For the better part of the last decade, Chris Love has been making custom jigs as the founder of 911 Custom Lures. Over that time, he’s developed some expert insights on what makes a great jig, and if you’re newer to jig fishing, the nuances may surprise you.
We talked with him about those nuances of jig design, and how you as an angler can refine your jig fishing by understanding what makes a more effective jig.
Check out our other jig article for a beginner’s course on jigs
If you checked out our article on the different types of bass jigs, you know there are two main kinds of heads found on flipping jigs. Most anglers these days prefer the arkie style head, and 911’s flipping jigs feature a more advanced version of that.
“My head is called a sparkie. So it’s really similar, that arkie is just a little flatter. I tell people that mine looks like it’s got shoulders on it. It’s designed to lay flat on the bottom and not roll to one side or the other. So that’s the desirable attribute for that jig. When it falls, it lands flat, not laying on its side.”
Love and his customers prefer the flatter style heads on flipping jigs for a number of reasons, and Love’s design uses some nuance in the weight distribution to make it more versatile.
“The mold I use is a weight forward mold. The weight is more forward in the jig head so it’s closer to the line tie, and that helps you with your momentum, and that’s what helps it skip better.”
Love also makes a point to maximize sensitivity. Flipping jig bites can often be very subtle, so every little bit counts.
“I don’t paint the line tie on my jigs. I keep them clean, and I think that adds just a bit of sensitivity from the bit. It may not be that big of a deal, but then again, it might.”
Football heads are generally the simplest jig heads to design and use. Any football head will keep the bait from rolling as it works over rocks and other types of bottom. The most important thing, as Love notes, is that the head allows the bait to stand.
“You’re looking for it to stand up. That’s an important aspect of the football head.”
“My swim jig mold is called a Pro Swim, and the nose of it turns up. That helps it not get hung up as bad,” says Love.
The line tie on the Pro Swim is angled on top of the jig head instead of in line with the head. That’s what lifts the head, allowing the jig to work over cover better without rolling and getting hung up.
Love is a big believer in upsizing the hook on a flipping jig or any jig you’re fishing around shallow cover. While many manufacturers will install a 4/0 hook on a mid–size flipping jig, 911 jigs have a 5/0, and Love considers this a differentiator.
“The hook size for most competitors when I started building jigs were all 4/0 hooks on a half-ounce jig. I hooked it to a 5/0 and I added a stiffer weed guard, and that seemed to be what really took off for my product. I think by the time you add some sort of chunk or trailer on a jig with a 4/0 hook, you’re losing some space in there to be able to get that fish hooked.”
Love also believes in upsizing the hook on football jigs, but in many cases installs a smaller diameter hook than he would on a flipping jig. Thinner diameter hooks don’t require as much power to penetrate the fish’s mouth, and when your bait is 30 yards away from you and 18 feet under water, you’re just not going to be able to bring the power you can when flipping or pitching. That’s the value of the lighter wire hook that Love includes.
Love’s jigs feature a weed guard that’s flatter than most jigs. The veteran bait builder has found a tighter angle on the weed guard relative to the jig to be advantageous in avoiding hang ups.
“That’s a big thing with my jigs, and it just happened by chance but I studied this after a couple years of building them. The way the hole for the weed guard is, it’s flatter in the gap than a lot of the newer molds which are a little bit more perpendicular to the bait.”
Obviously, you need a weed guard that is stout enough to prevent hang ups but soft enough to allow for a hookset. While the angle aids in the former, some anglers believe that modifications are in order for the ladder. Love does not.
“I don’t cut my weed guards. I know a lot of guys that do. Personally, I think that’s a little bit of a mistake. Everybody has their own technique and their own style, and I recognize that, but there’s no use cutting them. That weed guard is not going to cause you to not get a hook set. And when you cut them, it makes them stiffer. People don’t realize that.”
Rattles aren’t too common on jigs, but a lot of anglers will insist there is a time and a place. Love will include rattles upon request, but typically does not bother.
“I don’t normally build them with a rattle on them. Some guys like it, some guys don’t. That’s up to each individual customer. If it’s really muddy water, I would probably put a rattle on a jig too. Nighttime too, a lot of people fish at night. It has its place, that’s for sure.”
Note that flipping jigs are often designed to generate a reaction bite, so additional noise can actually hinder the bait’s ability to, for lack of a better term, sneak up on a fish.
Love is not a big believer in trimming the skirts on his jigs, but recognizes that it does have its place
“When I build my jigs, I try to make that skirt as long as possible. It just gives it more movement in the water. I don’t trim my skirts at all, period, whatsoever.”
Trimming the skirt and other modifications like it can give the jig a smaller profile, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the situation.
“I know guys that pull out a lot of the strands of the jig because they want it to be slim. So if it’s a crawdad hatch or something where you’re looking for just a smaller approach, that’s a time they would do that. But again, I don’t.”