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What are Jig Heads?

By Ken Black
Updated May 23, 2024
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Jig heads are the top parts of lures known as jigs, used to catch a wide variety of predatory fish species. Jig heads may come by themselves, or as a complete package, usually with a skirt trailing the head and covering the hook. Usually, the hook extends down from the jig head as one piece. Therefore, jig heads are not just the top of the bait, but the hooking mechanism as well.

The sizes of jig heads often depend on the fish species being sought. In some cases, a smaller head may be good for species like crappie, which do not grow very big. In other cases, a larger jig head may be desired to catch species such as walleye and largemouth bass. In general, jig heads come in weights less than 2 ounces (56 grams) for fresh water fishing.

The use of jig heads in salt water can have slightly more variation to the sizes. However, in the vast majority still stay relatively small. Some deep sea jigging techniques may require jig heads to be slightly larger than the freshwater versions, however. Again, this usually depends on the type of species being targeted.

While many jig heads come as complete jigs, there are those which do not. The main reason for jig heads to be sold separately is to allow the angler to choose the skirt they think will be most effective. The angler may want to choose a different color or length. This allows the opportunity to do that.

Often, fishing is a process where baits may need to be tried in more than one combination or more than one area. Having jig heads with interchangeable skirts offers a whole new element to the process. This may be especially critical for those anglers fishing in tournaments, who need to find the right lures and find them quickly.

Most jig heads are made with a lead head, which gives them the weight they need. Further, this allows the angler not to have to use an additional weight, which may interfere with the presentation of the jig. That is why the jig head doubles as a weight.

In general, a weight of 2 ounces (56 grams) or more is not needed in fresh water. However, in salt water, if trolling at a high rate of speed for larger species, a heavier weight may be required. This accounts for the difference in the weights of jig heads between fresh water and salt water.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Mar 01, 2012

@jmc88 - You are right, I have seen fishing shows where they try and hook marlin and the jig heads they use are just enormous and a bit comical looking if one did not realize what it was being used for.

I have to say that I never have success when I use jig head baits and it seems to me like I am using some that are outdated or simply jig heads that are not effective anymore.

I am wondering what the best brands of jig heads are and if anyone has any suggestions on some good tactics to use as well as what fish will bite the particular jig heads.

I am asking this because I am moving away from fishing for catfish and instead looking to focus on catching large mouth bass. I may want to start fishing in tournaments someday, but I would like to know what I am doing before I go that route and not end up using a ridiculous looking wacky jig head for the wrong fish and get made fun of.

By jmc88 — On Feb 29, 2012

I have always like using jigs to catch fish as I see it as more of a sporting venture to use as opposed to live bait.

Some jigs that I like are the salt water jig heads that they use to try and catch giant fish, like tuna or marlin, and the jig heads seem as large as someones arm!

I was once on a boat in the Atlantic fishing for marlin, which I had never done before and I was shocked when the captain of the boat handed be the jig head I would be using. I have to say I was absolutely flabbergasted at how large this bait was, and even more surprised that it looked exactly like a smaller jig head I had at my house that I use to catch pan fish.

By Izzy78 — On Feb 28, 2012

@titans62 - That is fairly interesting. I have never found much success utilizing jig head baits to catch bottom feeders, but it could just be that I do not know how to do it right for those particular kinds of fish.

I will say I have had success using jig heads for catching carp, as those fish seem to be willing to bite on anything.

I find it quite surprising at the rate of which a school of carp will go after anything and they tend to sit at the bottom in groups, so odds are you will get a bite.

I will say though, that if you choose a jig head to attract carp, please utilize a smaller hook, because when cast in a school of carp a bigger hook can potentially pierce the side of the fish and pull it up that way.

As odd as this sounds this tends to happen when I am fishing for carp and I use too big of a jig or hook. Carp are odd fish and will seem to go for anything which is why the fisherman needs to look out for them and realize they can harm the fish badly with too big of a hook.

By titans62 — On Feb 27, 2012

I always like to use jig heads when I go fishing and I have found out that they can be used for more than just catching bass or crappie.

Sometimes when i go fishing for catfish or other bottom feeders, I choose to use a jig head instead of making a mess and using livers or worms.

I find this to be fairly effective, but it all depends on how one knows how to fish.

I have found through experience in order to try and lure a catfish one has to jiggle the bait in such a way to get the fishes attention and make it look like a struggling potential meal.

Catfish are usually attracted to scent, but if they can see a jig right in front of them and it looks appetizing enough they will go for it and bite on it.

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