How to Fish a Football Jig with Confidence

How To Fish A Football Jig | Learning To Fish A Football Jig

Knowing when and how to fish a football jig is an important tool to have in any angler’s tackle box.  A finesse fishing must have.  Understanding the design and using it correctly can unlock the potential of putting not only more fish in the boat, but larger lunkers as well.  

Demystifying how to fish a football jig is not overly complicated.  It has a lot to do with choosing the proper gear and applying the strengths of the bait in the proper situation.  Selecting a suitable color, size, and weight will get you on the path to learning to fish a football jig.  It may feel awkward at first, but practice and repetition are the key to building muscle memory for any activity.  Mastering your technique from cast to retrieve may take months to perfect, but I’m going to teach you everything from how to rig a football jig to what types of structure are best in just a fraction of that time.  You can get on the water fishing a football jig with confidence after reading through these key pointers.  Remember to stick with it as you develop your technique and once you see the results, a football jig may become your favorite bait in the boat!    

To become a successful angler, you must be prepared for anything.  Being prepared is not always just about having plenty of bait options.  Identifying what situation to use those baits in and then being able to make the bait perform properly are just as important.  A football jig is an extremely important option to have in your tackle box.  They are great for fishing rocky areas or deep water when the fish are searching for cooler temps.

However, before you can enjoy the success they can unlock, you must know how to tie and when to use a football jig.  Learning when and how to fish a football jig can save you many hours of unproductive guess work and being able to do it with confidence will make your fishing trip much more enjoyable.   

What is a Football Jig?

As with most aspects of fishing, there are multiple types of jigs out there.  The main types used for bass fishing are the flipping jig, skipping jig, swim jig, and the one we are discussing in this article, the football jig. 

For a detailed explanation of each type of jig, check out the video below.

Football jigs are great for fishing in the summer as fish head toward deeper water, but they can be an asset in your tackle box year round.  The versatility of a football jig allows you to fish the bait at different speeds and actions to entice shy fish.  

It’s also exceptionally productive in the winter as its unique head shape provides erratic movements as it’s dragged across the bottom.  Learning how to fish a football jig in the winter will in many cases create additional interest from slower moving bass and can greatly increase your possibility of getting bit.    

You will notice that football jigs have a wider and larger head than any other type of jig.  The football jig is designed like this for several reasons.  

The larger and heavier head makes the bait stand up straight in the water column and provides a more defensive posture that can trigger bass strikes.  

The shape and size of the head in proportion to the rest of the bait helps keep the head from snagging in tight crevices such as rockbeds and ledges.  If the bait does get hung up, a quick snap in the opposite direction will usually free it whereas a flipping jig will tend to bury itself tighter.     


Where to Fish

It’s sometimes easy to get wrapped up in developing your technique for using a new bait.  While perfection is great, accurate presentation must be coupled with the proper location when you are learning how to fish a football jig.  

Luckily, football jigs are meant to cover large amounts of water, so eliminating unproductive waters can be less time consuming than with other baits.

Here’s a quick list of the best placed to fish a football jig

  • Points
  • Ledges (2:1 rule)
  • Rocky transitions (basketball size chunk rock-to-pea gravel, ect…)
  • Bottom density transitions (clay-to-rock, or vegetation-to-mussel bed, ect…)


As you hear most anyone in bass fishing say, “target points and ledges”, is also true with football jigs. 

However, for someone like myself, I get extremely overwhelmed with the sheer number of points and ledges on any body of water when I try to evaluate whether or not I should fish them.

Whether on a map or in person, I struggle to unlock the “fishiness factor” of a point or ledge until I actually fish it.  Therefore, I’m going to point you in a different direction.  

When learning to fish a football jig, look for deep water and transitions.  Instead of focusing on every point that juts into the lake, this will help you identify points and ledges with a higher probability that the fish are home.

Deep water can be a quick change from 3’ to 12’ in the early spring to an old river channel that drops from 10’ to 45’ in a few boat lengths from the bank.  Focusing on “deep water” will vary depending on what time of year and what body of water you are fishing.

A good rule of thumb that I use is called the 2:1 Rule when searching for fish with a football jig is to look for water that is about twice as deep as what you would normally fish in the spring pre-spawn season.  This helps to level out any differences in large flat lakes and highland reservoirs while giving you a “target depth” to look for until you land a few fish and are able to start stringing some data points together.

Once you’ve identified the areas you feel are the sharpest depth change locations that also coincide with your “target depth” start looking for transition areas. 

Transition areas can be subtle or drastic depending on the terrain of the area you are fishing.  Large boulders quickly changing over to gravel beds are great transition points and are usually easy to identify.  

When learning to fish a football jig, rocky hard bottoms should be the priority, but don’t overlook the transition point of where a rocky, hard bottom turns soft or sandy near an abrupt change in depth.

Lastly, when looking for transitions, keep in mind that logs, fallen trees, or roadbeds near deep water are good areas to target as well.  These areas create obstructions in the natural flow of baitfish around the edges of the water and become excellent ambush points for bass.

Equipment

When taking on the task of learning to fish a football jig, it’s not necessary to run out and buy a specific rod and reel combination.  Most bass fisherman likely already have something suitable in their arsenal

Due to the weight of the jig and the type of fishing that you will be doing, a baitcasting reel is a must to fish a football jig with confidence.  This type of reel will give you the best control over your casts, but also provides a better connection to the bait as you finesse it back during the retrieve.

A fast retrieve ratio is always a plus as it provides less wear and tear on your arm, but it also helps to keep the fish hooked when the fight begins.

Line selection being the least expensive gear option for fishing a football jig, you don’t want to skimp on this item when rigging up your weapon for battle..  

For most situations, 15-20 lb test line is the best option for fishing a football jig and fluorocarbon line is the top choice for multiple reasons.  

It’s highly abrasion resistant for fishing through rocks and heavy cover and it sinks faster than monofilament which gets your football jig into deeper water quicker. 

Fluorocarbon fishing line is also nearly invisible to fish giving a huge advantage for a finesse fishing method such as using a football jig. 

Sensitivity and stretch are other factors that fluorocarbon line provides optimum performance for fishing a football jig.  Its sensitivity allows you to detect smaller bites as well as differences in bottom composition and minimal stretch provides more consistent hooksets. 

Rod selection is less critical and most any baitcasting rod/reel combo is sufficient in fishing a football jig.  A 7’ to 7’6” rod is ideal to provide plenty of leverage while also giving you some boost for long casts.

Your rod needs to have some backbone to it as you will likely be fishing rather deep in most scenarios, but it doesn’t need to be a steel rod either.  Medium to medium heavy is a good compromise to ensure both sensitivity and horsepower when that monster grabs hold of your bait.

I wrote an entire post about how to choose the best jig fishing rod for the money.

As you develop your technique and decide to upgrade your equipment for something specific to fishing a football jig, a rod with parabolic bend should be on your radar as discussed in this video from Elite Series Pro Fisherman, Shaw Grigsby.

Read more: Best Jig Rod for Bass Fishing [Review Guide]

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Color Selection

Football jigs are no exception to any other type of bass baits and they come in many different colors which can be overwhelming in itself.  Unfortunately, what we believe “looks good”, may not always be what the fish are interested in.

As Shaw Grigsby mentions in the video above, natural colors are what you should be shooting for, but even within that realm, there are vast options of “natural colors”.

I used to believe that color selection when fishing any type of jig was a singular choice.  The trailer needed to match the skirt to provide continuity to the bait to make it look more “natural”.

However, this thought process can potentially lead to 50% less bites.  One suggestion that I like to follow now is from fishing pro Mike McClelland.  He suggests using a different color trailer than the jig’s skirt.  

McClelland says, “Whether you’re using a light-colored skirt and a dark trailer or a dark-colored skirt and a light trailer, you’re giving the bass more options which, in my mind, increases your opportunities for a big bite.” 

Water clarity will also play a factor in color selection as well.  Stained to muddy water should lead your color selections more to the yellow/green side and maybe even a chartreuse trailer if you believe the bass are having trouble locating your football jig.

Black and blue jigs can also be effective in stained water under low light conditions as there is less transparency and the contrast with vegetation in the water helps the fish to see the bait. 

Clearer waters, you should stick with brown/green color options working toward the copper/red side if fishing deeper waters.  

This video shows a comparison of bait colors at different depths which can provide some insight as to what may look more “natural” at the target depths you are fishing, and can give you a good visual representation of your football jig underwater.

Read more: Top 10 Best Jigs For Bass Fishing [Insiders Only]

What Size Football Jig to use for Bass?

In addition to the multiple types of jigs to choose from, football jigs come in sizes from ¼ oz to 1 oz giving you LOTS of options for any given fishing scenario.  When learning to fish a football jig for bass, there are some factors that will help you narrow down the field.

The area you are fishing and water depth should determine the size/weight of the football jig to use.

If you are fishing shallower areas (less than 8-10 feet) you should use a ¼ – ⅜ oz football jig on slightly lighter line than discussed earlier.  This size football jig can also be used to quickly cover water near docks and piers.

As the water depth increases, you will obviously want to increase the weight and size of your football jig to help keep your bait in contact with the bottom.

It’s really a matter of preference as to which specific size football jig you want to use, but as a reference, water ranging from 10-25 feet you can use anything from a ½ – ¾ oz.  

For extremely deep water fishing in 25 feet or more, use a football jig in the ¾ – 1 oz range.

Try different sizes in these ranges to find what you feel the most comfortable with.  You want to find a football jig that gives you a connection to the bottom to help decipher changes in bottom composition, but it also needs to be light enough that you can easily detect bites.  

Once you find that sweet spot that positions you between these two aspects, you will begin to fish your football jig with confidence and eventually leading to better success as you continue to develop your technique.   

Lead vs. Tungsten Football Jigs

Rock Crawler Tungsten Jig

Yet another option as well as argument amongst anglers today, is there an advantage to shelling out the extra cash for tungsten weights?

The short answer is, yes, there are advantages to using tungsten weight on any type of fishing style, but there are exceptional advantages to using tungsten over lead when fishing a football jig.

Tungsten is a denser material than lead which means you get a heavier weight in a smaller package.  This leads to quicker fall rates for the same sized lead football jig.  It also means you could fish a smaller size jig with the same weight which could be less susceptible to hang ups. 

On a side note, I strongly recommend these jigs made by Mythik Lures. They call them the Rock Crawler Jig and they’re made from 100% Tungsten. These are the most sensitive jigs I’ve ever fished with. The paint job is baked on and the skirt is wired tied! I only thought custom made jigs come with that feature!

Anyway you go to check them out. Best of all they sell them on Amazon! But don’t take our word for it!

Since lead is a softer material than tungsten, it also absorbs shock.  The advantage that tungsten provides in not absorbing shock is that it transfers that shock up your line and into your hand. It can mean the difference between feeling a sandy vs gravel bottom.

Tungsten’s harder characteristics give it more action and sound underwater as well.  This causes your football jig to cause more commotion with less effort.  

As you continue learning how to fish a football jig, it’s really not a necessity to use tungsten weights as lead can be just as deadly.  

However, as your skill develops, you will desire more sensitivity in your hand to ensure you capitalize on every nibble, so you will have to make the decision on when it’s worthwhile to make the leap into the tungsten world. 

Read more: Top 10 Best Jigs For Bass Fishing [Insiders Only]

How to Rig a Football Jig

While it may be an aspect that gets overlooked when learning a new fishing technique, an important part of fishing a football jig is making sure that it is rigged appropriately before making your first cast.

The easiest and most reliable way to tie on a football jig is using a Palomar knot.  The Palomar knot provides double the strength of your line and is easy enough to tie in low light conditions with little effort.

The Palomar knot can be used to tie on many different types of fishing baits and you will find it remarkably useful once you learn to use it.  See the video below for details on learning how to tie a Palomar knot.

The second part of rigging a football jig is to select a trailer.  There are many options for trailers.  You can buy trailers specific for jigs or you can customize other plastic baits already in your tackle box.

When fishing a football jig, you generally want to use a double tail trailer as it gives you the most movement and also helps simulate the action of a crawfish.

One thing to keep in mind as you select a trailer to rig your football jig with, what depth water are you targeting?  

If your target depth is less than around 20 feet, you really can’t choose anything too large or bulky.  Just try to keep the size of the trailer proportionate to the size of the football jig you are using.   

Deeper than 20 feet, you will want to take a bit more consideration on a jig trailer and keep it smaller to help the bait fall as quickly as possible.  A twin tail grub is a good option that still gives the action of a crawfish, but keeps your football jig quick and nimble so you can cover more water quickly.

Once you’ve selected the trailer you’d like to fish your football jig with, the next step is connecting it to the hook.

Trailers that are purchased may not need much adjustment, but if you are using grubs, lizards, or full size craw baits from your existing stash, you may need to tear the head end of the bait off to keep it from making your entire bait disproportionate.  

For details on exactly how to apply your trailer onto your football jig, see the video below.

Choosing the Right Jig Trailer for Bass

Learning to fish a jig is more like an art form rather than a skill. Often I’ve been so focused choosing the correct jig I often over look the trailer.

The jig trailer should never be overlooked. And there are several important factors that you need to know on how to choose the best jig trailer. By making that decision of choosing the correct trailer could make the difference of catching a couple of fish or limiting out that very morning.

Choosing the correct jig trailer is based on the bass’ metabolism at that time of year and what the bass are more likely feeding on. Water quality and water clarity are also really important factors.

Read more: Choosing the Right Jig Trailer for Bass [10 Mistakes You Need Avoid]

Jig trailers are broken down into high action and low action.

Now you can see that choosing the right jig trailer can be a critical step in learning how to fish a jig.  It may be overwhelming at first, but broken down into these steps can help to evaluate each selection criteria individually so you can make the most educated decision possible. 

Ensuring that your trailer is compatible with the jig style you are using greatly impacts the fish’s decision to hit or watch it go by. 

Technique (Cast, Fall, and Hooksets)

Now, after all the preparation, it’s time to develop the proper technique for fishing a football jig.  To break this down  into manageable chunks, I like to separate fishing techniques into four different pieces; cast, fall, retrieve, and hookset.

Retrieve options will get their own section as there are multiple facets of that, so we will talk about the other three now.

As discussed earlier, a long rod and a baitcasting reel help with both distance and accuracy.  You want to make long casts to cover large areas of water, but this also helps to keep your bait in the water a greater percentage of time.

Casting beyond the area you believe the fish are hiding out is a highly effective way to get your football jig into position to work it’s magic on the retrieve.  This also helps to keep from spooking any fish that are near the surface as football jigs are typically heavier and bulkier than other baits.

Once the bait hits the water, just let it sink, but keep an eye on the line as well as your finger.  If you are fishing deeper water, you may need to allow the bait to continue taking line until it hits the bottom.

Watch for movement in the line as the bait sinks.  Sometimes, a fish may take the bait before it hits the bottom.  You can detect this in two ways.  

The line will either jump in a traditional “tic-tic-tic” motion like a typical bite cadence, or the line may rapidly take off in a direction away from where your bait initially landed.  When this happens, you will want to skip straight to a hookset.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a fish take it on the way down, you will notice a small thud in the line and then it will go slack once the football jig hits the bottom.

Next comes the retrieves, but as I mentioned earlier, there are a few different variations that need to be discussed in their own section.

Whether you detect a bite on the fall or during your retrieve, the hookset will follow the same protocol. 

In my ignorance, I’ve lost many fish in the past by thinking that I was not performing an aggressive enough hookset and continued to become more violent.  Snatching is not what we are going for when fishing a football jig.

You want to make a long sweeping hookset when fishing a jig of any kind.  Too add to the desired pressure needed to properly seat the hook, taking a few steps backwards can effectively add a few extra feet of sweeping pressure to your hookset.

Essentially, you want the rod to do the work of punching the hook through the fish’s lip and then also applying pressure throughout the fight to prevent the fish from throwing the hook.

One additional tip that will help with increasing your hook-up percentage when learning how to fish a football jig can be found in the video below.

How To Set The Hook On Jigs

Retrieves (Dragging, Stroking, & Swimming)

One of the aspects that gives a football jig such a great deal of versatility is the multiple variations of retrieves that can all produce excellent results.

The most basic and widely used method of retrieving a football jig is called dragging and is exactly as the name implies.

Despite what you may envision, this does not mean holding your rod stable while slowly cranking the reel.  Once the bait hits the bottom, you want to give it a good 3-4 count before doing anything.

When you’ve determined that there’s no activity on the other end of the line, slowly move your rod tip in a horizontal motion away from where the bait dropped.  There’s really no need to “work” the jig as it will get the proper action from bouncing off of rocks and debris on the bottom.

This method is also the best retrieve to use when you first pull up to an area you want to fish as it will give you the best connection to the bottom composition and help you to identify any structure that may be underwater.

The next option for retrieving your football jig is called stroking or hopping.  This method builds on the dragging method and becomes a type of hybrid retrieve.

As you are dragging the bait, you throw in a couple of swift sweeps of your rod tip in an upward direction.  This will make the bait come off the bottom 2-4’ and then fall again making the bait look like it’s “hopping”.

Stroking or hopping can sometimes trigger a bass that is not willing to fully commit with just a dragging retrieve.  Be sure to let your football jig sink all the way to the bottom again and sit for a few seconds before adding any additional action.

The last method for retrieving a football jig is swimming.  This is a method typically used with a swim jig that is meant to mimic baitfish rather than bottom forage, but it can still effectively be used with a football jig.

Swimming a football jig consists of reeling in enough line during your retrieve to keep the bait either just above the bottom or a combination of bouncing off the bottom from time to time helping to create a disturbance that will catch a fish’s attention.

My Secret Jig Color & How to Make It - DIY

Therefore, before jumping into the world of making your own jig skirts, make sure you understand the qualities of materials needed and tools necessary to take on this task. 

As you can see in the video, there are kits available to help get you started, but your skirts will need to be combined with a jighead that also has continuity with the skirt’s colors.

BONUS Tips section

We’re throwing in some extra important tips and tricks for you to remember when learning how to fish a football jig for the first time.  Being confident in your skills, keeping it simple allows you to be much more comfortable when you’re fishing a football jig.

So with these bonus strategies, you’ll get even more at ease with how to fish a football jig!

Hook Adjustments for Increased Hook-Ups

In this video you will get several tips for fishing a football jig, but the most notable tip is hook adjustments to increase your hook-up percentage.  As LakeForkGuy recommends, opening up the hook on your football jig can help increase your hook percentage.

However, keep in mind that the more open the hook is adjusted, the more critical it will be to prevent the fish from getting slack in your line. 

Inadequate pressure during the fight could result in the entire football jig getting slung out.

Hopping a Football Jig in Large Rocks

We’ve already discussed stroking or hopping a football jig as one of the variations for retrieves, but this video shows an excellent finesse technique for using the hopping retrieve.  In addition to seeing how Timmy Horton likes to fish a football jig around chunk rock or rip rap, it also shows some interesting underwater footage.  You can get a better idea of what may be happening beneath the surface as you are working your football jig by observing how fish react to it underwater.

Fish With Confidence

You’ve read all the suggestions and you understand the techniques.  Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone can be exactly what you need to unlock the next step of your fishing “career”, but don’t do it at the sacrifice of confidence.  If you don’t have confidence in the bait you are using, you are going to get sloppy with your casts and complacent on your retrieves.  If there’s a specific color, weight, or size that gives you a certain feel that you just trust yourself to fish better or more efficiently, go with it until you have a reason to change it.  There are no hard and fast rules to making these selections, but anything you select is more likely to catch fish if you are focused on giving it every opportunity to get into the places and make the proper presentation that will draw a bite. 

Other Jig Fishing Related Articles

FAQ

Can I flip a football jig?

Yes, any jig can be flipped, but the performance of the jig after it is flipped into heavy cover is what sets it apart. The wide head on a football jig is meant to skip across rocky crevices and hard timber. A flipping jig has a more compact head and is designed to work through heavy cover and brush without getting hung up.

How do you skip a jig?

Skipping a dock is the art of casting a lure (preferably flat) across the water (normally underhand/sidearm) that it skips and bounces off the surface, preferably many times! Think about skipping a rock. 

Anglers like to skip lures under docks and other structures because often larger bass will setup deep in the shadows to ambush prey.

To get the secrets on how to skip a jig in less time than it would take you to eat your lunch then click here

Read more: How To Skip A Bass Jig – Tips for Skipping Docks And Other Structures 

What’s the best color jig for clear water?

Browns and greens are the best colors jigs to use for fishing bass in clear water. This can include colors like watermelon and pumpkinseed. The key is to keep the bait looking as natural as possible as fish may be more finicky in clearer water.

Best colors for winter jig fishing in cold water

Bass fishing with a football jig in cold water it’s best to use dark muted natural colors. Colors such as black and blue, all black, green pumpkin, and browns are by far the most reached for colors. 

What if the water is cold and stained? What then?

Then chose the darkest color you have (like pure black) to give it a good silhouette, but also add in a little bit of bright color like chartreuse so it can get the bass’ attention easier.

Read more:  The Ultimate Guide To The Best Clothing For Winter Fishing

Where can I buy bulk football jig heads?

There are several options for buying bulk football jig heads online. The best deal for bulk pricing would be for quantities greater than 25.

One online dealer that provides high-quality bulk football jig heads is www.santonelures.com.

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My name is George and I'm been fishing my entire life and love all things outdoors. My passion is helping anyone catch more fish. The newest things I've been doing lately is learning how to break down and clean all my reels, teaching my boy how to kayak fish, and bushcraft wilderness survival.