Kentuckian Bradley Roy has already completed his third Bassmaster Elite season by the time he hit his 22nd birthday. He started young and has had success at all levels from the Junior World Championships all the way to being crowned Bassmaster Elite Rookie of the Year in 2010. Much of his success has been a result of his ability to maximize the effectiveness of the tried and true jig. He counts this as one of his favorite techniques for both numbers and big fish. He’s especially fond of its effectiveness during the colder months. Roy has some unique theories about the way it should be fished, color selection as well as why bass never seem to get tired of eating jigs.
Matching the Hatch?
“Everything we have always been told or thought seems to show that bass think a jig looks like a crawfish, but I have always kind of thought it resembles a bluegill much better,” shares Roy. Regardless of what the bass think it is, there is something about it that is a magnet to bass.
Jig Sizes and the Retrieve
When talking about the different weight sizes for jigs, Bradley Roy says that he likes to go as light as he can get away with for standard casting jigs and as heavy as possible for football head jigs. His reasoning has to do with the retrieve. “When I am fishing a football head, I am not really moving it off the bottom at all; it’s more of just dragging it along. Since that’s all I’m doing and I want to get as long of a cast as possible, I will never go less than 1/2 oz and will go as heavy as I can,” acknowledges Roy. One the other hand, he often goes lighter with standard Arky-style jigs. “During the colder months you want to have that slow fall and by hopping it along the bottom and lifting it up you will get that. My favorite jig for this is a Taylor Man’s Custom Lures Pro Series Hawg Seeker Jig in 3/8 oz,” adds Roy.
During colder months, Roy feels that at times you can never fish a jig slow enough. “Don’t be scared to let your jig sit for awhile. During the colder months the fish are lethargic and want that slow moving and slow falling bait,” affirms Roy.
Color Selection: Keep it Simple
According to Bradley Roy, one of the biggest mistakes anglers make is putting too much emphasis on colors of skirts for jigs. He can effectively fish across the country utilizing three major color shades, “All you need is greens, browns and blacks. With those three color shades you can fish anywhere in the country, it’s what I use for all of my jigs from swim jigs to football jigs,” states Roy. With that being said, he does have preferences based on the water clarity and geographic location that will help him decide which of the three to use and when. “Black and blue is a great color that works everywhere, especially darker water. If you are not sure if the fish are eating bluegills or crawfish, black will work since it creates a nice, dark silhouette on the bottom,” shares the Kentucky pro. The green and brown shades have their place and both effectively mimic a crawfish and small baitfish.
Trailers and Customization
A good way to adjust your jig and match the hatch comes in the form of soft plastic trailers. Like his color selection, Bradley Roy keeps his trailer selection simple, “If the fish are keying on crawfish, I’ll use a Berkley Chigger Craw and if they are focusing on baitfish I will use a beaver style bait as my trailer,” shares Roy. His reasoning behind this has to do with the appendages of the baits. The Chigger Craw naturally resembles a crawfish and he will vary between the 3” and 4” models based on the size of the jig and also to vary the rate of fall for the jig. When the bass are keying on baitfish, he prefers a beaver style bait because the tail section does such a good job imitating the tail of a baitfish. To add to the appeal he will dye the tail section, “I like to use JJ’s Magic in chartreuse to give it more of a baitfish look and it has added scent so I don’t have to worry about adding any other scent,” mentions Roy.
Rod, Reel and Line make a Difference
Having the right rod and reel combination can make all of the difference for successful cold water jig fishing. Bradley Roy prefers to use a rod that is a minimum of 7 feet long and more often uses a 7’6” model to get a better hookset and to pick up slack line. Besides just the length of the rod, he has other qualifications for selecting the right tool for the job. “I want a rod that has a good backbone, but just as important is having one with a light, fast tip. This allows me to feel the jig much better,” adds Roy.
His reel selection is basic. He will use a high speed, 7.1:1 gear ratio reel. His reasoning is the fact that the rod is doing most of work. “The rod is what is moving the bait along, but I want a fast retrieve for my reel so I can quickly pick up the slack, hook the fish and get it to the boat,” says the young pro. His line selection is exclusively Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon. “I’ll never go lighter than 12lb and never heavier that 20lb. 15-17lb is ideal for all situations because it’s strong and still casts a long way,” mentions Roy.
What to look for
During the colder months, bass locations are predictable and because of this Roy will focus his efforts on the most likely areas. “Bluff walls and 45 degree sloping banks are where you need to be this time of year. I will start out toward the back of a creek and work my way out to the mouth, looking for channel swings,” shares Roy. He will focus on banks that have some wood, but he admits that it’s not always necessary. When asked about depths, he added that, “12-18ft of water is ideal this time of year, really any time of the year, it’s consistently good. It seems to be that magic range for jig fishing because fish can always move shallower and deeper if they need to.”
Bradley Roy has a simplified approach to all of the elements of fishing a jig. By relying on proven methods and bass locations, he is able to spend more time fishing instead of second guessing. Cold water jig fishing is a favorite among anglers across the country, including professionals like Bradley Roy and with good reason – it works.