Terry Smith gives an insight into an interesting method...
So just what is slow jigging all about?
We hear terms such as slow pitch, high pitch, long fall, free-fall, slow jerk and many others, but do we really understand their meaning?
My aim here is to attempt to allay some of the confusion surrounding these terms and to also explain the specific tackle requirements for this method to be effective.
Now I can already hear the cries of “Here we go again, yet another way to brainwash us naïve, crazy anglers into buying more fishing tackle – what’s wrong with what we have?”
Well the simple answer is: Nothing. If you are content with your current methods there is nothing wrong with what you have, just carry on, business as usual.
If, on the other hand, you have an open mind towards new fishing techniques then, maybe, just maybe you might like to read on.
The art of working an artificial lure to entice a bite is certainly nothing new, and if you could catch a fish using a lump of chrome-covered lead 30 years ago then there is nothing to suggest that you couldn’t do it now, aside from the fact that these days there are arguably fewer fish to catch.
But tackle has and is always evolving, sometimes re-evolving, and there is more than one way to catch a fish. Years ago jigging was all about heavy pirks and monofilament line, but the introduction of braided line and carefully designed jigs has refined this, and you no longer need to have arms like Popeye.
"The design of a Jig and the way it is worked will determine its action"
Jigs soon became more streamlined so they would sink fast and could be worked fast as vertical/speed jigging was introduced worldwide and wow, what a productive method this has proved to be, especially in the warmer, tropical climes.
A typical jig setup with a twin-assist hook attached via small solid and split rings tied to a fluorocarbon leader using a TN knot.
In these waters, most fast-moving pelagic species have the higher metabolism that gives them the capability to chase a lure at speed, while in our colder waters this is not quite the case. These jigs do catch fish in colder waters and they allow you to get to the strike zone quicker, but they need to be worked more slowly with a lift-and-drop technique – as you would a pirk – because most of our lower metabolised fish are less likely to go chasing a speeding jig.
Slow jigging with my friend Andreas De Nardo (back)
So what’s next with jig design?
Well, I’ve mentioned the ‘strike zone’, the area of water in which most fish will lay at a given time, and we know that the design of a jig and the way it is worked will determine its action. So wouldn’t it make sense to design a jig with an enticing action that would sink more slowly and therefore stay longer in the zone?
John 'Chalkie' White with one of many species to take a slow jig, this time a pink dentex taken while fishing in warmerr waters!
Enter The Japanese
A few years ago some very well respected Japanese anglers thought this way and totally altered jig shape and design to develop something that would move naturally in ways quite different from the norm. There is still a need for some streamlining to sink fast in deeper water and stronger currents, but by changing the bulk of the jig’s weight to become centre-balanced, it would free-fall much more slowly and erratically. This more violent fluttering sends out vibrations similar to that of a wounded baitfish, which is like ringing the dinner bell.
Use a purposely designed slow jigging hook. The thinner wire is stronger due to the materials used
Today there are many jig designs that fall under the slow jigging banner; some swoop, some flutter and some seem to hang in the water momentarily. However, to maximise their performance requires having the right tackle and techniques. Slow jigging is NOT traditional jigging slowed down.
Most modern jigging rods have a parabolic action, which is a through-rod action that has power, strength and is easier on the angler, but a slow jigging rod needs refinement as it is worked in a more precise way to move the jig effectively. The Japanese once again invested time and money in developing a totally new rod design, with a much slower tapered parabolic action that has resulted in some very light, very slim but powerful rods.
A typical slow jigging rod is six to seven feet in length and at first sight more resembles a light spinning rod than a jigging rod. They are very different in feel and performance to anything else on the market.
A couple of slow jigging setups and one for light jigging ready to do battle!
The rod is primarily designed to impart action to the jig throughout the various slow and high fall techniques that are required with slow jigging, more so than the need to fight the fish. Pump and wind is less important as larger fish are often fought with the rod pointing down, relying more on the capability of the reel to take the strain.
The rods are ‘jig weight’ rated and where possible should be matched to the jig being used to achieve maximum performance, but in reality due to our range of tides and currents in the UK this would mean taking three or four setups of varying ratings, so some compromise prevails. A size #3 or #4 is favourable as a general rule.
This often delicate style requires minimal outside influence between angler and jig, so a near vertical line is imperative. This does mean there may be times during the tide phase when this method will not be as effective. Strong winds and larger tides may be the trigger to try other methods, but this technique comes into its own over slack water and on the smaller tides.
Not all jigs are equal - some examples of Japanese handcrafted high-end jigs from Sea Floor Control, Marine Bait and Current-7-seas
To reduce line drag through the water it is far better to use a lower diameter braid, so it is well worth investing in a quality eight-strand from a reputable manufacturer. These braids are made from a tighter weave of lower diameter, making them stronger, thinner and rounder; some brands are also given a smooth coating to cut through the water more easily. Without entering into the realms of the PE world, simply look for an eight-strand with a PE rating of 1.0 to 2.5 or roughly 20 to 40lb breaking strain; your choice, just fish as light as you feel comfortable. Attach a short fluorocarbon leader of say 20 to 30lb to the braid before connecting the jig.
To get the best action from a jig, it needs to move freely, so rig it with a small solid ring and split ring and either use a purpose-made light assist hook or make them up yourself, as everything you need is available to buy separately.
Our first images of slow jigs see them rigged with a twin assist hook at each end but I don’t personally condone this in our waters. The Japanese fish mainly for the table (generalising, I know) but I’d like to think that a certain amount of catch and release prevails within UK sport fishing, so why use four hooks? Also, who wants to hook the structure? A single twin assist mounted at the top of the jig will still produce and swivels are not necessary, they can hamper jig movement.
This why you only need one set of assist hooks on a jig - with twin assists there are hooks everywhere
The lower diameter braids have taken away some of the need for the reel’s spool capacity and this has resulted in a whole new range of quality reels that are far smaller and lighter, yet built with high gear ratios and very strong drag systems. Remembering that some of the fight can involve a near straight rod pointing downward it is of paramount importance that the reel has a strong and smooth drag system incorporated. These models are generally PE2-PE3 rated and are tiny compared to many of the standard jigging reels. Slow jigging can be performed using a fixed-spool reel but a multiplier should be the reel of choice because of the direct control this gives the angler.
Now on to the technique: firstly it is important to realise that a free-falling centre balanced jig will immediately start to dance and flutter, thus slowing down its descent, so a small amount of pressure should be applied to the spool to very slightly restrict the free-fall and keep the jig in a vertical position where it is more streamlined and can sink more quickly.
Once lowered to the required depth, engage the reel and start to work the jig in a movement known as a ‘pitch’ – a repetitive motion that can be varied in a number of ways. Varying the action of the pitch can often provoke a strike.
To try and simplify, the rod is held out slightly below horizontal with a tight line, then turn the reel handle swiftly varying from a quarter turn to a full turn, which applies pressure to the jig but more importantly loads the rod – this is one of the reasons why high ratio reels are favoured. Maintaining the rod angle at the end of the pitch, you allow the rod to spring back, forcing the jig to flip and dance as it was designed to do. You can exaggerate the pitch by lifting the rod as you turn the reel, if you wish; just work on your technique and do what you feel comfortable with. It’s often as the jig flips in free-fall that a fish will attack, so be prepared as you start each pitch as it could be “fish on!”. Each new pitch is started as soon as the weight of the jig is felt once again.
In deeper water or stronger currents the method can be varied using high fall jigs, which are generally longer and more streamlined, being slightly less centre-balanced. This method requires a longer rod as the pitch is exaggerated by a higher lift of the rod, which is then dropped swiftly for the jig to take over.
As I have mentioned, the pitch should be varied; it is often that fish are sitting tight on structure so the strike zone may all be within just a few metres. In this instance try a short pitch and drop like you would a pirk; just allow the jig to turn more horizontal in freefall and only apply pressure on the lift.
I would strongly advise looking out for the many videos that are available showing the slow jigging technique, as it is probably not best understood when put into words.
This method when applied correctly is highly effective, it’s tailor-made for our cold-water species and very enjoyable due to the lightness and finesse of the tackle used.
The number of species that I’ve known take a slow jig would probably surprise most people, so why not give it a try?
I am available via my contacts page at www.jigabite.co.uk and I am based on the south coast in East Sussex should you require any assistance or tackle advice, and I will always do my best to help.
I hope to have at least alleviated some of the confusion around slow jigging, so good luck.
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Name: Terry Smith
Tel: 01273 381205