Since we have released our Jail Bait Reef Jigs, we have heard some strong opinions from hard-core sheepshead fishermen that generally fall into the following categories:
- Sheepshead will be afraid of the enlarged eye. What is the eye for? The eye is a turn-off. Etc
- Sheepshead can’t fit their mouth around them
- There is not enough relief between the lead and hook so you can’t get a hook set
I’d like to address some of these concerns, based primarily on my personal experience fishing them.
“Sheepshead will be afraid of the enlarged eye. What is the eye for? The eye is a turn-off. Etc” – So, in the prototype stage, this was also a concern of ours. Would sheepshead be afraid / wary of the lead on the back of a fiddler. Fishing these in clear water where we could actually see the fish, that concern was quickly put to rest. Sheepshead are curious fish and instead will swim up to the jig to check it out. They go to it and immediately try to bite the crab. This makes sense because all day long they are biting at crustaceans on rocks, seawalls, pilings, etc. They are used to having a crab or bait attached to something. The eye in the case of this product is not “functional”, in other words unlike our other products, it’s not intended to act as an eye. Honestly, it’s more for marketing – everything we make has a large eye. It does add to the appeal of the product as it looks better than raw lead. In the future in fact we may replace the pupil eye with other patterns that represent a crab carapace or something like that. Will it make a difference? I doubt it! Sheepshead are absolutely not afraid of the Jail Baits. Claims to the opposite are BS.
“Sheepshead can’t fit their mouth around them” – While this may be true, it doesn’t matter. They are not designed to be swallowed by a sheepshead! These fish crush the crab with their incisors, then go back and swallow the bits. The Jail Baits are designed so that when the fish goes to crush the crab, they get hooked in the lip. In just about every pic you see that is where they will be hooked. Yesterday, fishing at the reef, we caught many sheeps that were around 6″ long, and a few that were approaching 6 pounds on them.
“There is not enough relief between the lead and hook so you can’t get a hook set” – This is not an issue in my experience. I have personally experience a great hookup ratio with them. A trusted guide who has fished them extensively claims the hookup ratio factor approximately 2X better.
Some general thoughts about fishing Jail Baits in comparison to the typical “Carolina Rig” consisting of an egg weight and short leader with a small hook. Fishing both at a 40 ft reef yesterday, I am confident that the feel of a bite is significantly better with the Jail Bait. If you keep a finger on the braid you will feel every slight touch. For that reason, I was able to catch a juvenile red snapper, an octopus(!), a sheep approximately 5 lbs and a few very small sheeps, easily out-catching two others using the Carolina Rig. When the current and wind/waves picked up (at end of trip was 4-5 ft waves and 12 knots out of the NE), I was not able to use the Jail Bait in that depth of water due to not enough weight. Switching to the traditional Carolina rig in swifter water, the rigs got cleaned off much faster due to piercing the crab shell with a hook and also not being able to feel the bite as well. We did lose a few big fish to broken hooks on the Carolina rig – a problem that won’t happen on the Jail Bait.
I know that some people will make a snap decision and never try something new. That is fine, but we suggest that if you’re on the fence, to give these a fair shake and decide for yourself.
A few pics from yesterday’s trip.