Talking Skirts with Bryant's Custom Jigs

Part 1 of 2 

February 2020, Volume 110

After a cold rainy tournament we made the trek to Alexandria to visit with our friends at Bryant’s Custom Jigs (BCJ).  After a quick bite, we headed to the workshop to talk skirts with Larry Bryant.  Hoping to take some long time industry knowledge and improve our fishing a little, we wanted to share some of the insights with you we gained from Larry on the basics of skirt materials, colors, and collars, and some advanced skirt modifications to increase bites.  Larry has been in the business for a while, and routinely ships some of his custom creations to nearly every state.  In fact, we first covered BCJ in our first edition of Bassin’ In The Boot in May of 2019.  Since then, we have formed a partnership featuring his jigs on our website, in our shop, and in exclusive Bassin’ In The Boot colors (Salt and Pepper, Spicy Craw, and Plum Crazy).  Every time we talk to Larry we gain a new perspective and some great information about bass fishing.


This trip was no different as Larry walked us through the ins-and-outs of skirts for all skirted baits.  Having likely forgotten more than I will ever know, Larry laid the knowledge on thick, so we decided to try to share as much as we could to you all.  In discussions Larry says “nothing in fishing is an exact science” and these are his opinions; but I will gladly take these opinions as close enough to fact given the track record of BCJ’s products. 

 

To start us off, Larry walked us through the basics of skirt materials, and which baits he makes with which skirts.  The big three skirt materials are Silicone, Living Rubber, and Bioflex.  The basics strengths and weaknesses of each or outlined below.  Silicone is basically the most popular skirt material, primarily due to the fact that the colors are nearly limitless.  Larry estimates well over 90% of skirted baits sold are silicone skirts.  Silicone typically comes in tabs, usually around 5 ½” long and generally with around 22 strands of skirting per tab.  Silicone is most durable, and colorful, and has good action while a bait is moving or working, but limits your ability to gain natural action from the water movement while “dead sticking” or “soaking” your baits; a common cold water technique for jig fishing. 

 

Living rubber is perhaps the “classic” skirt material and offers by far the best action, even when “dead sticking” or “soaking” due to the liveliness of the rubber skirt in water.  This action results from the natural density of the rubber and its ability to “breathe” or un-bunch under water.  Living rubber raw material is also available in cut-to-length rolls, making the skirt length options limitless, and is a very common material in “mop jigs.”  Also due to the breathability, and the length availability, living rubber is the easiest material to “bulk” with.  Commonly available in three skirt widths/thicknesses, you can choose your level of bulk by fine, medium, and heavy strand size/diameter.  An added bonus, many of the living rubber products used in the fishing industry are still made in the United States of America!

 

The third most common skirt material is Bioflex.  Originally created by Skirts Plus, Bioflex provides nearly all the properties of living rubber with more of the color options available in silicone.  While still somewhat limited in color options, Bioflex is in fact a silicone material that “breathes” similar to living rubber.  Additionally, Bioflex adds durability as it is silicone based, it won’t “melt” in your tackle box like living rubber does on those hot Louisiana days!

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All about skirts!   A pile of skirt tabs kept handy for accenting custom skirts in the Bryant's Custom Jigs 

The three primary skirt materials are left to right, Silicone, Living Rubber, and Bioflex.

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Much like the skirt materials, there are three main methods of attaching skirts to the lure frame.  The most common commercial method is by incorporating the skirt with a rubber collar or by using a rubber collar band to hold the skirt to the frame.  For more durable and often customized lures, many skirts are hand wrapped either with nylon string, braid line, or light gauge wire.  This method more securely fastens the skirt extending the length of the bait.  Perhaps the best (in our opinions) is the full hand wrap with copper wire.  Usually featuring wire of around 16 gauge copper, which is available in different colors, this method offers the most effective secure fastening while offering even more durability and longer life time on the lure.

 

The next major variation in skirts is color.  Color variations are nearly limitless with all of the materials available.  Your primary colors will predominantly depend on bait type and forage imitation.  So for forage imitation you are typically going to be mimicking either Shad, something in the Bream/Sun-Perch/Crappie family, or a Crawfish.  With the colors available in silicone you can seamlessly match the hatch with nearly any skirt design.  So when considering the colors available you should consider the hatch you want to match.  Things to consider include lake specific skirt colors, water color specific skirt colors, and forage specific skirt colors.  For many of us we have go to colors for waterbodies we fish regularly.  But when we go to new places, we often try to pick colors based on water color/clarity and the most prevalently available forage species.  For instance, if you are going clear water during the shad spawn you shoot for natural shad imitation colors; silvers, whites, greys, with muted specs and bands to reduce contrast (more on contrast later).  So when you have lake specific colors, you will typically have a go to color to match the shad, the bream/sunfish/crappie, and the crawfish forage found in that lake.  These colors may be subtly modified for varying water conditions.  If you are going to choose colors based on water color/clarity you will typically look for a muted/natural color, something with a little flash, and then full on maximum contrast.  The rule of thumb here is in clear water you want to shoot for the most natural muted color, with less flash and contrast, and closely match the hatch.  For medium clarity water you want to increase your contrast and flash marginally by adding some banding or spotting in the skirts, and turn up the volume on your colors a little bit.  Here is where whites and silver bands shine for shad imitation, where you see more blacks spots in the green pumpkins and other crawfish imitations, and you see more of the bream bands in sunfish imitations.  Finally in muddy or stained water you go for maximum contrast with heavy banding and spread colors that pop, such as chartreuses, chartreuse and white/black, black and white contrast, or natural colors with heavier banding in the skirts, and more flash and glitter on the skirt patterns.  These color variations are then walked between based on the depth you are targeting (the deeper the more contrast needed due to reduction in light penetration) and the overall sky conditions (less flash when bright and sunny, more flash when cloudy, etc.).

To break down the color patterns even more, we can look at the general categories available in silicone.  There are approximately nine primary types of color profiles available for silicone skirts, which also primarily cover the available colors for Bioflex and living rubber.  The most basic is a Solid.  Solid color skirts are very common and rely most heavily on the color to match the hatch – think white or black.  When we fancy the colors up a little we can look at the next type of color variant called Color Flaking or Glitter.  This adds a touch of contrast and flash to the basic color skirts – think pearl whites or black with black flake.  The third color variation found in skirts is known as dalmatian or spotting.  Dalmatian skirts have contrasting splotches within them that increase the color contrasting with the water by showing movement more and having more depth – think green pumpkin with the black splotches or chartreuse pepper.  The fourth skirt color variant that ups both the contrast and natural mimicking texture is the fish scale.  Not just to imitate shad and sunfish family species, fish scale is available in craw matching colors as well.  This patterned contrasting scale skirt shows even more movement and brings in a bit of contrasting pattern to match the hatch by showing texture – think shad scales.  The fifth type of skirt color variant incorporates multi-color banding with wider bands and often brings in more flake to provide more flash, sometimes called Living Image.  This again increases the contrast and flash – think bluegill/bream colors like dark green pumpkin flash with the dark banded strands; these are usually only part of the skirt as “added strands” to some of the skirt variants above to subtly increase contrast.  The sixth common variant is chrome.  This color variant provides more flash and light reflection than flakes or glitter and is also typically used as accent strands in a full skirt – think holographic scales in flashy black and blues or smoking shad colors.  The seventh skirt color variant commonly found is known as barbed wire and is a variation on the Living Image banding, by providing contrasting textures to the band patterns – a good example is red/black glitter in red fire skirts.  These are available in half and full barbed wire, which is just a variation of the black band thickness and texture with the full having more contrast.  The eighth common skirt variant is nearing maximum contrast and incorporates “Fire Tips” to show maximal contrast and motion – thing chartreuse tipped.  And finally the ninth common color pattern variant is known as glitter bars.  These incorporate the banding found in living image with the flash found in the chrome and glitter skirts.  These appear as maximal contrast with primary black banding and bright shimmery color bars – think fire flash colors.  While there are many other skirt color variations, these nine compose the vast majority of common skirt color combinations found on both the mass and custom markets.          

 

While color is important, and often the reason you chose a lure, there is another factor every bit as important.  Come back next month to find out how skirt modifications for managing the bulk, profile, and action of your skirted lures can get you bit more often the next time you Geaux Bassin!

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Near limitless options for silicone skirts.  Outlining the color variants described, featuring glitter bars, fire tips, color flaking, solids, dalmatian, barbed wire, living image, chrome flakes, chrome scales, chrome flakes, and scales. 

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