By Eric Jackson
Crawfish are a mainstay meal for river fish in particular and knowing how to fish a crawfish lure is one great way to catch bass and even musky in the Southeast USA. The rivers of TN are filled with Crawfish and anyone wanting to have a good day out with their kids can go to the local creek and stop around, turning over rocks and finding crawfish for fun.
One crawfish imitating lure, the “Buckeye Finess Jig” combined with a Zoom Crawfish trailer (craws claws), a mono- leader and the right locations/techniques and you will have a great day of fishing! I was introduced to this lure by Charlie Ingram and Ray Brazier during the filming of their Fishing University TV show where Drew Gregory and I spent a couple of days fishing this jig. Since then, I brought the jig home to Rock Island, TN and have had amazing success with it for big largemouth, smallmouth bass, and musky. I caught a 10 pound large mouth, hundreds of small mouth, and musky on every single trip using it!
One of the keys to using this lure is that you are in water that is relatively clear. Clear water presents its own challenges as the lures are easier to spot for the fish and if it isn’t close enough to what they want to eat, they won’t hit it. An example would be using a big spinner bait in clear water doesn’t produce good results, while using a small lure that is compact and hard to distinguish by the fish does… hence the Buckeye flattop jig.
A tip for preparing the jig by Charlie is to trim the skirt down some, cutting about .5″ of skirt off of it to make it even smaller appearing. also using a small trailer tail versus a big one helps. I bite part of the body off of mine to make the trailer smaller than it comes in the package. Monofilament line for a leader also keeps it more real looking.
Fishing the Buckeye Jig.
Rivers/Creeks with moving water. Moving water fishing is different from stagnant water in that the currents give the lure “life” and the retrieve technique becomes less important. Bass congregate in eddies, usually at the very top of them, near or on the eddy line (where the current is stopped by a rock and there is a line that separates the current from where there is not current). They wait for food to wash down into the eddy to jump on it. Throw the jig into the eddy at the most upstream side of it and let it drop to the bottom, if the current is pulling the line and moving the jig, use small 1′ twitches of the rod tip and retrieve the jig at about 1 turn of the handle/second. The jig will get to the eddy line quickly and that is where the fish normally hit it. The feeling of the hit depends on the fish and the mood, but typically it is a “bump” feeling and the line starts moving fast as the fish tries to carry their prize away from other fish. Setting the hook quickly works great with the Buckeye jig if you got the hit on a loose line. If your line was tight when the fish hit it, give it some slack and 1 second to inhale the rest of the lure before setting the hook or you are at risk of pulling the lure from the fish’s mouth without hooking it.
Cast 20-90 degrees off of the current. Pulling the jig straight up or downstream doesn’t yield as many fish. Also throwing the jig to the shore and pulling off angle towards the middle of the river assures that you hit the right “depth” and location of the fish. If you are pretty sure you have found the depth where they are at, you can pull the jig straight downstream along that depth to cover more fish laden area with a single cast.
Trees/brush/grass… The buckeye is a weedless jig and handles structure well, but there are some techniques for preventing hangups, which typically happen in heavy structure, which is where the fish often are.. Any hangups in a good piece of structure normally means one less fish caught.
Over a branch- if you find yourself over a branch out of the water, pull the jig up until it is dangling about 1 foot from the branch, get the jig swinging forward and back by pulling and releasing some line with your rod tip. when the jig swings towards you you are staged up to swing it over the branch without a hangup. Tug the line at the moment the jig begins swinging away from you again and it will swing up and over the branch. If you use the right amount of force you can drop the jig down almost under the branch you were stuck in and still fish that cast.
In dense brush- the weed protector on a Buckeye jig is pretty stiff and can handle a little bit of force before it allows the hook to catch on brush. However, knowing that amount of force is critical because if you always pull just a little harder than it can handle when you hit a branch, you will stick the hook in every branch you hit. When you get the jig up against something, give it a little slack to drop away, then twitch it quickly to get it to hop over the branch and give it slack again. You can pull it through heavy weeds and catch fish this way. If you cast and are sure you are in too thick of brush to try to play it out, keep your rod up and do a quick retrieve until you past the snags and then let it drop- be ready as often the fish will follow it out and hit it on the drop.
Musky- While most of my friends use big Musky lures, I have been catching them on the Buckeye Jig using bass catching techniques. This is awesome, as you can go bass fishing where there is musky and throw the same lure and still catch the musky. Often when you go Musky fishing you present lures that are difficult to entice bass on.
Fishing in calm waters- rivers: When you are in non-moving or very slow moving water- you need to hop the jig like a crawfish. Twitch/twitch/twich off of the ground and then let it drop and sit, repeat all of the way back in. In very clear water, the fish may follow all of the way to the boat before it hits as they decide if it is really edible or not.
In non-clear water- I recently fished some near black water in Lakeland Florida where it was deeper and dark. I didn’t bother with a monofilament leader, didn’t trim the skirt, and used a big red “chunk” from Zoom. This assures that fish can see their prey without too much difficulty as the visibility was as low as a few feet in this series of phosphate pits. One technique we used to catch fish on the jig was to “punch holes” in the heavy grass cover with the jig and fish deep behind the floating grass cover. Because of the grass and low visibility we were catching fish right under the boat (Big Rig) with only about 6-10 feet of line out. Find a little hole in the cover and drop the jig down as far as it will go, jig it up and down until “bam!” and then try to figure out how to hoss the fish out of the heavy cover without losing it or breaking your line. Fun stuff.
The other techniques I used for the jig there was on the vertical walled sections of the pits, to throw it against the wall, and then hop it off into the water, stripping line out to assure it sinks as close to the wall as possible. I caught several bass this way and they hit it on the way down. I also fished the shallows with grass and lilly pads using the slow/still water technique, but the key was throwing the lure onto the grass and hopping it in to get it right on the fish. Short casts that were more than 1′ from the cover rarely caught fish.
Here are two videos where I am using the Buckeye Jig- one is a “how to” and the other is just an “action video”….
Action video of Bass and Musky:
I hope this helps you catch more fish!
Team JK fishing and whitewater