At its simplest and most fundamental level a jug line is comprised of a float, a length of line, and a hook. It is primarily used to catch catfish. In Texas, where I live, it is not legal to keep any other gamefish caught on a jug line. The name comes from the fact that in a lot of the early designs empty gallon milk jugs were widely used as the float for this device. And while some folks still use milk jugs (as well as two-liter soda bottles, detergent containers, and other types of plastic containers) these days the pool noodle is most commonly used for the float. You can search the web and see all sorts of designs of varying complexity and features.
Being an engineer, I believe that simpler is almost always better… unless, of course, something more complex is way cooler and/or more useful. I took the latter approach to my particular pool noodle design. The typical pool noodle jug line uses a section of pool noodle slid onto a length of PVC pipe and held in place by caps on either end. A length of nylon twine is tied around the PVC pipe and a weight is tied to the other end of the twine. Regulations here allow me to have up to 5 hooks on each jugline but I typically only use 2. The hooks are tied onto a monofilament leader that is about a foot and a half or so long. These leaders are attached to the main nylon twine by different methods. I tied in barrel swivels at 5-foot intervals on my main line and attached snap swivels to my leaders. It allows me to easily fish different depths along the main line.
There are a couple of ways you can fish the juglines… free floating or anchored. I like having the jug line anchored with a 2-pound lead weight (I make these myself) rather than the free floating jug lines. It is kind of fun to chase down the free-floating jugs when you’ve caught a fish but if you’re going to set out your lines overnight and not watch them you run the risk of losing the free-floating jugs. Plus, we like to target specific areas (creek channels, deep holes, etc.) and want to keep the jug line in the zone we’re targeting. My biggest gripe about the typical design was the way the mainline is wrapped around the pool noodle when not in use. It was just not a nice neat method. Also, the length of line required can vary as the fish can be in different depths of water depending on conditions. So, I came up with something that allows me to pay out just the right length of line easily and quickly. And I think it provides a better means of storing that long length of line when not in use. For reference… my lines are about 30 feet long but we can be fishing as shallow as 10 feet… sometimes less. I like the flexibility of being able to fish a lot of different depths. Regulations require you to mark the juglines with your name and address as well as the date you originally set them out. Those are the tags you will see on one end of my design.
Most of the time we use cut bait (bluegill, shad, etc.) that I catch with the cast net. The drill is to set out the baited juglines and wait for the fish to bite. When a fish pulls down on the line the pool noodle will tip up so you can easily tell when you have a fish on. You pull up to the jugline using the trolling motor and I made a hooked pole out of an old broken shovel that I use to grab the line with. You pull up the line by hand and then net the fish once you get it to the surface. That’s pretty much it.