First Cast Jigs

Posted on May 16, 2002

About 35 years ago,during my college years, a friend alerted my to a hot smallie bite in Pennsylvania’s Elk creek, just before it spilled into Lake Erie. Venturing out into the wide shallow stream on a drizzly afternoon, tossing jigs and spinners into the current, I drew an occasional strike from a few scattered smallies. Certainly the action wasn’t indicative of my friend’s promise that “they were in there thick!”. But with the rain continuing and the current picking up, I decided to try a combo I’d read about, a sensational smallie technique from Oregon, I believe, that involved a marabou jig & plastic worm pulled along by a river’s flow under a slip float. (This was way before the float ‘n fly became popular). Bass jumped all over this natural speed technique on every cast until I was soaked, shivering, and then retired happy! I believe I lost count after 50! Of course, as luck would have it the rains really got heavy (remnants of a hurricane!) for the next 10 days and I couldn’t get back to really see how many I could’ve caught and released.

Through the years I’ve utilized similar jig and float tactics, all with better than average success. I had spirited phone conversations with the late Charlie Nuckols on his mid-winter float ‘n fly methods, picked the brain of a local Pittsburgh panfish float expert (he catches tons of bass by “accident” with his tiny jigs!), and even studied the extremely detailed float fishing techniques of very serious British carp experts. But it wasn’t till recently that I discovered the perfect jig for this method to adapt to river and stream smallmouth.

Once again, I had to venture beyond normal bass wisdom and borrow from outside specie knowledge. It turns out those who fish for river steelhead in the Pacific Northwest have absolutely dynamite float techniques for handling current, and one small company, First Cast Jigs, has a small, active jig that is ideal for smallmouth bass! Jig tier and company owner, Mark Anderson, specializes in tough, low water conditions and set about to create a unique jig that appealed to wary, tight-lipped salmon and steelhead. I suppose it’s not his fault that his attractive little creation also spells big trouble for those sometimes elusive smallies!

Mark’s jig defies standard leadhead building procedures and materials. First of all, he doesn’t use lead at all, but takes a flashy brass bead and affixes it IN FRONT of a super sharp Owner hook to yield perfect upright balance for swimming below a float. Then he spirals an unusual material (for many of us) — Schlappen feather — around the shank. The Schlappen feather is super active, sort of an extremely long hackle feather with swimming action similar to marabou, but tougher and with much more pulsation. With many feather color combinations (though his black, chartreuse, purple, and white patterns and mixtures bear close scrutiny by bass fishermen) that flare well out sideways to offer fish a thick, chewy looking package, these First Cast Jigs really do most of the angler’s job for him.

Under most non-float fishing situations, I tend to be a big user of Charlie Brewer’s sliders and “do-nothing” retrieve methods. Well, with a float, the same presentation is offered with Mark Anderson’s jigs. Just let the float pull ‘em slowly and steadily downstream! Mark even has a unique hookup with a plastic worm, whereby he threads an appropriately colored 3″ piece of plastic over the jig’s hook until he has it cornering around the bend and pointing straight up (check his website to see photos of this strange rigging – Very unusual looking until you watch it spasm and wiggle under the slightest movement in water. Mark also tells me that fish have irresistible encouragement to gulp down the whole tight package when attacking!

Oh, and about the company name – seems in many instances when arriving at a new pool it was the very first drift of Mark’s 1/16/, 1/8, or 1/4 oz. little gems that produced the goods! And if these jigs are so devastating among the fiercely competitive holes of the salmon fraternity, who are we to deny showing ‘em to our more laidback river smallies? Contact Mark at First Cast Jigs — P.O. Box 488 North Plains, OR 97133 or check his website at

Guest Review by John McKean

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