Mark Zona On Jigs For Bass Fishing

Mark Zona, a successful tournament pro and TV celebrity, teaches you his successful jig fishing secrets for bass fishing!
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Please excuse the shaky cam.  Mark's 9-year-old son did his best running the camera!

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Gene: Hi, my name is Gene Jenson with and I'm here with my good friend, Mark Zona.

Mark Zona: Ha, ha, ha. Yes.

Gene: And we are going to do something different today. Everybody knows Mark as the TV personality and how crazy he is with his TV show and stuff like that. Some of you don't realize that he is a dang good bass fisherman. And he knows a jig. So, for my first jig video we're going to talk about football head jigs, and I'm not going to be the one talking. We are going to have Mark in here, he's going to tell you the little details and the things he does to a jig to make it catch fish. And kind of talk about the equipment and everything he uses, and we're going to go from there.

Mark: Well, the interesting thing, the main thing that you want to talk about, Gene, and, you want to talk about football jigs. And football jigs have become very, very popular over the last, basically six to seven years. It seems every single year that we cover the Elite series, I'm talking about it, Tommy Sanders is talking about it.

And a lot of that comes through on the lakes we fish and the times of year we fish them. But, one of the things about a jig, and I don't care whether it's a jig that you pitch, a jig you're skipping boat docks with. In my opinion it's the best, all around big bass bait that there is. Now there's going to be somebody that's watching this and they're, oh Zona, dude, I catch giants on a frog, or I catch giants on a swim bait.

But day in and day out a jig is hands down, hands down the best big bass bait you can find. And really, if you're to go through the history of tournaments, you look at a crankbait and a jig, those are the two most powerful weapons there are.

Now the thing about a jig is where people go wrong that when you tie a football head jig. Where people go wrong with any kind of jig fishing, if they're not used to doing it they want to lay it down. They want to lay it down. Because there's so many other things out there that you can get bit on. Whether it's a weightless stick bait or a shaky head worm, your tendency's as a fisherman is, darn it I want to get some bites. I want to get some bites, I'm going to lay this jig down. A jig is traditionally, it's not a numbers bait. It is not a bait that you're going to go catch fifteen, twenty fish in a hour on. You might only catch 10 to 15 fish a day, but you have the potential to catch very, very big fish.

But when you look at my jig box, if you're to look at my football jig box. In fact, we just got done taping a show out here, we were at King Fisher Society, is I have three weights. I have a half ounce, I have a three quarter ounce and I have a one ounce. I have no other weight when I am throwing a football jig.

The number one reason why, if you watch my buddy from Kalamazoo, the way he uses a crankbait, those are his eyes at the bottom of a lake. The way Kevin VanDam throws a crank bait, he is searching for  little irregularities. Whether it's a little rock pile, whether it's a small drop, whether it's a stump. This for me is more comfortable to do it with. I want to feel every single thing on the bottom of the lake. I want to know when there's is a one foot differential and you're able to do that, to me with a football jig.

A football jig is an unbelievable search tool. And that's why I use the bigger weights. I use, like I said, a half to a one ounce. You'll never see me tie on, ever see me tie on a three-eighths ounce football jig. And the cool thing about the one I've got in my hand is Strike King just came out with this and this no, he's doing sponsor blogs. I'm not real big into doing that.

The thing I like most about this, I want a football jig that has a gaff on it. And Strike King just came out with what's called their tour grade football jig, heavy hook style. And what that is, is when you throw that thing out and you're down there in rock and huge trees on Falcon Lake, or Kentucky Lake or off a ledge on Guntersville. And you're dealing with the size fish that are able to eat this thing, is when you come back on them, when you lean on them that hook is not going to give. I mean, you can go out tuna fishing with that hook and that kind of raises the other thing about a jig, a football jig in particular. I grew up watching Denny Brauer and Tommy Biffle throughout the early '80s, not to date those guys.

Gene: Are you getting tired?

Mark: Are you hanging in there alright? My sons behind the camera, go ahead and turn around and show yourself.

Jacob: Hi.

Mark: Oh, I hear you hammer! All right.

Jacob: I'm going to get a chair.

Mark: Go ahead and take that chair, pretty shaky on those, got a Blair Witch thing going on.

Gene: That's all right.

Mark: One of the things to always know about a football jig is, I don't mess with my line a lot. I use fifteen, seventeen pound fluorocarbon. Fifteen mostly, if I can get away with it. But the bottom structure and the water clarity. And if we're going to go up I'll go to seventeen sometimes twenty. I really don't go down from there.

Gene: How do you set the hook on a line that light?

Mark: I'm going to talk about how you set the hook all around with a football jig. On the Bassmaster or on my show, on Zona's Awesome Fishing show everybody loves those big, crack the whip hook sets, I love to do them. But the best thing to do with a football jig is to reel set them. I remember you yesterday making fun of me for my hook sets with a football jig. You will hardly lose any bass on a football jig if you reel set them. And what I mean by that is when you feel the classic, when he's easing off with it. All you need to do is load your rod with your reel, not your arms, with your reel. And reel faster and come back. And what that's doing is that's digging that hook into that fish and what it's not doing. And a lot of people lose a lot of fish on football jigs, especially the one ouncers.

Gene: Yeah, because it blows there mouth.

Mark: It blows there mouth. What you want to do, your tendency is to, when you feel it go ka-koonk-koonk. And he's got it, your tendency is to go, crack! And the first thing that's going to happen is that big weight's going to go, poonk! And it's going to bust his mouth open and you're going to lose him. The best thing to do when you're in, predominantly you're fishing a football jig in, call it, eight foot of water down to forty feet of water is when one loads up on it, when ones got it. And you know he's got it, follow him with that reel and when you know he's got it, use a very high speed reel.

All my reels I use a seven to one Chronarchs, Shimano Chronarchs. And when he's got it, load that rod up. And the other thing I use is, I use a seven foot five rod because I use a Loomis MRX893. It's not a heavy action rod. It's actually a medium heavy. But what it does is that seven foot five action rod, it let's that rod load while I'm reeling. He can't feel it, you just pull into it and you got him. Now here's the problem, it sucks on camera. You don't get the bull whip.

Gene: The Davey Hite hookset.

Mark: You don't get the Davey Hite hookset and I'm not going to lie, I laughed at him a few times yesterday when he. It's awesome to see guys that are tremendous jig fisherman when they crack the whip. But more times then not if you reel set fish with a football jig you're going to land ninety-nine percent of them.

Gene: All right, let's back up a second. Do you do anything to the jig before you even tie it on?

Mark: It depends on where I'm at. One thing I always do and you saw me do this yesterday, is I'll cup that in my hand and all I do is take that skirt and I'll flick it here just to make that skirt flare a little bit more. If I'm on a lake that's got a lot of color, if I'm on Falcon I don't touch it.

Gene: Right.

Mark: I want that weed guard to be full. I want that skirt to be full, it's going to push a lot of water, it's going to push a lot of water. The other thing I use is just a standard ...

Gene: Ya Rage Craw

Mark: ... Rage Craw Just a standard size Rage Craw. And the only thing I do is break off that ...

Gene: Yeah, I noticed that. The head of that, it's like, fifty of them all over the boat. Right.

Mark: All over the boat. All over the boat. And the only thing that does is it keeps the claws closer to the jig. I don't want those claws hanging down here.

Gene: Right.

Mark: I just want those claws hanging a little more to where that bait is a little bit more compact for that fish to get hold of that. But the other question I get a lot is, people open up my jig box it's brown, green, and brown and green. I use a little bit of blue here and there, as far as my trailers go. But here's the thing, you're trying to make this thing look like a blue gill that's swimming that deep, or you're trying to make it look like a crawdad and that's it.

Rarely on a football jig will I go to a black, occasionally if you're in tremendously dirty water I'll go to a black. But predominantly, that jig right there the way that thing looks. It's got a little bit of blue, it's predominantly pumpkin with a lot of brown in it. That covers the entire spectrum. And I truly believe, I mean you saw me out here, I didn't want to put it down. That to me is the best bait on the planet. In fact, my producer always tells me, take the damn jig out of your hand. Just take the jig out of your hand.

Gene: The cool thing about this jig is the color. I know what the factory color is but what is Strike King call this color?

Mark: Blue craw.

Gene: Blue craw.

Mark: Yeah, blue craw. Just came out.

Gene: And if anybody wants to make there own skirts, this skirt color is called magic craw. This is my favorite color. It's a green pumpkin with a blue glimmer. And when it gets in that water it really glimmers blue. It really looks nice, anything else you do to them before you tie them on?

Mark: The nice thing is the way the jigs are now they really come ready to go. Like I said, I'll flare that skirt. Occasionally, if I'm in very, very sparse cover, if I'm dragging, if I'm up on a little gravel shoal, up in Michigan. I'm fishing for smallmouth. You cut that whole weed guard off, you don't need it. Doesn't need to be there.

Gene: Right.

Mark: But predominantly the way they are now, the way they come out of the package. Bud it's put a trailer on it.

Gene: Yeah, you don't even need to trim that weed guard, because it's right there.

Mark: I never trim that weed guard when we went fishing yesterday.

Gene: No, there's no reason to. Because if you trim any more, then you're defeating the purpose. One thing that I talked to another half way decent fisherman, Mike McClellen.

Mark: He one of the best in the world.

Gene: He one of the best there is.

Mark: And I'll be honest with you, I hate to say it, the majority of the BS that I just said, I learned from him.

Gene: To talk to him about how to fish these things is, watch what happens when I touch the eye of this hook. See what that does?

Mark: Always in the air.

Gene: Always in the air. And when you wiggle it, it's just like a shaky head with a monster bait on it.

Mark: Now I'm going to tell you one other thing and this is one thing that's not talked about a lot, yet on the Elite series. But a lot of what I was doing out here yesterday, a lot of what I do up in Michigan, with the bigger ones, the three quarters. Is, that thing sinks like a rocket and when that thing gets to the bottom one of the best big fish ways that I've learned in the last two years is to get that thing to the bottom and just swim it. And when you know that thing touched the bottom, keep swimming it.

Keep it up off the bottom. And the problem is, the bite is so vicious when one hits it, it will just plunk! You want to crush them. And the thing is, you just have to keep reeling. What you're waiting for him to do, he's got it and he's coming with you. When you're swimming a big football jig, let him eat it and keep reeling. And wait for him to turn because what's going to happen is when he turns the hooks going to go, cunck. But if you hit him, generally if he's swimming at you and that's what they do when you're swimming it. You're just going to and you're going to lose him. But swimming a football jig all around, that's my favorite way of fishing.

Gene: You're kidding, that's awesome. That is awesome. Phenomenal. Right on. Well, we had a great day today. I sat there yesterday and watched Zona, I was running the camera boat during his show. I watched him stroke the snot out of a five pound bass.

Mark: I mean, I caught him. Oh, I hear you.

Gene: In the morning he wanted to throw these swim baits and all this other stuff. We kept seeing him look down at that jig and look down at the jig. And then finally I just said, pick up that dang jig. He started picking it up and just, you know, we were catching fish on a swim bait, catching fish on everything else. But there's nothing like watching a expert stroke a jig.

Mark: See you all. And by the way, bye, bye to everybody. Say goodbye to everybody Jacob.

Jacob: Bye.

Mark: Love it.

Gene: All right, thanks sport.

Jacob: Wait, how do I turn it off?

Mark: See you guys.

Gene: Leave it on real quick. Is it still on?

Jacob: Yeah.

Gene: Still got record? And like I always say, visit

Mark: Please, everybody, Whenever I'm at the Classic, you named it right there. I love Glenn, I love you to. Sweet.

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