How James Niggemeyer Chooses His Equipment

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by Dan O’Sullivan

James Niggemeyer Awaits his Weight - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

James Niggemeyer Awaits his Weight – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

When you make your living casting, missed opportunities are costly. While the end result for the everyday angler may be exasperating, for Elite Series pros, the consequences could be catastrophic. Every bite could be the difference between cashing or missing a paycheck, and ultimately could be the difference in making or missing the Bassmaster Classic field.

For James Niggemeyer, Elite Series pro from Van, Tex., his equipment choices help avoid lost opportunities. “My gear is vital to my success as a professional,” said the four-time BASS winner. “If my tackle is not properly selected or tuned, I can’t capitalize on making the right decisions.”

Known primarily as a shallow water expert, Niggemeyer started his career in California before moving to Texas, and guiding on the cover laden waters of Lake Fork. The area required extra heavy gear designed to withstand gigantic hooksets and huge bass.

While penetrating the bony structure of a big bass could be achieved with the rigid tackle available at the time, it often resulted in other deficiencies. The stiff rods created a situation where the trashing nature of hooked bass could build leverage and dislodge the hook.

Niggemeyer said that technological advancements in equipment has allowed him to refine his approach and increase his hook to land ratio. “Today’s equipment is light years ahead of the stuff we used only ten years ago,” he said. “Fluorocarbon and braided lines, sharper hooks, and even new plastics have made penetration easier. Now, hooksets don’t have to be as big, and we can choose rods that absorb more of the pressure during the fight. We can even make longer casts and still set the hook.”

Fluorocarbon lines have become a standard for most anglers on tour today, and Niggemeyer is no different, choosing the material nearly 60-percent of the time. “Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon has become my line for most applications,” he said. “I use it for reaction baits, deep structure and even some Flippin’ presentations.”

The properties of braided line are well publicized; extremely low stretch, great durability around grass and it floats; which is a plus for some topwater applications. “TUF Line XP Braid is very soft and durable,” said the three-time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier. “It allows me to place lures into cover and know I can get the fish out. It also allows me to make extra-long casts with a topwater bait and know that I can still set the hook effectively.”

James Niggemeyer on the Bassmaster Classic Stage - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

James Niggemeyer on the Bassmaster Classic Stage – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

New technology with hook and plastic manufacturing has also made a difference. “Owner’s Cutting Point Hooks penetrate faster, which is a distinct advantage,” he said. “Also, Strike King’s Perfect Plastics are super soft; that feature, coupled with sharp hooks, makes penetration easier.”

All of these advancements in tackle have allowed him to take advantage of rod and reel choices that give him advantages in casting distance, but most importantly, increased control over fish during a fight. “My St. Croix rods feature blank tapers that have certain advantages,” said Niggemeyer. “Most companies build rods on blanks with fast tapers, creating stiff rods. St. Croix builds on moderate fast actions that allow the rod to have a more parabolic bend throughout the blank.”

Niggemeyer believes that action equates to less pull back action in the rod when a fish is digging at the side of the boat in a last ditch effort to escape. “I am losing less fish than I did in the past, and I know my rod’s actions have a lot to do with it,” he said. “They give me a lot of confidence in fighting fish, and casting distance.”

Along with the rod, Niggemeyer said that modern reels give him added distance in the cast. “My Ardent Apex reels are incredibly smooth, and with the combination of the rod taper, and the efficiency of the reels allow me to cover more water,” he said. “These properties make me more efficient as a whole.”

With all of these technological advancements, he has made some adjustments, particularly regarding hookset, and drag settings. “In early experimentation with fluorocarbon I had a slight breakage issue, especially in short line applications,” he said. I learned to adjust my drag so that it slipped a little at the end of my hookset. I’ve also started to use more of a sweep set, as opposed to the slack line version I did with monofilament.”

James Niggemeyer with a Lake Guntersville Bigun - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

James Niggemeyer with a Lake Guntersville Bigun – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Examples of Pairings
Niggemeyer has come to heavily rely on three techniques. These have become his combinations for his top three baits and techniques.

Strike King KVD Perfect Plastics Rodent and Rage Craw – St Croix 7’9” heavy Legend Tournament Punchin’ Rod, TUF Line XP braided line for heavy cover, and Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon for lighter cover. He selects the 7.3:1 Ardent Edge reel for both applications. He chooses a 3/0 to 4/0 Owner 4X Jungle Flippin’ Hook hook with 1/8 to 1 1/2 –ounce Steike King Tour Grade Tungsten sinkers depending on the cover.   “I try to keep a semi taut line when flipping, and use a solid sweep set, the drag should slip slightly at the end of a hookset,” he described about his technique.

Strike King Pure Poison – St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass 7’4 heavy Slop ‘n Frog rod, 6.3:1 Ardent Apex with 16 to 20-pound Gamma Edge. “Fluorocarbon helps me feel the action of the bait, and also helps me to snap the bait free from grass during the retrieve,” he said. “The Pure Poison has a beefier hook than other baits of its type, like a jig, and the heaver rod helps hook and land them.”

Strike King Perfect Plastics Ocho – St Croix 7’ medium-heavy Legend Elite, 16 to 20-pound test Gamma Edge and the Ardent Edg ereel with an Owner’s Offset Shank Round Bend hook. “In weightless applications, the fluorocarbon line helped it sink better around cover, and helped me feel the bottom better when fishing it as a Texas Rig. The rod action also helped with presentation and hookets.”

For Niggemeyer, the combinations of technology and adaptation have given him an advantage where it matters most; in his livewell. “When I put all of the factors together, I can cast further, feel more, get solid hookups and land more fish; the combination has worked out well,” he said. “It all gives me a chance to put more fish in the boat, which is the difference between success and failure out here.”