A few years back, a Stockton Lake fisherman by the name of Lee Trimbath called me to ask if I had ever heard of jigger-pole fishing, a method that he claimed could produce more bass than anything short of dynamite.
He said he had seen it done in the deep south where the technique was used to catch big shell crackers (also known as red-ear sunfish) and monstrous bass along the weedbeds in Florida where conventional lure casting is difficult if not impossible.
He said he thought his method might fool one of those Pomme de Terre muskies, and he’d like to give it a try.
Always eager to see something different, I agreed to meet him before daylight at a launching ramp not far from my house. Trimbath explained that most fish he catches on Stockton, early and late or after dark, are in close to the bank any month of the summer.
The pole he used was a telescoping fiberglass 20-footer, much like an old-time cane pole but longer. On the end he had a braided nylon line about 12 or 15 inches long. It was very heavy line, strong enough to hold my Labrador, let alone a big bass. Tied to the end of the line was a floating lure much like a Zara spook, five or six inches long and with large treble hooks. Trimbath said he always removes the hooks that come with the lure and replaces them with even larger ones that will hold big bass.
In the gathering light well before sunrise, he showed me what “jigger-poling” was all about, moving his boat slowly along parallel to the bank at a steady pace, slapping the water with the tip of the pole, and dragging the lure behind with little or no action given to it.
For 15 minutes, there was no response, and I couldn’t help but think the water was too shallow for the technique as he was only a few inches away from the bank most of the time. But then there was a strike and a miss, and in another few minutes a four-pound largemouth nailed the lure, creating a commotion on the surface that continued all the way to the boat.
Now that’s where the problem comes in. Trimbath didn’t figure to lose the fight after the hooks were imbedded in that bass, and some folks might figure it isn’t sporting. He didn’t fight the fish much; he just pulled the pole back to him with the bass kicking up as much opposition as it could muster.
When 15 feet of the 20-foot pole was behind him, he let the fish wear down a bit, then hoisted it up, unhooked it and released it. It may not have fought as hard, nor as long, as it would have on medium-light spinning gear or even bait-casting tackle, but it looked fun to me anyway.
Trimbath says he catches more big bass that way on Stockton than his fishing companions do with more conventional methods. His method works best on overcast days or after dark. The constant flipping of the small tip of the pole against the water attracts bass, which apparently think the lure is chasing it. But it isn’t easy to perfect it; you’ve got to ruffle the surface with that tip in a regular, consistent manner to make it work.
He said back then that he intended to try the technique for muskie with some revisions. He ran the line, a 125-pound test nylon braid, all the way down the pole from the tip, with a much larger muskie lure.
He said he figured a good-sized muskie would break the pole at the end. He also tied on a large pork frog at the end of the pole to help create more of a commotion.
I guess it worked. He called me a couple of days later to say he had coaxed two muskies into rises, out away from the bank in deep water next to some private docks, but he didn’t get a strike.
Jigger-poling has been around a long time in the south but I don’t know if it would ever catch on in the Ozarks. You can see though, how it would attract weed-bed bass in the south, fish that are hard to fish for with casting gear. And I can tell you this much: If you had that jigger-pole rig on a Canadian lake where northern pike and muskie patrol shallow weedy bays in the summer, you’d get the end of it chomped off in short order. Before my next trip to Canada, I intend to try to find one of those 20-foot poles.
New fishing group
A fellow by the name of Dan Brender called to say he is looking for members of the original Southwest Missouri Bass Club to form a new fishing group in the Joplin area for fun-fishing tournaments this summer and fall.
Anyone interested, please email him at email@example.com.
We are about to finish our 96-page, full-color summer issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazine. You can order one by mail or call our office at 417-777-5227.