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MAY 1997

NO. 21

Jersey Riggs: The Garden State’s Own Bass Lure

By Oliver Shapiro

Move over, Texas, the Carolinas, too.  Make room for New Jersey.

The Texas and Carolina rigs are as familiar to bass anglers as their own birthdays.  Both are proven bass catchers, and both are fairly simple to use.  Now along comes Jeff Cammerino, originally from our fair state, and suddenly there are three members of this worm-rigging group.

HOW IT STARTED.  The lure is based on observations made by Cammerino as a youngster.  He noticed that whenever a gypsy moth larva would fall into the water, with its characteristic slow fall and occasional scissors-like twitch, a member of the clan Micropterus would invariably come and nail it.  Intrigued by this, he started to experiment with different materials and shapes to imitate this, and finally came up with prototype models that he used for local bass angling.  By the late 1980s, the Essex County Bassmasters’ soon-to-be-famous member was entering bass tournaments and winning them.  People started to take notice when he placed as high as third in the New Jersey BASS Chapter Foundation.

Not being a selfish or secretive person, “the kid with the 3-inch worm with a hook in the center” willingly gave out some of the unusual lures to his buddies.  The final irony occurred when some of his competitors started winning using the then-embryonic Jersey Riggs!  “They were simply better anglers than I was,” he recalls with a smile.

THE BUSINESS SIDE.  Turning it into a business was the last thing on his mind.  He was already an accomplished musician, earning good money performing popular music (he had previously toured Canada with the Four Seasons).  When he encountered a windfall, in the form of an investor who had faith in the product, however, he decided to give the lure business a try.  The results have astounded everybody, including Cammerino.  Jersey Riggs is now a 25-employee company (most of whom are handicapped) manufacturing the fishing lure products.

Besides their heavy use locally, such famous bass fishing personalities as Tommy Martin and the 1996 Bassmaster Classic champion, George Cochran, include their names on the roster of believers.  The final touch came when Bassmaster magazine ran a feature article a few years ago - and the rest, as Cammerino’s former history teacher and fishing guide might have said, is...well, you know...history.

SIZES AND COLORS.  The lure comes in one size, 3 inches.  Other sizes were tried, but simply don’t have the same appeal or fall rate.  Additionally, the castability was found to be compromised on the larger-sized attempts.  A multitude of colors are available.  “I can make ‘em in anything you want,” claims the lure’s designer.  Cammerino himself divides fishing applications into two basic color types:  bright and flashy versus dull and subdued.

He specifies that situations where the bass’ locations aren’t well defined, or where their lateral line detection system is compromised (as in fast-moving water), bright and flashy are the key.  He likes the fold, silver, chartreuse and bubble gum shades for these applications, which include the pre- and post-spawn periods.  Highly discolored waters are appropriate for this approach as well.  During the spawn, when the fish are more easily spotted, he tones down the presentation, switching to hues like pumpkinseed and motor oil.

RIGGING AND TACKLE TIPS.  Rigging is critical.  The lure should be hooked in the middle with a 1 or 1/0 hook.  Anything larger, and the fall rate will increase too much, substantially reducing the lure’s effectiveness.  Cammerino prefers 6-pound monofilament line, and will go as high as 8 pounds.  Any brand will work, “as long as it’s high-quality,” he adds.

He also stresses the importance of the proper rod.  It should be at least 5 feet and 9-inches long, in order to get proper casting action, and he strongly recommends use of a one-piece rod in order to maximize your ability to feel strikes (especially for larger bass).  Finally, he favors the Palomar knot for tying the hook on.

Unlike most bass baits, the Jersey Rigg is nearly weightless, conferring upon it some restrictions as well as some advantages.  Restrictions include fishable depths;  its descent of only a few inches per second discourages its use in any water deeper that 12 to 14 feet.  This weightlessness, however, prevents the initial splashdown from spooking any nearby bass too much, and when they circle back to investigate, the lure is still there - unlike a spinnerbait, weighted worm, or sinking crankbait.  It stays in the strike zone for a long time.

HOW IT WORKS.  Cammerino points out that this is not a cranking or jigging lure - it is a twitching lure.  Proper use involves casting, and letting it rest.  This gives the nearby bass a chance to return and look it over.  After an appropriate pause, the lure is twitched once, gently.  The idea is to invoke the lure’s scissors action in order to look like a squirming caterpillar.  Take up the slack with a turn of the reel handle, and pause again.  This sequence is repeated until a fish nails it.

Smaller bass, up to a couple of pounds, may have a tendency to grab it and run, in an effort to get away from competing fish.  Larger specimens, who have no competitors, are more likely to simply inhale the lure without moving.  It is therefore a good idea to constantly check the feel of the line for any sudden heaviness.  Because of the need to let the lure lie still, as well as stay in as close contact with the lure as possible, Cammerino recommends that the angler leave a slight bow in the line between the rod tip and the lure.

He admits that the rigs work best in calm water conditions, but have their uses elsewhere.  They can be effective in rivers for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.  Here, he suggests sticking with the brighter colors, and allowing the lure to dead-drift with the current, twitching it now and again - somewhat reminiscent of fly-fishing with streamers.

Finally, despite reports that this is best utilized in early spring, Cammerino instead informs us that the bait is highly effective anytime the water temperature is above 55 degrees - making it virtually a three-season lure.

No, it won't work in every conceivable situation, as we've pointed out. But as part of your repertoire of killer bass producers, Jersey Riggs certainly deserves a place in your tackle box. Inexpensive, easy to use and produces fish - lots of them. Can you find a better description of an ideal lure? 


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