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BASSMASTER

                                                                       MAGAZINE

MARCH 1995                                                                                     VOLUME 28, NO. 3

By Jill Barnes

At the time, Jeff Cammerino was a novice bass angler - just a kid, really.  But he had the instincts of a seasoned pro.  One day, as he cast from shore, he noticed the bass were ignoring his offering, yet were attracted to a gypsy moth larva that fell from a nearby tree.

“I watched as the larva struggled and wiggled,” Cammerino said.  “The action enticed bass to strike.  It got me to thinking and experimenting.”

Now, after more than 15 years of experimenting and refining, Cammerino has created a lure that imitates the moth larvae and has spawned a new and different bass fishing technique.  Cammerino’s “Jersey Riggs” quickly became one of the hottest-selling baits in the New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania region.  More recently, they have begun to catch on in surrounding states, and some of the top B.A.S.S. pros are quietly using them as well, Cammerino says.

“I’ve worked as the fishing department manager for more than 20 years, and I’ve never seen a lure ‘fly’ off the shelf like Jersey Riggs have,” says Gary Sipos of Meltzer’s Sporting Goods of Garfield, N.J.  “I’ve tried it, so I know it works.”

The lure doesn’t look like much - only a straight, soft plastic tube 3 1/2 inches long - but its unique action is amazingly attractive to finicky bass.

Cammerino, 38, of Lyndhurst, N.J., did extensive testing on his lure before finding just the right length and consistency of plastic.  He bought pounds of plastic worms, and he cut, melted and shaped them until he found a design with a neutral buoyancy.  A No. 1 bait hook rigged through the middle of the worm makes it sink ever so slowly.

“I didn’t want the worm to sink too fast or too slow,” Cammerino reports.  “I wanted it to stay in the strike zone as long as possible.  The weight of the hook is all you need.  As the Jersey Riggs sinks, you reel slowly, twitching it every so often.  That makes the worm bend into a U shape.  The fact that the lure doesn’t move very far gives the bass more incentive to strike.  Unlike a spinnerbait, plug or even a regular plastic worm, it doesn’t move away from the fish.”

Cammerino, a former studio guitarist, worked constantly over the years to develop his idea into a reliable bass lure.  Upon joining the Essex County Bassmaster Fishing Club, a B.A.S.S. chapter in New Jersey, in 1984, Cammerino used the technique he calls “Jersey Rigging” to win a spring tournament “when no one else could catch any fish,” recalls Bill Selawsky, now president of the club.  “At the weigh-in, Jeff and his fishing partner weighed in 10 bass for almost 30 pounds.  All our members were in awe.”

He involved fellow club members in testing prototype sizes, shapes and colors, then decided in 1990 to begin marketing his invention.

“I kept getting positive feedback,” Cammerino says.  “People were catching fish and catching their limit, so I knew I was on the right track.”

No special equipment is needed to fish Jersey Riggs, Cammerino suggests a spinning reel spooled with a 6- or 8-pound-test line and a 5 1/2-foot rod.  He inserts a No. 1 or 1/0 hook through the center of the worm, perpendicular to the length of the lure.

While the setup reminds one of a Whacky Worm, it’s quite different, according to Harvey Knight of North Jersey Marine, who first met Cammerino and witnessed the success of Jersey Rigging in 1986.

The technique is simple:  You cast the lure to a likely spot, let it sink, then twitch it while reeling slowly.  The action and the extended time in the strike zone seem to drive the fish wild.  Some bass smash it, hooking themselves immediately.  Others mouth the bait ands swim away slowly, allowing ample time to set the hook.

“If you don’t have a strike in about 30 seconds, reel in and cast somewhere else,” Cammerino says, “There aren’t any fish there.”

Upon first seeing the Jersey Riggs, most bass fishermen have trouble believing that it works.

“I wasn’t that thrilled with the product when I first tried it,” said Wayne Middleton, an angler from Hewitt, N.J.  “But it catches fish.  I don’t have a boat and usually fish from the shoreline, and I’ve hooked bass up to 9 pounds.  One day when I was out in a friend’s boat, I fished for two hours and caught 28 fish, all keeper size.  One of the great things is the worm lasts awhile.  It doesn’t break or get torn as fast as other plastic worms.”

Jersey Riggs can be worked in water from 6 inches to as deep as 10 feet.  Throw it around stumps, rocks, edges of weedbeds and under docks.  “It’s probably not at its best when it’s windy, but no lure is perfect for every condition,” Cammerino says.

Bill Gorcica of North Jersey Marine especially likes fishing the Jersey Riggs around docks in Lake Hopatcong, the biggest inland body of water in the state.  “On a bright day, you can skip it to the back reaches of the dock and find some big fish hiding back there.  I’ve caught fish up to 3 1/2 pounds that way.”

Jersey Riggs comes in about 15 colors, including solid colors and clear with colored flakes.  Cammerino likes subtle, natural colors like motoroil during the spawn, “when we know where the fish are,” but says brighter colors like gold and silver help attract fish in the post-spawn phase.  Gorcica prefers pearl and junebug, and Middleton favors purple and smoke/black in cool water and clear with gold or silver flake in warm water.

For more information about Jersey Riggs, contact Cammerino at 75 Mountain Lake Estates, Hawley, PA  18428; phone (570) 226-6304.

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