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The Versatile Jig

Mike Jeresek is one of the better trout fishermen around Rushford, Minnesota. He's also one of the most unusual. When fishing season is closed, he teaches high school physical education, coaches girls' basketball, and hunts pheasants.
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He's also one of the most unusual. When
fishing season is closed, he teaches high
school physical education, coaches girls'
basketball, and hunts pheasants. Every
spring, summer, and fall, however, he
catches trout -- usually several hundred
of them -- and also works as the stream-improvement
chairman for the local Trout Unlimited
(TU) chapter. The TU group is notable
partly because it is almost evenly divided
between flyfishermen and spinning fanatics.
There are also a couple of oddballs who
throw little jigs -- the ones you'd use
for crappies and walleyes -- into trout
water. Jeresek is one of the oddballs.




Jigging for trout is not a mainstream
technique, a fact that Jeresek both accepts
and relishes. "I've tried the other methods,"
he says. "I started with bait in the 1960s.
Got tired of it, then learned to flyfish.
I got pretty good at that, then I noticed
my brother, who was throwing Rapalas with
spinning gear, was catching bigger fish
than I was. So I switched again. I liked
spinning and caught plenty of fish."


Then he heard from a trout fisherman who
used jigs. "He talked about their versatility,"
Jeresek recalls. "The more I heard, the
more sense he made. Of course, he also mentioned
that the world-record brown trout was caught on a jig. That
didn't hurt, either."



So Jeresek threw himself into jigging.
He bought ultralight spinning rods and
reels to match them. He studied catalogs
aimed at crappie fishermen. And, of course,
he spent hundreds of hours flinging jigs
at fish. Having built or installed many
of the area's trout hidey-holes, Jeresek
knew where to experiment. It didn't take
him long to find that trout were nuts
about his offerings.


Simply
Irresistible


"One of the things I immediately liked
about jigs was that I controlled the bait,"
Jeresek says. "Most spinning lures only
work at one eed. But I dictate action
and speed with jigs. I've caught trout
by ripping a jig through a hole, dead-drifting
it with the current, or swimming it near
the surface. I've even had trout cruise
by and pick them off the stream bottom.
That's the beauty of it; you can adjust
your presentation to how fish behave that
day."



Why do trout find these little lures so
irresistible? Probably for the same reasons
they like Woolly Buggers or small streamers.
The undulating silhouette of a small jig
suggests a worm, larva, nymph, or minnow
that's worth a closer look to a trout.
And if you subscribe to the fish-like-to-hit-something-different
school of thought, jigs are a superb and
simple alternative to the endless parade
of common flies and lures that many stream
trout both endure and ignore.



Jeresek usually tosses jigs as he would
a spinner or small crankbait: up and across
stream to pinpoint locations out to about
25 yards. "The majority of streams around
here are small, so I fish light jigs weighing
1á32 or 1/64 ounce," he
says. "I also figured out in a hurry I
needed some special equipment to pitch
them where they needed to go."


Rod
and Line


Jeresek turned to another avid trout fisherman
and rod builder, Jim Reinhart (Rushford's
football coach), who built him a 5-foot
lightweight rod with a sensitive tip.
Equipped with an ultralight reel, the
outfit is the spinfisherman's answer to
a 4-weight fly rod -- it quivers even
when you just pick it up.


"I
fill the spool with 4-pound, thin-diameter
monofilament," Jeresek points out. "Six-pound
is too heavy; 2-pound casts a country
mile, but I lost most of the big fish
I hooked with it. Thin diameter is important
because it allows longer casts. Filling
the reel properly (to within approximately
1á8 inch of the spool lip) is important,
too. If you don't, the line hangs up on
the spool and shortens your casts."


Which
Weight?


Southeastern Minnesota isn't the only
place where trout eat jigs, of course.
They'll work in any trout stream. Jeresek
has fished his favorite lures in Western
waters, for example, where cutthroats,
rainbows, and browns all responded well
to the same patterns he uses at home.
On a recent float trip along Montana's
Kootenai River -- much bigger and faster
water than most Minnesota streams -- Jeresek
just adapted by throwing larger and heavier
jigs ranging up to 1/4 ounce when
needed to sink down through a formidable
current.




In more modest trout water back home,
however, Jeresek has his best luck throwing
1/64-ounce jigs that he ties himself:
simple patterns consisting of a cone-shaped
metal head, chenille body, and marabou
tail. He and his jig-tossing cohorts,
Jim Reinhart and Mitch Thompson, have
found that dull colors such as brown,
black, and olive are the most successful
on area stream trout. When these colors
fail, sometimes a switch to a white or
pearlescent soft-plastic tube-style jig
will draw strikes. Other anglers have
had good success fishing more garish colors
like pink, red, or yellow.


On-Stream
Lessons


I went with Jeresek for an on-stream demonstration
last spring. Recent rains had the big
the spool and shortens your casts."


Which
Weight?


Southeastern Minnesota isn't the only
place where trout eat jigs, of course.
They'll work in any trout stream. Jeresek
has fished his favorite lures in Western
waters, for example, where cutthroats,
rainbows, and browns all responded well
to the same patterns he uses at home.
On a recent float trip along Montana's
Kootenai River -- much bigger and faster
water than most Minnesota streams -- Jeresek
just adapted by throwing larger and heavier
jigs ranging up to 1/4 ounce when
needed to sink down through a formidable
current.




In more modest trout water back home,
however, Jeresek has his best luck throwing
1/64-ounce jigs that he ties himself:
simple patterns consisting of a cone-shaped
metal head, chenille body, and marabou
tail. He and his jig-tossing cohorts,
Jim Reinhart and Mitch Thompson, have
found that dull colors such as brown,
black, and olive are the most successful
on area stream trout. When these colors
fail, sometimes a switch to a white or
pearlescent soft-plastic tube-style jig
will draw strikes. Other anglers have
had good success fishing more garish colors
like pink, red, or yellow.


On-Stream
Lessons


I went with Jeresek for an on-stream demonstration
last spring. Recent rains had the big

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