Jigging for Dummies -Edited (Thanks to our friends at Jigs Direct, New Zealand)
There are numerous names and sub sets of Jig Fishing including:
• Speed Jigging
• Japanese Jigging
• Deep Jigging
• Butterfly Jigging
• Extreme Jigging
• Vertical Jigging
• "Working the Iron"
These are some of the many names for jigging with long jigs that has seen a phenomenal rise in popularity within Asia, Oceania, Europe and now the US.
It's recent rise in popularity hides the fact that Jig Fishing is one of the world’s oldest fishing techniques via lures. It's origins can be traced back to the early Polynesians and Europeans hundreds of years ago. So we can be sure this type of artificial lure fishing works.
In the early 1990’s, Yoichi Mogi of Japan reinvented jigging. He was the driving force behind many of the improved rods, reels and jigs which popularized this new Japanese style jigging.
Traditionally big fish are landed with heavy rods, lines & lures. The challenge has historically been a combination of fighting the fish and the tackle which reduced the enjoyment of the sport.
But the Japanese tackle companies embraced a total redesign of their salt water fishing equipment. The results are very impressive with light weight powerful reels combined with small but incredibly strong graphite rods. These combos put enjoyment back into fishing and produced an amazing list of angling accomplishments normally reserved for heavier tackle.
The success to a jig fishing trip is the ability of the boats skipper to put the jigger over and onto fish. Initially finding fish might simply mean looking at a fish finder but first the skipper must know where to look and how to give the jig fishermen the chance to make the most of the opportunity.
The main advantage of vertical jigging is, you are placing the jig precisely where the fish are located. Knowing the depth of the shoal, the jigger can drop the jig to the exact required depth with multicoloured braided line. This line is also known as PE (Poly Ethylene or braid) line. Working the jig at a precise depth is more effective than jigging blindly.
Predatory fish such as Yellowtail Kingfish frequent underwater reefs and structures. Look for fish on the 'up-current' side of structures and reefs. It is the skill of the boats skippers to position their crafts up current of the structure and allow for current drift, wind and give sufficient time for the jigs to drift and hit their mark. From there it is the skill of the jigger to tempt the fish to hit.
Fish will attack jigs when they are feeding, if a baitfish appears to be injured or fleeing the predator. Other times the jigger will simply get an impulse strike if the jig presentation is right. Jig presentation is improved by working the jig with the rod and the reel. The Japanese have created jigging techniques called “mechanical jigging” or “fast pitch, short jerk” to enhance the action of their highly technical jig designs.
Using these particular techniques are very effective and less tiresome than “speed jigging”.
Some jiggers have a preference for overhead (multiplier or conventional) as opposed to regular spinning reels. For overhead reels we suggest a narrow spool reel as line laying will not be such a major problem and you can then focus on working the jigs.
Recommended overhead reels:
Accurate - Boss
Studio Ocean Mark – Blue Heaven
Pro Gear Oceanus
Recommended spinning reels:
There are other reels that may be worth including but those listed reels are very popular and well proven globally. Most of the reels identified are available in New Zealand. Some reels are very capable while others will have limitations due to the rigours of extreme jigging.
There is a common misunderstanding about high gearing jigging reels. Due to the ever growing quantity of jiggers experimenting in deeper and deeper waters, there is a requirement for heavier jigs and occasionally less streamlined jigs. A heavy jig load and the increasing fish size has made the use of 6:1 gears plain hard work! Practiced jiggers prefer 4:1 to 5:1 ratio gears with the torque to do the work without undue fatigue.
A good drag system is imperative to firstly stop, then reel in big target fish. Fish such as Kingfish and Hapuka (Grouper) make their home in deep reef systems. When hooking up on these denizens, you have to stop them from running back into the reef. Similarly, hard running pelagics need suitable drag pressure to stop them. From both scenarios, poor drag performance will usually produce one result!
As with any type of fishing, there is never one rod that will suit all occasions. A good jigging rod must be light, have a parabolic action and strength for lifting. Parabolic rods are easier to jig in the Japanese style, they also help the angler fight big fish and are needed for braided line.
Depending on the jigging style and reel type employed, rod lengths can vary. Overhead reels are best partnered with short rods, as short as 5’. Spinning reels are best with longer rods, as long as 7’. Most novice jiggers will begin with an existing longer rod, graduating into a specialist rod later. The following are simple guidelines -
Recommended jigging rods -
Carpenter* *available in NZ
Lamiglas Tropic Pro
There will be many other rods that would be worthy of inclusion but these listed rods have been popular and well proven world-wide and those with an * appear here in NZ. All of the above brands have rods that are very capable for extreme jigging in both overhead and spinning models. Different target fish will require different jigging styles which may need different rod types. Ask for expert advice about rod choice to avoid a costly mistake.
There are many different jig manufacturers on the market but they all produce jigs where the weight positioning is centre weighted, tail weighted or somewhere in between.
Centre weighted jigs –
These jigs are weight balanced near its centre. This jig is designed to flutter, glide and dart during the drop but fall slower than tail weighted designs. Use this jig in shallower water and for bottom fish (Snapper) that prefer a slower, fluttery presentation. These jigs are the most common and versatile designs and are must have weapons in the jiggers arsenal.
Tail weighted jigs –
These jigs are weight balanced at or near the tail. This jig is designed to drop and lift quickly with a little action. These are the jigs to target deep water bottom fish as their streamlined designs will resist the effects of current better.
The jigs also tend to have small face profiles for better streamlining thus reducing the jig load felt at the rod. Because they are used in deep water, most jigs tend to have luminous finishes which help illuminate this lethal offering to any prospective fish.
Use these jigs to target deep water Kingfish, Hapuka and Sea Bass.
Jig size –
When choosing the jig size - target fish, water depth and current flow should be considered. Heavy tail weighted jigs can be used with pin point accuracy on a small target. A common guide is for 100g for every 100’ of water.
Choosing between a short or long jig might be helped by comparing jig length to the local baitfish at the time. It is also a long-held belief by Japanese jiggers that a long jig resembles a big baitfish which will entice the bigger predators! This choice then becomes a personal one or one that is determined on the day as fish will always have their daily preferences.
Jig colour –
With a wide range of jig colours, patterns and finishes; it can be hard to choose a suitable colour. There is a long held belief that the jig colour should match the overhead light conditions i.e. dark overhead = dark coloured jig, bright sunny = bright coloured jigs. At night and during deep jigging sessions, jigs that are mostly luminous are popular because of their ability to be seen in the dark water. Often before the first drop, I will observe what colour jigs have been selected by other jiggers and then choose a different colour. This way most of the colour spectrum is covered and if there is a hot colour, then you can quickly change to that. In most cases, the prettiest jig is the one that gets tied on and we all know that you will only get bit if you have it in the water.
Assist hooks –
One of the most significant jig developments has been the assist hook. The assist hook comprises a wide gape hook spliced to a short, looped Kevlar cord. The cord is usually looped onto the connecting end of the jig so that the hook is positioned behind the head and belly area of the jig. This is an area jiggers believe predatory fish strike which leads to improved hooksets. Another benefit is less snags because of the absence of the traditional tail treble. Many Japanese jiggers believe that predators also attack the assist hook so they often dress the hook like a flasher or fly.
Choose an assist hook by ensuring the hook gape is wider than the jig. Jiggers often use two assist hooks, varying the cord lengths for greater coverage. Additional assist hooks can be looped in at the tail if you are getting missed strikes when the jig is dropping. The tail assist will fold up against the jig and into the strike zone but a problem is the potential of the jig to tangle with the leader if jigged too vigorously.
There are many ways to make assist hooks, the main ingredient is Kevlar cord. Cut a 30cm length of Kevlar, double the cord then carefully tie a 2 turn uni knot or nail knot onto the hook shank then tighten with pliers. Trim off Kevlar tags and finish off with a short length of heat shrink tubing to protect the knot. Another simpler way is a single overhand knot onto the hook shank, a drop of super glue then heat shrink tubing.
This new Japanese style jigging could not begin without the advent of ultra thin braided line which was introduced at that time. Braided line is a must when jigging, it not only reduces drag and stretch but it enables the jigger to easily work the jig without being hampered by thick line. The thin braids drastically increase line capacity, or in reverse – reduce the size and weight of the reels needed.
The Japanese call these lines PE lines which is an abbreviation for Poly Ethylene being the scientific name for spectra or dyneema or simply - braid! Japanese use PE as a unit of measurement for braided line thickness, a PE5 braid is roughly equal to 50lb test. Most Japanese PE lines are characterised by colour coding where each colour measures 10m of line. There are usually 5 different colours which are repeated over the entire length of line.
The use of leaders is important in jigging because the terminal end is exposed to reef, abrasion and bite-offs. Asian jiggers much prefer the stealthy advantages of fluorocarbon leaders since their waters have long been ravaged and the fish have become line shy.
When considering leaders, it should be a windon with a length between
3 – 6m. The length is necessary because there should be at least several turns of leader on the reel when the fish comes within gaff range. This allows the leader man an easier line to handle as well as affording some abrasion resistance should the fish suddenly dive beneath the boat rubbing the line against the hull.
There are quick and easy ways to join braid to leader but that generally does not mean they are best. Novice jiggers should begin with game fishing leaders which are joined by loop-to-loop connections. These leaders can be brought over the counter and are easily replaced but there comes a time when the complete jigger should be able to tie at least one of the elaborate connecting knots like the FG, GT, PR, Midknot. These knots are very streamlined and strong, they can withstand day-long popper casting. The bulkier uni-to-uni or bimimi-to-albright knots will suffice but fear for the rings on your rod guides.
Jigging styles –
The are 2 basic styles in Japanese style jigging, not including other factors like speed or hesitation.
Long stroke- working the rod from the gimbal plate. The rod is lifted in a wide arc or long stroke then dropped to allow the jig to flutter downwards to induce a strike. Simultaneously, the reel is quickly wound in 2-3 turns for each cycle. This style is best suited to centre weighted jigs, spinning combos with a longer rod.
High pitch, short jerk – also known as “mechanical jigging”. The rod is carried under the armpit and the rod is stroked in a small arc. Simultaneously the reel is quickly wound in 1 turn for each cycle. This style is best suited to tail heavy streamlined jigs, overhead reels with a shorter rod.
The above is a guide for the Japanese jig style, there are no set rules to abide so you can easily mix up the techniques and tackle to suit yourself. Certain species prefer a slower fluttery jig presentation while others prefer blistering speed. Both styles can be successfully worked at either slow or high speed or a combination of both. The attraction with jigging is the room to experiment to find what works for you.
Early jigging – seemed focussed on high speed. The jigs in the 1980-90’s were often short and symmetrical. High speed retrieves were needed to give those jigs action, thus the term “speed jigging” was born. This is still a successful technique, even more so with the advent of the long jigs; but tiresome. Most jiggers of that time would be set up with long, heavy rods and large high speed reels. Monofilament was the standard line at that time. We all know just how insensitive, stretchy and bulky nylon monofilament is. The technique required the jig to be dropped to the bottom then quickly wound to the surface, this was tiresome work. A yoyo technique was for the jig to be repeatedly bounced up and down on the bottom much like a yoyo. Using mono of those times, meant that rods had to be physically long to make a long enough stroke in order to take the stretch out of the mono and move the jig.
You can see now the advent of thin strong braids, modern tackle and technical jig designs have confined this old jigging style to the attic.
Tips for the first jigging trip
Get a good pair of split ring pliers to change jigs quickly. Proper tools are necessary to safely open the 250lb rings. Check out our Pro Hunter pliers in the accessories section.
Get a pouch for your pliers while you’re at it. Otherwise they will never be in their proper place – at your side.
Gloves for jigging. Get past the macho attitude, it is very easy to get used to fishing with gloves. Find a pair offering good protection against braid cuts and are comfortable to wear.
Gimbal belt. Mandatory for fighting big fish.
Have replacement assist hooks pre-tied.
Windon leaders or leader material and tools to quickly make you own.
A spare jigging outfit. Or a spare reel spool filled with braid or a spare spool of braided line.
A range of jig types in several colours and weights.
Sunnies and a hat.
Take a camera.
Leave the bait at home!