It’s hard to find flat ground to play the football in this hilly terrain so when folks in these parts talk football the hot topic is usually a bass jig with a head shaped like the oblong pigskin.
Although the football-style jighead was originally designed for the deep, rocky reservoirs in the Southwest, anglers at Table Rock have discovered these lures score big on their home waters. Tim Sainato and Buster Loving, a pair of Table Rock Lake guides, and Kelly Power, a successful l tournament competitor from Galena, Mo., have relied on the football jig to penetrate deep zones on the clear waters of Table Rock.
Many lure manufacturers produce a football-style jighead, but Sainato, Loving and Power have won tournaments and recorded big catches on the Jewel Bait Company Football Jig. The jig features a cross-eyed Mustad hook and a fiber weedguard for pulling the lure through brush and big rocks without hang-ups. Its concave head below the hook eye creates a rocking motion that allows it to roll over tree limbs and stay in the strike zone longer.
Although they use the same jig, these three football experts employ different lure sizes and retrieves on their home waters. Sainato and Loving opt for football jigs in brown/purple flash or peanut butter and jelly—a color combination with contrasting black, purple and brown hues. Power favors brown and green shades for his football jig.
The game plan for the three local anglers is to fake out bass with their crawfish-imitating jig. Power believes the football jig’s design and a prototype trailer he uses makes the lure fall flat like a crawfish. “If you watch a crawdad push off it doesn’t roll over from one side to the other,” discloses Power. “It moves straight and that’s what the football jig does with the bigger trailer on the back.”
Power’s trailer resembles a creature bait with two large tentacles and four appendages, but it also has two pincers. “The appendages and pincers keep the skirt more flared out,” he says. “Anytime you can put something inside the jig’s skirt it will flare out better.”
Sainato and Loving both tip their football jigs with Chompers twin tail plastic grubs in cinnamon purple hues. They use 4-inch grubs on the smaller football jigs and a 5-inch grub on a 3/4-ounce model to give the lure more bulk when fishing it in deep water.
These tournament-proven quarterbacks choose footballs in various sizes to deliver their bombs to bass in different depth zones. “I’ve caught fish as deep as 70 to 75 feet and as shallow as 5 feet,” claims Sainato.
The Walnut Shade, Mo., angler favors a 3/4-ounce football jig for probing depths of more than 25 feet in clear water and switches to a 5/8-ounce model for working in the 10- to 25-foot depth range in the stained water. Loving uses the 3/4-ounce jig for most of his applications and Power opts for the 5/8-ounce version. All three anglers prefer a 1/2-ounce Jewel Football Jig for tossing in the 5- to 10-foot depth zone.
Rocky points and drop-offs are Sainato’s favorite targets for delivering his football jig. Loving knows he can cover a lot of water in a hurry with a football jig so he prefers running this lure along vast flats in the summertime. Power’s football tactics produce best on suspended bass huddling next to standing timber or above brush piles.
Retrieving his jig with a series of pops and jerks triggers reaction strikes for Sainato. “I probably put a lot more action into it than everybody else does,” he says. “I keep my rod tip down a lot of times and work it like a jerkbait.”
The speed of his retrieve depends on the mood of the fish. If Sainato notices bass on his depth finder are stationary, he will pop and lift his jig but try to keep it in the same spot. “Every cast I make will have a different retrieve until the fish tell me how they want it,” he reveals.
When the water is still cool in the spring, Loving uses the conventional bottom-dragging retrieve with his football jig, but he switches to a hopping presentation in warmer water. “In the summertime I get my rod up and really jump that lure,” says the Rockaway Beach, Mo, angler who fan-casts his football jig along the flats. “I cast around a lot at 45-degree angles and try to cover as much water as I can.”
Tossing his football into waters in the 25- to 30-foot zone, Power counts his lure down to 15 to 20 feet and engages his reel so he can complete his pass to suspending fish. “I am swimming that bait more than I am fishing it on the bottom,” he describes. “There are times when I might hit the bottom halfway through my retrieve but I try to spend the majority of my time targeting roll-offs where the fish are staged. I’ve had more fish hit that bait on the fall or when I am swimming it.”
The football jig produces year-round for Sainato and Loving. “I’ll start using it in March and I will fish with it until Christmas,” Loving says. Power rates the warmer months from the postspawn until mid October as the prime time to throw the football for suspended bass.
These Ozark anglers have experienced a high percentage of completions with their footballs. The football produced a memorable guide trip for Sainato at Table Rock when he and his client caught 46 keepers in four hours.
Throwing the football has also produced tournament victories for Power, who caught two winning bags weighing more than 25 pounds at Table Rock in recent years. “I’ve caught a tremendous amount of 18- to 22-pound bags on it,” he reveals.
When Table Rock bass go to a deep zone, toss a football jig and you’ll score more often than those weekend warriors who flail away at the bank.
For information on shows, lodging and attractions in the Table Rock Lake or Lake Taneycomo area or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-BRANSON or visit the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB web site at www.explorebranson.com.