Over the course of my angling life, I’ve experienced, first-hand, the evolution of tackle within the industry. From NED Rigs and Glide baits to braided line and terminal tackle, with every passing year, something new goes to market that gets us excited about the art of fishing.
Recently, I had that experience when I came across the Eye Strike Texas Eye finesse jighead.
For those that don’t know, the Texas Eye jighead is a “swing head” weight-and-hook combo. In other words, the weight located on the front of the 3/0 Mustad hook has free range of motion, unlike a traditional jighead style, allowing it to “swing” side-to-side. Paired with an super-sharp and strong, offset wide-gap hook, it’s designed is to let an angler fish the lure snagless, depending on the spot within their fishery. For me, that area is on the seagrass-laden flats of the Upper Laguna Madre.
Skeptical at first, I heeded the encouragement of Dave Fladd, the owner of Eye Strike Fishing and the jighead’s designer. Promising to send me a few to try, I politely declined and headed to the local Bass Pro Shops to buy the basics. Months later, I’m glad I listened to his advice. Lately, it’s been a huge part of my fishing arsenal for targeting big fish in areas with higher than normal structure. It allows me to fish at a slower pace, vary the profile of my offering and add an unseen action to most inshore areas.
Size and profile
Undoubtedly, fish feed off of instinct to which size and profile play a vital role. Because the jighead is detached from the hook, the size of the soft plastic you choose varies largely on the situation you’re fishing. My general rule of thumb is start with a 5-inch, soft-plastic jerkshad (non-paddletail). It is a great all-around profile that has great castability as well as silhouette. My preferred brands are the ZMan Finesse ShadZ, Cajun Lures Zydeco Shad and MirrOlure Provoker.
However, larger and smaller plastics have also been working extremely well, especially given the variable conditions here on the Texas Coast. Hard, prevailing winds, along with mud/sand sediment quickly cloud the water column. In this particular instance, I’ve found better success on a 6-inch Gambler Flapp’n Shad. The added inch, along with the exaggerated tail, increases my profile exponentially — giving big fish a bigger target in dirty water. Lately, in remarkably clean water with areas with dense grass, I’ve downsized my profile by using an Optimum Baits Victory Tail Shad. This slender minnow imitation has quiet water entry and a diminished presence, not off-putting to any big fish laying low in a high pressure situation. However, here’s the key — and why the swinghead makes the difference. Regardless whether you go big or small, the Texas Eye allows you to present the bait exactly the same, every time — which leads me to action.
The action is unlike anything these fish have seen. Despite swingheads being in the freshwater market for some time, Eye Strike modified it to meet inshore anglers’ needs. Instead of the traditional “football” or “rugby” profile, Fladd decided to go with a thinner profile, not only to accentuate the “eye” but to allow the bait to come through structure with greater ease.
Darter profile baits on a traditional jighead provide excellent darting action, designed to trigger a strike. This is achieved by the angler snapping their rod tip in a 2- or 3-count motion before allowing the bait to descend to the bottom. However, with the same soft-plastic profile on a Texas Eye, the range of motion on the head, absorbs some of the shock applied by the anglers rod action.
What happens is, the hard, darting action turns to a more subtle glide, both side to side and up and down. This gives the bait a slightly longer presence in the strike zone, and since you don’t have to worry about an open jighead getting snagged on the bottom or on grass, an angler can allow the bait to come to rest before continuing their retrieve, potentially garnering greater curiosity from a large fish.
What to use
Since this is a designed finesse application, I throw it solely on a 7-foot-6 Waterloo HP Lite medium/moderate rod, rated for 6- to 12-pound line, with a Shimano Stradic FL 3000 spooled with 20-pound Suffix 832 braid and a 4-foot monofilament leader.
It’s important to note that when a fish does hit the bait, I almost always set the hook to the side. It’s even greater to note that a softer rod tip like a moderate or moderate/fast is required, so the entire rod loads on the hookset and keeps the fish hooked while fighting the fish. Since I made this adjustment, my hookup-to-land ratio has improved exponentially.
There is generally always a downside, kind of like ice cream and calories. In this particular instance, the Texas Eye provides very appealing meals for fish, especially big fish. However, durability equals the calories. In a recent podcast, I described lure longevity as being the least-important feature in my fishing approach. However, for most anglers, it’s an important factor in deciding on a soft-plastic brand.
Other than ZMan fishing products (made of ElaZtech) and 3X tough Gambler Flappn’ Shad (plastic hardener), a typical bait will catch no more than five to seven fish, sometimes even fewer. That’s due in large part to the bait keeper on the front, which seats the bait on the hook. While fighting the fish, the thrashing around hollows out the nose, which over time renders the bait useless. It’s not uncommon when I’m on a good bite to go through a pack-and-a-half of lures.
It’s also slightly more time-consuming to rig and takes a little more practice than threading a soft plastic on a traditional jighead. However, it’s all a matter of perspective. Just the other day, I only caught four fish while wade-fishing a gin-clear flat that had been holding some really nice fish. Of those fish, two went 27¼ inches and another 26½ inches, and I used three lures in the process. Again, though, to me durability is irrelevant, because I’m not looking for numbers, I’m looking for size — so going one lure for one fish of that size is an acceptable trade-off.