How to jig easier and cheaper!
By Miles Tam
Before we kick things off, everything in this article is simply my rendition of what works for me to find and catch fish jigging; it’s certainly not the only way. Hopefully there’s something in amongst all this that may help you get into the art of jigging.
Jigging for me started years ago wreck bashing, using any kind of jig/slice and frantically working the rod as fast as possible, which usually resulted in myriad of trevally species. But over the years, different techniques, rigs and variations have helped to get fish to bite when things seem to be stagnant. Wrecks are an obvious place to start as they allow an angler to start playing with jigs and plastics and getting a feel of what to expect while also getting stretched by some decent sized fish. However, there’s nothing better than nailing a quality table fish on a lure and it often gives you a better understanding of how these fish feed and react to a particular action.
Let’s start with tackle, now my absolute favourite type of outfit is a PE3 jigging rod matched up with a 10,000 sized Shimano or 4500 Daiwa. This outfit can be worked all day comfortably and can handle the big fish. Quality to some degree is really important as well. If you’re going to do this style of fishing and fish hard, then good quality is important. The cheaper offshore gear just doesn’t cut it and you will be up for a new reel in no time. Personally, I use a PE3 Jigwrex along with the new Shimano Saragossa 10,000. Loaded with 50lb braid you will stop 90% of the fish you hook. Usually a 100lb outfit wouldn’t stop the other 10% and you more than likely don’t want to eat it anyway! My heavier outfit is a PE10 Xzoga matched up with a Shimano Stella 20,000SW spooled with 114lb braid. A good rod is important, as it has a huge role in how your jig will react in the water! But don’t forget the 20lb outfit and have some fun, because, after all, that’s what we really go fishing to do!
The million dollar question – what lures work best? I used to get caught up with buying the best brand name jigs and hooks and, yes, they work, but I guarantee it will be the most expensive day on the water you have ever had. I did some jigging off the coast of Mexico recently and the deckies showed me a few tricks that hype up a boring knife jig and catch fish. It opens up a whole new window of opportunity that won’t break the bank. Firstly, go and ask ten different people what their favourite lure is and you will more than likely find that the answers will be very different, except for maybe a few. Each lure or jig has its own action as well as the angler who uses it, so one will suit some better than others. I try and make my jigs as cheap as possible, that way I have a good supply of jigs and am not afraid to lose any.
The hardest part is finding your jigs cheap, after that the rest is easy. Double assist hooks are very easy to make and are a cheaper option than the pre-rigged setups. Giving yourself as many advantages as possible will definitely catch you more fish. The first is using double assist hooks; this will increase your hook-up rate and also at times will catch you two fish on the one jig! The next key factor is appearance. You want as much ‘flash’ as possible! Aggressive fish love colour and dangly bits! Try attaching a small octopus skirt to your assist hooks. I can’t remember how many times I have been out-fished because I was too lazy to put a new octopus skirt on. Last but not least is glow. Most jigs come with a belly that glows, but why not take it to the next echelon and really pimp your jigs. Paint spots, lines or completely paint the jig with glow. In waters 50m and deeper you want it to stand out like a librarian in a nightclub!
Now action. There’s no right or wrong action; it comes down to what works on the day. A simple jig (rip of the rod) followed by a wind to pick up the slack and repeated is a good technique to start off. I would start off slow but quick enough to give you a good rhythm. But if there’s fish marking up and you’re not getting any action, then mix it up. Try speeding it up, then, if necessary, a super fast wind with the odd rip should find a fish’s attention! If they seem to be reacting to this fast retrieve, you better pack plenty of electrolytes and water, ‘cos you’re in for a tough day, and the days following will definitely have you walking around like The Hunchback of Notre Dame! If the fish are on the bottom, concentrate your efforts in the bottom 15-20m and send the jig back down once it gets to that height. This will conserve a lot of energy. As a rule of thumb bottom species will generally react to a slow to medium retrieves and pelagics almost always find a fast retrieve irresistible.
Jig weights can be a little tricky, but the old saying ‘match the hatch’ can play a huge part here in catching fish. This is the reason I usually have three different jigging rods in all different sizes. A PE 8-10 outfit is best suited for jigs between 150-400 grams. A PE 3 loves jigs between 80-180 grams and I also have a PE 1-3 rod that handle all the little stuff from Gulp soft plastics and jigs between 60-120 grams. But remember, all rods are different and some will handle jig weights differently.
Like most fishing, there is generally a good bite time where you will find the fish eat just about anything. But when times get tough, go light to get the bite! Yes, you will get dusted every now and then, but you may just start a bite that probably wouldn’t have happened naturally. Stay patient in the tough times and look at it as technique practice!
I quite often find that the morning bite will be completely different to the afternoon bite. An example on our last trip was that the ever-so-faithful Gulp plastic couldn’t do any wrong, with knife jigs producing nothing more than a build up of lactic acid during the morning bite. But the afternoon bite saw knife jigs getting harassed on every drop! It can also be the complete opposite as well, so be creative!
Jigging is hard work, don’t get me wrong, but it is simply another form of sport fishing that is very, very addictive. Following these simple steps shouldn’t make it very expensive either. It keeps you thinking and makes you change your methods constantly to catch fish. You’re actually making it happen, not waiting for it to happen. Alright, all this talking about fishing has got me twitchin’ on the couch, I’m off to go and rig up!
Do it cos ya love it!