Hey a jig can catch fish any time, but in general the jig is a lure to use from Fall to early Spring and especially in the middle of winter. In reservoirs when the water begins to rise, good fish will move tight to the bank and feed on the crawdads that get flushed out of their burrows. A jig is the killer bait this time of year. You'd be amazed how many good fish can be caught out of 2 feet of water in February. I wrote this statement orginally in 2001 and in 2002 I proved it with an 11-0, 12-7, and 13-2 all in less than 10 feet of water, and all in January and February. Jigs are also good in prespawn as fish stage out in deeper water. Find a creek arm in your lake, follow it out to where it drops into deeper water and start fishing your way in in March or April. The jig will catch them then. On places like the California Delta and Clear Lake fish are in cover all year long. Throw the jig in there and hold on.
Softly! Presentation is everything in shallow water jig fishing. Learn how to flip for short casts to 20 feet but also learn how to pitch a jig from 50 feet and have it land without a splash. Crawdads don't jump out of the sky! One thing I always used to read about but never understood was the guys who said they caught most of their fish on the fall. I used to just pitch my jig out and wait for it to hit the bottom on a slack line. In water less than 6 or 8 feet this is not what you want to do. What you should do is pitch out the jig and as soon as it enters the water keep a tight line and let it fall as slowly as possible. If you can cast over a small branch or lay down tully this is even better. Focusing on this will get you bites in shallow water. My biggest jig fish have almost all come this way.
As far as the retrieve goes, I know it's a lousy answer, but it all depends. In water 20+ feet I tend to fish slow keeping the jig close to the bottom and shaking occasionally or not at all. Only exception would be with spider jigs where I'm jigging fast. In 5 to 20 feet I'm hopping the jig and shaking more. Three short shakes and a pause, then a hop, then
three short shakes. You'll get a feel for the jig you are using and how to retrieve it. In shallow water throwing to specific targets I'm pitching in, letting it fall slowly, shaking it a few times and pulling it out. If I really feel there is a fish there obviously I will leave it longer or dead stick but that's something the fish are going to have to tell you they want.
Holy cow, you jus got bit, now what! Jigs have a weedguard and that needs to be dealt with. You need to set hard with a jig, no two ways about it. Make sure you are in a ready position (remember those little league drills). Rod tip should be up from 40 to 90 degrees as you work your jig. Don't get caught with your tip down. Set the hook hard and point the tip back over your shoulder. Not so far that you can't reel and catch up with the fish after the hookset, but far enough that you are 100% sure the hook is set. Sometimes I feel that it's necessary to let the fish have the jig a little bit. I'll feel the strike, then wind down on a slack line. When I feel the fish again an instant later I set hard. You don't want the fish to feel you reeling down but you want to give the fish that extra second to fully inhale your jig. Other times if the fish are very aggressive and you see your line jump, just rear back and set the hook like right now!
What can I say? Time to go out, grab some jigs and start fishin.