John's Journal... Entry 154, Day 1
JIGGERPOLE FISH FOR SUMMERTIME BASS
Lost Art Of Jiggerpole Fishing
EDITOR'S NOTE: My dad sat in the front of the handmade, cypress johnboat in the hot sun and tapped out a tune with his cane jiggerpole to which the big bass danced. While the burnt orange rays of the new sun painted a golden tapestry across the little ripples made by the tapping cane, my father's fishing skill held me spellbound. An explosion on the water that revealed the savage fury of a 5-pound-plus bass at close range scared me so badly I pulled hard on the paddle I was using to propel the boat down the bank. When I released the paddle and grabbed hold of the side of the boat, I heard the loud, sharp pop as the pole splintered in my dad's hands. Often a big bass would break a jiggerpole when my dad and I fished together many years ago. Jiggerpole fishing, a part of the Phillips' family fishing tradition, catches numbers of summertime bass. However, as in all things when the old gives way to the new, some of the best bass tactics have died out. Fickle anglers change techniques and search for a new strategy, a magic lure or a better way to catch bass. However, Randy Howell of Demopolis, Alabama, not only has preserved but also has improved the lost art of jiggerpole fishing, which some anglers consider one of the most-productive ways to catch big bass, especially in the summer.
"Some years ago, a friend of mine was fishing in the back end of a slough when he saw an old man using a jiggerpole and taking plenty of bass," Howell said. "When my friend returned home and told me of the method, we both decided we wanted to learn to jiggerpole fish." Through study, research and experimentation, Howell learned the tactic of shake-pole fishing that anglers used with deadly efficiency on bass 30, 40 and 50 years ago and began to make converts to this very- productive way to fish. Until recently, fishermen only taught this new gospel by word of mouth. One angler would demonstrate the tactic to a buddy and converted that angler to the gospel of jiggerpoling. Thus the use of the old technique spread, particularly throughout the South.
However, jiggerpole fishing doesn't just work for southern anglers. Any body of water that has shoreline with cover, whether rocks, grass, weeds, stumps, stick-ups, bushes, etc. will produce jiggerpole bass. From all indications, this forgotten fishing strategy will produce more and bigger bass than conventional methods have in the past.
To find out the deadliness of this resurrected fishing tactic, I talked with one of Howell's disciples, Bill Green of Bessemer, Alabama, who reported, "I live on the Warrior River just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Although I've fished this river all my life, I've never really caught a big bass on the river. But when I started using the jiggerpole, my fishing luck changed. Some of the people who'd known me all my life probably thought I'd started using dynamite to catch big bass." In the first six weeks Green utilized a jiggerpole, he caught more big bass than he'd ever taken before in his life. According to Green, "Jiggerpole fishing is deadly. I caught and released 15 bass in the first six weeks that weighed over 5 pounds each. The biggest one I took was an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth. Also since using this jiggerpole tactic, I've caught 30 or 40 largemouth that will weigh 3- to 5- pounds each here on the Warrior River, which is not known as a big-bass river." What makes Green's testimony even more phenomenal, he only fishes one to two hours in the late afternoon after he leaves his job.
TOMORROW: DISCIPLES OF JIGGERPOLE FISHING