The exciting aspect of saltwater fishing over structure or visible bait schools is that you never know what you will hook/catch, from tiny baitfish 1/2 the size of your lure to monsters that break off and you never see. I will never fully understand why you can have a fish finder screen full of fish and nothing bites. Come back in 2-4 hours and those same fish bite. As we know there are many variables including moon phases, tidal shifts, current change, boat position/drift, and of course bait/ presentation. Fishing will always be fishing and not necessarily catching.
The advantage to jigging is that you can cover the entire water column from top to bottom (obviously depending on water depth and line capacity), and you are actively working to fool the fish rather than just waiting for the bite. The fish bite is triggered by the appearance of either an escaping baitfish, or injured baitfish, or both. You can vary the jig shape, size, color, action/presentation, depth, and weight versus current, depending on the situation and target species. And you don’t get slimy stinky hands! If you haven’t already, you should add jigging to your arsenal.
I am far too humble to imply that I am a master of jigging. While researching to write this section I have realized how little I knew before. The more time I can fish/ try different techniques, read and watch videos, the more I learn. I will provide some links and videos below that I have found informative, describing the various techniques of high speed jigging and slow pitch jigging. There is also the West Coast style of “surface irons”, casting jigs on the surface.
Equipment: There is extensive information available about equipment. Depending on your pocketbook, you can easily spend $1500 on a dedicated jigging outfit. You will destroy your lighter reels with high speed technique and heavy jigs. Invest in a quality reel with beefy gears. There are rods designed specifically for high speed, also for slow pitch jigging. I like spinning reels for casting and have 2 Penn Spinfisher SSV 6500 LL. I prefer a longer rod, usually 7ft, with a long foregrip to help fight larger fish. I have one inexpensive Tsunami jigging rod, and one older stiffer Star rod. This setup offers versatility for other applications including live bait and flat line. I have a Truth LG (now Seigler) conventional reel on a Calstar 700M custom build, also an Accurate Boss 402 on a custom Batson Revelation jig rod; I built both with a long foregrip. The longer rod helps when those big king mackerel continuously circle the boat. The experts may cringe, but I sacrifice some rod sensitivity for practicality. Do your own research and ideally visit your local tackle shop to find a practical sturdy balanced outfit. I am a novice to slow pitch jigging, but I look forward to trying it, at least a modified technique (the experts cringe again). I am ordering some jig blanks to finish and try.
(June 2019) Slow Pitch jigs are now in stock. I still haven’t decided about assist hooks for these….working on some options. I do think the action on these jigs is better with a split ring than simply tying to the jig eyelet. Many individuals tie the main line to a barrel swivel attached to the split ring; then attach the solid ring of the assist hooks also to the split ring. It seems like a lot of hardware but it also seems to work.
I personally use 50lb braid with a 10-20 ft mono topshot, usually 50lb, using the FG knot, or Collins knot. I use a barrel swivel with a plastic bead above it, because I almost always reel the swivel through the front eyelet without the bead attached. I think it helps protect the eyelet, and I get frustrated having to pull the swivel back through the first 2-3 eyelets to drop again. The swivel helps with line twist, especially with a foul hooked fish. I most frequently use 4-6ft of 50lb fluoro leader from the swivel to the jig. I may swap to 80lb leader if continuously pulled into the wreck and abrasion cutoff.
If the bite is dead after a couple of jig style/color changes, I may remove the barrel swivel and bead and try again. With practice you can quickly change jigs at the assist hook split ring. Texas Tackle makes the best split ring plier I have ever used, and I recommend size Large or XL.
Wire Leader: I had one tuna trip where they wouldn’t bite a snap swivel attached to the jig eyelet while everyone else was catching. I removed it with subsequent success, and I now always tie directly to the jig, or the solid ring of the assist hook. For repeated cutoffs at the assist cord consider using a trailer hook or a wire assist hook. In my reading fish probably consider a wire assist hook as part of the bait. Opinions vary especially about tuna and a wire leader above the jig. Some say never use wire, some say OK at night but not daylight. I use a wire leader, about 8 inches, only if necessary after repeated cutoffs and lost jigs at the attachment. King mackerel, sharks, barracuda, wahoo and all toothy critters will add to your expense.
Jig weight vs water depth: Dedicated jigging started in Japan, so many manufacturers use the metric system. Most individuals recommend a jig weight of about 100g (3.53oz) per 100 ft depth (30.48 meters). See chart below. So basically up to 3.5oz at 100ft 6oz (170 g) at 200ft. and so on. Jig choice will also depend on your desired target species/depth. Grouper stay near structure. Amberjack schools are frequently in the mid depths of the water column. Larger red snapper, especially with chumming, are more commonly caught in the upper water column.
On the Alabama Gulf Coast the water is relatively shallow, with a very gradual decline. I have to run about 40 miles to reach 200ft depth (fortunately only a few more miles to reach 600ft), so I spend much more fishing time in 100ft or less. I therefore rarely use more than a 6oz jig. My personal favorite is my 3oz Butterfly because of the versatility in casting or jigging. I keep one rigged on a spinning outfit and cast to anything that floats, weedlines, and surface bait schools. I have caught fish with a steady retrieve, erratic retrieve, and even trolling at about 8 mph. When fishing over structure/reefs I use the heavier jigs when necessary to initially reach the bottom, then various retrieve techniques working back up to the top.
We have very restricted fishing regulations, so I release a lot of fish. I am not a fan of treble hooks for that reason. I also generally use only 1 trailer hook or 1 assist hook. I still invariably find a way to puncture my hand or finger at least once during a day of fishing. I personally try not to touch or boat any fish that I am not going to keep unless there is barotrauma that requires venting or to take photos. I try to just grab the 1 hook with pliers and rotate it out, leaving the fish untouched. For these reasons I will (likely) never use 4 assist hooks/jig.
Choosing Jig Color: Many individuals swear by one color only, or a realistic finish only. Many others say that color doesn’t matter. Baitfish obviously reflect light, they have varied coloration that changes, and some have UV (biofluorescent) and glow in the dark (bioluminescent) properties. Squid also glow. I therefore offer several varieties of these properties as well as realistic patterns. If you view the chart and watch the video series below you see that only certain colors are still visible in deeper water; Visibility worsens with cloud cover, murky water and wave action. There is reportedly no visible color at 300ft. UV (fluorescent) properties/colors are said to be better in low light conditions (e.g. murky water, cloudy days) compared to brighter light; UV wave penetration is much deeper (see chart) so fluorescent colors can work at greater depth.
Glow in the dark colors are very productive in both daylight and dark conditions, regardless of depth. UV Flashlights are the fastest way to charge glow jigs (one example in the links below).
There are a lot of reputable lure makers out there. I will remain small scale, and offer some unique properties of brilliant light reflection, color shift, UV and glow in various combinations. There are brilliant artisans/lure artists that I can only appreciate and envy. I am also aware that any of you anglers can DIY. I encourage it! If I can help you catch fish I will be delighted. If you catch fish on my products I will be honored.
I hope that you find this and the information below useful.
LINKS (open in new tab or window to return here)
Good overview of high speed jigging techniques by a kayak fisherman
Lengthy overview of vertical jigging including equipment and various techniques-Well worth the watch!
Very extensive and informative article review of slow pitch jigging
Chart review of high speed vs various slow pitch techniques
Fast pitch versus Slow Pitch-Japanese subtitled
How to tie the FG knot
John Collins Knot
How Colors Look Underwater