Herring Head Underpin Jig: This One Is a classic Winner

Okay, so I have to admit that I am one of those bass nerds who watch the Bassmaster Classic live feed over the internet. This year while I watched Casey Ashley win the classic, I paid close attention to the video of him unhooking fish. It was one particular shot on the final day that made me perk up like a dog hearing his treat bag rustling. Wait. Is that a Do-it Pony Head jig? I thought to myself.

Well, it was. Ashley won the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on a lure that his dad made for him—what a story. Not only for a hometown hero to win on his home lake, Lake Hartwell, but for it to be done with a lure that probably cost his father a dollar to make. This is the pinnacle of the bass fishing greats armed with all the greatest high-tech lures of our time and the grand prize goes to a guy fishing a simple Do-it Pony Head jig tipped with a plastic fluke.

For lures, this was a Cinderella story.

Ashley was using a 3/8-ounce Do-it Pony Head model poured with a 4/0 Mustad hook. Off the nose of the Pony Head, he rigged a quality ball bearing swivel and a size 3.5 nickel willow blade. He caught 13 of his 15 bass limit on this jig.

Pony head or horse head spin lures have been around for decades. It has been a staple for crappie anglers as long as the concept has been around. This concept is a jig head that sports a rotating spinner blade directly under the body of the jig. Although the crappie-sized models have “accidentally” caught bass their entire career, in recent years bass fishermen have discovered that larger models carrying bigger plastics are a pretty deadly addition to their bass arsenal.

Well, like everything in life, we strive to make things better and perfect and tweak concepts that already work. That’s exactly what Do-it has done with the classic “under spin”-type lure in their new Herring Head jig mold.

While the Do-it Pony Head and Horse Head jigs are still great producers, the Herring Head jig has been put together with the most discerning bass aficionados in mind. For starters, the new Herring head features its namesake—a super realistic herring- or baitfish-shaped head. Secondly, this was made with gamefish in mind, so this lure can handle a large quality hook. It was designed for the sticky, sharp and super-strong Gamakatsu 604 hook, but it will also handle other quality hooks such as the Eagle Claw 635 for those who are after stripers, Great Lakes fish or even saltwater species.

One of the great improvements to this lure is the wire form that protrudes off the chin of the jig. This simple feature assures that the blade is well away from the body, allowing a free-spinning blade no matter what dressing you chose for the jig.

When Ashley took the Classic by storm he commented that the key to the successful bait was that the blade was spinning all the time, no matter what speed the lure was retrieved. Remember, the 2015 Classic was blasted with record cold, plummeting water temperatures and bass in as much shock as the South Carolina anglers and fans. Ashley was slow-rolling his Pony Head near the bottom in as much as 40 feet of water where these fish had hunkered down around schools of herring. My personal experience with this Herring Head mirrors Ashley’s sentiments—use a high-quality ball bearing swivel on this bait. They last longer, and secondly, they spin at the slightest movement, which is the key to this bait. If you have to rip it or pull it sharply to get the blade spinning, you aren’t fishing this correctly.

This fatty brown found the 1/4-ounce Herring Head tipped with a Pearl White Carrot Stick Tail irresistible. He hit while working the bottom in about 18 feet of water.
This fatty brown found the 1/4-ounce Herring Head tipped with a Pearl White Carrot Stick Tail irresistible. He hit while working the bottom in about 18 feet of water.

Use either size 1 or size 2 ball bearing swivels on all the weight sizes of Herring Heads. Make sure they have a split ring where the blade can be added and do not accidentally purchase swivels with welded rings.

That takes us to the spin part of the “underspin.” While early Pony Heads and Horse Heads normally featured tiny Colorado blades, the new trend is using a willow blade. Willows spin very easy and offer the least resistance, allowing a lure like this to be fished deep without creeping up near the surface. The new Herring Head mold makes lures from 1/8 ounce up to 5/8 ounce. The 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-ounce heads work well with a size 3.5 willow. The 1/8 is best with a #3 blade. The largest, the 5/8 ounce, will also work with the size 3.5, but can also handle a #4 willow if desired.

Plain nickel, gold, polished brass or copper blades are readily available to complement any color scheme. If you really want a custom look consider painting a blade with the same paint you use to color the head.

Heads can be dipped, sprayed or hand painted. The easiest is Component Systems powder paint. Heat the head up over a candle and swish it through the powder paint and you are ready to fish. Bake the head at 275 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes if you want the finish rock-hard.

As mentioned earlier, the Herring Head boasts classic baitfish features including recessed eye sockets, which make adding eyes a breeze. The smallest Herring Head takes 2.5-mm eyes, the middle three sizes look great with 3-mm eyes, and the 5/8 ounce will take a 4mm eye. Whether you choose a flat eye or a 3-D eye, or even go old school and hand paint them, the eye really finishes this jig off and makes it look professional.

So what do you dress the Herring Head with? The sky is the limit. Plastics are the most popular, and with the blade well away from the body, even twister-type tails are an option. Ashley and most bass enthusiasts like a fluke-type tail in the 3- to 4-inch range. They have no wild action, but remember that this is a finesse tactic, and if you watch a school of shad, alewives, smelt, or herring, they don’t swim in a pronounced manner. The spinning blade gives the illusion of movement. If you want more movement, a swimbait is another excellent option. And for maximum movement, a 3- or 4-inch twister tail works great. And don’t overlook tying natural bucktail for a true finesse look and feel.

The Herring head is very versatile. It can be worked fast over mid-depth weeds, although it is not a heavy cover-type lure. It shines in deeper situations where bass, pike, walleyes, stripers, trout, salmon, and saltwater species are feeding on open-water baitfish. Weed lines are perfect; on deep-water humps or flats, it’s outstanding. And, it’s really at home in 10 to 40 feet of water. Cast it out and let it get to the bottom or count it down to a desired depth. Now don’t jig it—swim it. Slowly turn the reel handle, pausing for a second or two after two or three turns. I keep my rod at the three o’clock position, so when you feel the strike you are in position to set the hook. Some of my most extensive use of this bait has been on Lake Michigan trout where they feel like the lure is getting heavier and heavier. They come up behind it and engulf it. Not an earth-shattering strike, so be ready.

Casey Ashley really made 2015 the year of the underspin jig. He brought this technique to the forefront of the fishing world. And Do-it has really focused their attention to the bass, walleye, pike, and Great Lakes anglers with the design and release of this new jig. Make your 2016 a classic winner with the new Herring Head jig. And as always, it’s so sweet to catch a fish on a lure you made yourself.