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Fishing The Jumps


By Gary Harris, (Crash13 ), TN

This being my first attempt at writing anything other than things my teachers required me to write, please excuse any ramblings, punctuation or grammar errors. I've been fly tying/fishing for eleven years and still consider myself to be an amateur. I can't cast the length of my fly line nor can I tie flies of beauty. One thing that I think I am good at is figuring out the fish and getting them to the boat. This being said let's get to fishing the jumps.

What is fishing the "jumps"? The "jumps" are when the game fish push the baitfish into a ball and then push them to the surface, where they feed on the baitfish very aggressively. This happens here in Tennessee almost year round and during peak times can last for a few hours. It typically takes place during the "magic hours". They usually happen twice a day and generally last an hour, give or take. You guessed it, sunrise and sunset. Temperatures, weather and seasons affect the success of fishing the "jumps".

The types of fish found in the jumps are very diverse. But, on average for me the fish are the "Bass" family. These consist of Striper, hybrid Bass, Largemouth, Smallmouth, spotted bass, yellow bass and striped bass. You can also catch skipjacks, bluegills, drum and catfish but not as routinely as the bass.

Something to look for to help you locate the "jumps" is diving birds. They help me tremendously. You can see them a great distance away. They are easier to spot than the feeding fish. Especially, on windy days. If you see birds diving, but don't see fish breaking the surface, don't pass it by. They might be feeding just below the surface and you could miss out on a great opportunity.

You can fish the "jumps" from the shore or from a boat. I prefer the boat. I can cover more water and the fish will never be out of range. I have fished the "jumps" from the shore many times and have caught good numbers of fish. But, it drives me into insanity when the bigger (striper) come up about twenty feet farther than I can toss my fly. A boat with a foot controlled trolling motor is my preference. Hands are free to fish but you can still get in range to cast to the fish.

Depending on what is in the jumps determines what weight rod I will use. Just use one you can make long fast casts with. I use a five or a seven weight unless the bigger boys are out playing, then I use my nine weight. I generally have two rods ready to use at one time. One rod has a floating line and a top water fly tied to it. The other has a sinking tip and a subsurface fly. If the fish are very active I'll throw the floating and for the slower times I'll throw the sinking. Just depends on what you like to throw and what the fish want.

Any baitfish pattern will work. Just think white and bright. White colors with a lot of flash work great. The flies don't have to be fancy, the fish are battling to eat and don't look real close. Size of the fly sometimes has an effect on the numbers caught but it isn't critical. You'll come to know what to throw by the fish you see and catch. I throw sizes 8 - 2/0. If you are catching smaller stripers (2-3#) and want to see if the bigger ones are there, throw a big fly for a while. If you are missing a lot of fish, drop down a few sizes. Let the fish tell you what to do. Sometimes throwing a larger fly than the baitfish present will help to make your fly stand out and improve the numbers caught. Wooly buggers, clousers, deceivers, seaducers, poppers, sliders are a place to start. As far as the leader/ tippet thing goes, I away use straight monofilament fishing line and no tippet. Short leaders are helpful to me, less to get tangled up and to cast. When the fish come up I want my fly in there as soon as possible.

When you see the fish come up in the "jumps," get within casting range and cast away. If they are all balled up cast to the center and start stripping the line. If they are running in a line cast just forward enough to put it in their faces. Sometimes, you can catch some of the bigger fish in the school by throwing your fly into the middle and just letting it sink. There are some of the bigger ones underneath the school just picking up the wounded baitfish.

Fishing the "jumps" isn't really fishing, it's catching. It is different everyday and is as fun as the state fair when it's happening. I like the chasing of the fish, the panicked casts, missing four hits on one cast and the fly being slammed by the fish. Like my Father-In-Law tells me, " You're a sucker for a jumping fish." He's right, I see them jump and I jump to catch them. Good luck.

Go catch a fish, ~ Gary

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