Talking Skirts with Bryant's Custom Jigs
Part 2 of 2
March 2020, Volume 111
Last month we got a deep dive into the many material, color, and design options out there for skirted lures. We discussed the action on various materials, and rationale behind many of the patterns and colors available. While color is important, and often what you choose a lure for, there is another factor every bit as important. So what is it about skirts that’s more attractive than color?
Well, while most anglers tend to target and purchase skirted lures based primarily on color, there is another variant that is every bit as, if not more important than color. In talking with Larry, you realize it takes a lot of brain power to outsmart something with a brain the size of a pea. The trick to answering this question is to think about the bite. Often times colors will incite one of two types of bites, “eating or feeding” bite, and “reaction bite.” If you are going for a reaction bite, often times you want to bulk up your skirted lure. Whereas if you are going for a typical “eating or feeding” bite you may be surprised to hear you should be throwing finesse skirts.
To truly understand the most important variant, you must consider how you eat. When you are cold you want to sit down to a big bowl of hot chili. But when it’s hot outside and you are working and moving about, you don’t want to eat hot and heavy, most likely you will opt for a smaller portion. This has to do with your metabolism. Fish really aren’t any different. When its’ cold out, or more importantly when the water temp is colder, fish tend to shoot for fewer meals due to their lesser activity, but will shoot for more bulky bites with the right presentation to maintain their metabolism. When the water temps are up and the fish are moving more they tend to catch smaller meals on the run, and will often chase moving baits more readily with smaller profiles. This is key to the most important skirt variant, according to BCJ. Size or bulk variation of skirts is often the determining factor in getting bit. While color may be necessary to get the fish to look at the bait, bulk is most important in getting bit.
Carefully trimming layers into a jig skirt to maximize the action by freeing the inner layers of the skirt. These angle cuts work wonders to add action to a skirt by allowing the layers to "breathe".
A well trimmed skirt that allows the silicone to breathe and allows freedom for the trailer to have a natural action without being confined by an over-bulky silicone skirt.
When the bite is tough a lot of times we immediately change the color of our lures, especially when we have confidence in the lure we are throwing, but based on this logic you should be considering the profile and bulkiness, and downgrading the bulk to get that tough bite. Another consideration is action, so when the bite gets tough and you reduce bulk, you may also want to change to a living rubber skirt to increase the natural action of the skirt and draw more bites; particularly when soaking or dead-sticking your bait.
For jigs, the standard mass market jig is typically around 40-45 strands per skirt, with custom lures skirts typically coming in around 60 strands, while bulkier skirts may be 60 or more strands, as well as have longer skirts. The simplest way to reduce bulk in a jig, or any skirt for that manner is to reduce the skirt count. This can mean buying jigs with fewer strands, or simply pulling out strands from a full skirt. Not only does this reduce the bulk, but if you are careful about where you remove the strands you can also increase your trailer action for jigs and moving baits with plastic trailers. When using a trailer, you will want to decrease the skirt bulk on the underside of the skirt, especially on moving baits. If wire tied, to maximize your trailer action, cut the skirt strands on the underside of the wire; this allows more movement room for your trailer to have action, and may also increase hookup ratio by allowing the trailer to be less confined and potentially reducing your open hook gap clearance. This will also make a trailer hook more effective by decreasing the confinement of the trailer or skirt which will reduce its interference with the trailer hook. The other major determining factor in skirt bulk is the skirt wrap width and skirt length. This can be used to control bulking by pushing out the skirt around the collar band. Adjusting skirt length to control bulk is the most important part of skirt modifications.
To maximize the bulk of any skirt and increase its breathability you have to cut the skirts to varying lengths. One easy way to do this is to let the skirt hang straight and flat and cut three diagonals across the skirt in thirds. When the skirt breathes the varying length skirts will have different flex making them expand more and develop more bulk without increasing skirt count. With skirt trimming you basically have three primary cuts; a factory cut with standard flat lengths, a basic cut to add volume, and a fine cut to reduce bulk or a mop length to increase bulk. Generally speaking you should choose your skirt presentation to match the water temperature based metabolism. There are of course exceptions to every rule, and the exception to this rule is the pre and post spawn periods. Regardless of presentation, fish tend to target bulk the most in the pre and post spawn feedings to prepare for and recover from spawning; otherwise you will find finesse skirts tend to attract more bites. One thing to note here, is that the finessing a skirt doesn’t necessarily have to affect other factors of fishability like fall rate as you can take a full size heavy jig and still make it fish like a finesse jig with the proper skirt modifications. A great example of this is a football jig. Usually football jigs are either big bulky or little micro jigs, but neither fit the profile needed to garner more bites. You can take a full weight/size football jig, do a finesse trim on the skirt and reduce a few strands, and increase bites on a big bait as if it were a finesse bait.
So once your lure has a fish’s attention its profile is what seals the deal on the bite. This is common for confidence baits. A lot of times you will hear a lure that’s been bit gets bit better than one that hasn’t. Fish love ambush prey opportunities so fishing lures that are a little beat up from fish catches not only makes sense from a confidence standpoint but also from a forage standpoint. After all, this is really all that matters, because the bait you have the most confidence in you are more likely to fish that bait, put the bait where the fish are, leave it there longer, and work the bait harder if you believe you will get bit; that will increase your bites and increase your confidence.
Hopefully these insights from Bryant’s Custom Jigs can give you the information you need to maximize your time on the water by raising your confidence in your skirted baits through intelligent modifications. These tips should help you make that little difference to set you and your lures apart and get the bite that others miss, increasing your mental game, growing your confidence, and catching you more fish! Regardless of what others do, if it works for you, it works. We appreciate the insight from Mr. Larry and hope this gets you more bites while Bassin’ in the Boot!
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