Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: The fly and rind: an old school combo still going strong
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The swim jig and the
swimming retrieve are now mainstays for trophy largemouth from heavy cover or
weeds. They also shine for catching suspended largemouth bass in clear lakes.
the world class smallmouth reservoirs in Kentucky and Tennessee fished a swim
jig for decades, but they called it the fly and rind.
A fly in Montana
means a lure for trout; a fly in Kentucky and Tennessee means a hair jig, made
from tying bucktail, rabbit fur or synthetic craft fur onto the shank of a lead-head
jig. The rind is a pork chunk trailer, a nearly forgotten staple of jig fishing
“With a hair jig,
you get a small profile, which smallmouths in reservoirs like Dale Hollow
prefer, especially in late fall, winter and early spring,” said Chad Miles, administrative
director of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Miles is a
smallmouth wizard who routinely catches fish over 5 pounds in fall, winter and
spring from Dale Hollow, Laurel River Lake and Lake Cumberland. He loves the
subtle, flowing nature of the hair jig that perfectly imitates baitfish or
crawfish movements in cold water.
The pork trailer
also moves subtly and the combination comes through the water like a stick, a
trait that goads large smallmouth bass into striking.
A small tackle
box, satchel or lure wrap loaded with several 1/8 - or 1/4-ounce black, olive
and brown hair jigs and a jar each of black or brown pork trailers are all you
need for fishing the fly and rind. Its beauty is simplicity. This setup also
catches spotted and largemouth bass as well as trophy smallmouth in the colder
Fish the fly and
rind on a 6- to 7-foot medium-light or medium power spinning rod and
accompanying reel, spooled with 6- to 8-pound test pure fluorocarbon or fluorocarbon-coated
The stealth of
fluorocarbon line really helps in fall, winter and early spring, plus its
density better transmits strikes. The venerable Uncle Josh Company still
produces pork jig trailers.
The best sizes for
the fly and rind are the No. 101 Spinning Frog and the No. 18 Mini Frog, but many
old timers used the original size No. 11 Pork Frog and trimmed it down. You can
cut the No. 11 Pork Frog in half and trim it to look like an elongated tear
drop for an even more subtle presentation. If you only had one color for a
trailer, choose black.
Fishing the fly
and rind properly requires a swimming retrieve, targeting grumpy bass suspended
above bottom. You simply cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and then swim
it back just above the bottom. Swimming the fly and rind really excels on the
clear waters of the smallmouth reservoirs of southeastern Kentucky such as
Laurel River Lake and Lake Cumberland.
A 1/8-ounce fly
looks the most natural with its slow fall rate, but can be difficult for most
anglers to work correctly from a boat. A 1/4-ounce fly is easier.
The small coves
and cuts along the main lake or in major creek arms that slope in a “V” shape
make the highest percentage places to swim a fly and rind. Smallmouth often
suspend just above the bottom in these spots, so throw your fly right in the
middle of the cut, let it sink and swim it back to the boat.
The best small
coves or cuts lie near the submerged river or major creek channel with a bottom
comprised of shale, gravel or fist-sized rocks. These areas draw crawfish
burrowing in for the winter as well as baitfish. The ones that look the least
“fishy” often hold bigger smallmouths.
These spots also
offer excellent opportunity for bank fishing by using boat ramps, state parks
or other public access spots to walk to these areas and fish. You can easily carry
the hair jigs, jars of pork trailers and a multi-tool. A 1/8-ounce jig works
best for bank fishing.
also swim their jig along the side of points in these areas and over the point
well off the bank. Your drag should slip on the hookset as any fish that
strikes in these spots will likely be large.
The fly and rind
also excels at picking off spotted and largemouth bass suspended beside bluffs.
Craggy bluffs riven with fissures and shelves and formed by the original creek
or river make excellent cold weather spots for these fish.
Swimming a fly and
rind along a channel ledge in mid-depth reservoirs such as Barren River, Green
River, Nolin River and Rough River also fools lethargic largemouth, their vigor
drained by the cold water of late fall and winter. A black fly with matching
trailer makes the best color choice for bluffs and channel ledges.
Pork trailers are
more difficult to deal with than plastic trailers. Some anglers strike their
pork rinds with a meat tenderizing hammer to soften them. They need to stay
wet. Don’t leave them on the jig after fishing or you will have a chore
removing them after they dry and harden.
To remove a pork
trailer from the jig, flip the jig upside down and rotate the trailer so the
trailing edge faces the hook shank and jig head and gently pull down. They
usually pop off, but may need an additional cut with a sharp knife.
Swim and fly and
rind this fall and winter and fool a trophy smallmouth, largemouth or spotted
bass. This combo still fools them after all these years.