head is subtle. Imagine a vertical hook with a round jig head leading it. When that jig hits the bottom, the hook will fall over on its side. That is because round things roll. If the football-shaped jig head creates almost a T-shaped rig with the hook, keeping that hook standing vertical and reducing snag and drag.
In addition to keeping the hook from flopping over, that football shape causes the jig to bounce unpredictably when retrieving. This makes the jig look like something alive swimming, instead of an inanimate object being pulled on a string.
When Do I Use a Football Jig?
With many types of lures and rigs, we talk about versatility. We show how it can be used in different ways at different depths. Not so with the football jig. The football jig is really specialized for moving along hard non-grassy bottoms with minimal snag. That’s it.
If you are looking for a single rig that can do all your different styles of fishing, the football jig is not what you need.
Because of how they work, football Jigs are ideal for summertime fishing. When water temperatures climb in summer, bass retreat from the overheated topwater. Bass prefer water that is clean and cool. While largemouth will spend a lot of time in grassy shallows during spawning seasons, they will go back to the deeper water after the spawn is over.
When those fish are hanging out in the deep, they can get lethargic. Baits that can get right next to the bass with enough movement to make them noticeable will get taken, even by a lethargic fish.
Basics for Using a Football Jig
Football jigs are at their best when diving deep. The ideal way to use a football jig is to cast it far across a deep buried obstacle on a body of water with a rocky bottom. Load a baitcaster with fluoro line. Cast the lure as far as you can. As the lure hits the water, pull some extra line out of your reel so that the jig can drop straight to the bottom instead swinging back toward you from lack of line.
Retrieve the lure by walking it back across the bottom. For extra action, periodically lift the tip of your rod by a couple of feet to bounce the jig across the bottom. As the lure skips, take up the slack in your line by winding the reel. It can be walked side to side to get down in and around obstacles. This jig should stay snag-free, as long as you avoid grass.
If your water is very murky, or the bass seem a little more aggressive, you can give the rod a more vigorous shake as you retrieve on the hops. This will make the trailer more visible and give a lot more action, attracting fish that might be a little more distracted.
If you are trying to mimic crawfish, you can slow retrieve your reel. Don't lift up at all, and don't reel fast enough to pull the lure off the bottom of the lake. Slowly retrieve toward you, and the jig will appear to slowly walk along the bottom of the lake or stream.
3 Ways to Use the Football Jig to Catch More Fish
Because it can skip along the bottom without catching on obstacles, The football jig is great for working around edges. Any transition from one environment to another is going to be full of hungry bass watching for prey. These natural hiding spots are where the bass would normally lie in wait for prey.
Keep in mind that the goal with pretty much any lure is to make it act as much like the bass’s prey as you possibly can. You want the bass to think of your lure as food, so it will bite your hook. Try to think of ways to move the jig underwater like a crawfish.
Ledges are also natural hiding spots for bass. They will hide underneath rocky overhangs, waiting on prey to swim down or by. If you have a bass boat or kayak or are fishing off a bridge, you can take advantage of this habit to catch them.
Cast above the ledge, closer to shore. Slowly retrieve the lure, giving it extra line right as it falls off the ledge. This extra line is to allow the lure to fall straight down, onto the next ledge. Watch your line so that you can see a bite because you will have too much slack to feel the tug.
This can be a fantastic way to surprise attack a fish that you might otherwise miss, but it is easy to miss setting your hook. Since you don't have any tension on your line, it may be too slack to set, in which case the fish will just spit your rig out. Be ready to reel quickly and get that hook set if you get a nibble.
There is a rhythm you will need to find for a lot of football rig casts. Cast, pull the line out of the reel to add slack. Rewind quickly to maintain the original amount of tension. Repeat. This is a very zen form of casting and retrieving. Lots of very slow retrieves and subtle walking of the bait.
Sloping Rocky Lake Bottoms
These are a great place for a slow walk back on the retrieve. Not a lot of bouncing necessary. This the environment the football was made for. The ovoid shape of the jig will wobble across the bottom, instead of rolling evenly over rock like a round jig will.
This wobbling action is key. The wobble will help an unrealistic rubber trailer move like a real crawfish. The way to get bass to strike is to have bait that either closely resembles the target species through shape, paint, etc., or to convince the bass that the lure is prey by its behavior.
Other Strengths of the Football Jig
The football jig is generally great around obstacles. This doesn’t just mean obstructions on the bottom. You can use a football jig to work up under docks where bass live to hide in the shade. Casting is easy since the jig is really concise without a lot of random dangling bits and random pieces.
WIth such a straightforward casting lure, you can put it exactly where you want it in the water. This is extremely helpful when a school is sheltering behind a boulder or structure.
The brush guard on the jig that keeps grass from getting lodged in the hook can also impede the hook setting. Instead of jerking straight up to set the hook, try a sweeping and reeling motion as you retrieve. This will let the hook set without jerking the fish’s head off. The sweep to the side sets the hook deeply in the fish’s mouth without the vigorous yanking that is needed to fish traditional bass.
A football jig doesn’t have to be a moving lure. The trailers work by imitating small prey animals to a trout”s instinctual atack. You can cast a football, and let it sit flat on the bottom. In the summertime when the bass are sluggish on the lake bottom, a resting jig can imitate a crawfish while sitting on the bottom, just because of the current moving the pieces of the trailer around.
Not every lure, bait, or fishing rig is good in every possible fishing scenario. Sometimes, a bait is good for one specific thing. As long as the bait is excellent at the one thing it does, that is fine.
Most fishermen would rather have a box full of specialized lure, that can each do one task beautifully than to have a single tool that can do everything, but never does any of those things terribly well.
The football jig does one thing really well. It drops a hook and trailer to the bottom and helps it to walk along the rocks, keeping the hook clear.
If you have a need for a fishing lure that can do that one thing, the football jig is still one of the best rigs available for that task.