Gerald Almy: Fish tandem rigs to boost your catch

Gerald Almy

Easing quietly up to the brush pile, I reached out with the 9-foot fly rod and dropped a pair of small jigs down next to the cover. Waiting patiently, I held the rod steady for several seconds, and then twitched the jigs twice.

A sharp “thump” jolted up the thin graphite rod, followed by another tap. Pulling back, I felt solid weight on the line. Battling the quarry to the surface, I suddenly realized it was not one, but two chunky crappies. My tandem jig rig had scored a double!

If there’s anything better than presenting a lure to a prime target and getting a solid hookup, it could only be getting a bite from two fish at once. That’s one of the many positive results that can come from fishing tandem lures. But often casting a pair of offerings is more effective at fooling single fish as well, because of the unique appeal of presenting two potential meals in front of the quarry.

Multiple lure rigs can be used to catch a variety of gamefish, including bass, crappies, stripers, shad, pike, walleyes, trout, white bass, yellow perch and pickerel, plus many saltwater species.

With multiple-lure rigs, you’re giving the fish something they rarely see, which is a plus in this age of heavy fishing pressure. You’re also offering them a choice of two different shapes, colors, sizes or actions of lures. And you do this simultaneously, doubling the efficiency of your fishing time.

You can also imitate realistic scenes in nature. That can be the key to fooling older, more wary fish. Two or more lures simulates a school of baitfish. A large lure following a small one can represent a big baitfish chasing a little one.

Some tandem-rig setups work best for trolling, others can be cast or vertically jigged. Here are a few examples. Use your imagination and you can probably think of several others.

Diving plug and jig
This is one of my favorite rigs for freshwater striper trolling. A large, deep-diving plug like a Mann’s Stretch or Storm Big Mac attracts fish with its wobbling appeal, but also acts as a mini-downrigger, taking a small trailing jig deep.

Tie an 18-36 inch length of 15-25 pound line to the center hook of the front treble of the plug and attach a 1/4 ounce white or chartreuse bucktail jig to the end of this leader. Troll over points, channel edges, humps and places where fish show on the depth finder. If you use smaller plugs and 1/8-ounce jigs, this same rig scores big on walleyes, smallmouths and white bass.

Double jigs
A jig is a great fish producer for many species, but sometimes two rigged in tandem work even better. The greater weight lets you cast farther and gets the offering deep quickly without resorting to a larger lure, which might turn off skittish fish.

Simply tie on one jig, and then attach a 12-24 inch piece of line behind the knot of the first jig. Attach the second jig to that. You can also use three-way swivels to make this rig if you prefer. This is the rig that fooled the two chunky crappies mentioned earlier.

Spoon and grub
A weedless spoon snaking through mats of milfoil or lily pads can entice smashing takes from largemouths and pickerel. But other times you might see swirls or feel a bump with no solid hookup. That’s when it’s time to add a trailing grub.

Tie an 18-24 inch leader to the eyelet of the spoon or the bend of the hook and attach a grub to it. This will pick up fish that are attracted to the big, flashing lure, but wary about striking it. A good variation of this is to use a weedless spoon and a light trailing jig for white bass and hybrids when they’re crashing into schools of bait on the surface.

Double soft plastic lures
A large plastic worm, lizard or crawdad fished Carolina-style is effective on aggressive bass. To pick up followers and skittish fish, though, try this rigging.

Attach a 3-way swivel instead of a barrel swivel behind a sliding ¼ to ¾ ounce weight, then add two leaders — one 5-7 inches, one 2-3 feet. Tie a small grub to the short dropper leader and a larger lizard or worm to the longer one.

Cast to weeds, brush, flooded timber and deep structure with a slow, steady retrieve or a stop and go action. When large fish are in the area, you’ll want to use 20 pound or heavier line for this rig. A pair of 5 pounders grabbing both of your offerings at once can put up a brawling fight.

But whether you’re going after 5-pound bass or 12-ounce crappies, don’t overlook the appeal of tandem rigs. Sometimes two offerings are better than one.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.