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THE DEEP DOWN ON SALT WATER JIGGING

RICK HUCKSTEPP
Jigging has been around since the year dot. South Pacific islanders have been using turtle and seashell jigs and hooks for centuries and still continue that tradition in some places.
We are a little more sophisticated in this country; or we would like to think we are. In any case, we have at our disposal a wide array of lures and gear to fish with jigs that is either made specifically or adapted for this style of angling.

Like any fishing, there are horses for courses. That is to say, while we might have a wide array of jigs and gear and a huge selection of species of fish to target, you have to get more close to matching the hatch when it comes to marrying all this equipment together to get the end result.
The most obvious place to start is the gear that you will be doing battle with. A good jig rod has to be capable of lifting a lure vertically in the water column a long distance with the minimum of arm movement. A rod in the two-metre range is ideal and if it has a fast taper and plenty of leverage strength toward the butt it is a good start starter.
A long butt section below the reel is also helpful in that it allows that part of the rod to tuck under an armpit. Once well placed there, the fore arms require minimal vertical motion to get the rod top to travel a maximum distance with the least amount of energy expended. Long jigging sessions can get quite exhaustive.
Reels for jigging have evolved in recent years. Most of the favourite jigging reels have a high-speed gear ratio to facilitate quick lure action in conjunction with rod tip movement.
Quite often these reels are void of level winds. This has come about due to the "stop-start" nature of this style of fishing that sees the line laying in segments across the spool that does not allow it to flow freely off it from one end of the spool through the level wind eye at the other. This is an important attribute for a jigging reel as a smooth descent of the jig through the water column is important and many of our fish that we jig for are "caught on the drop', rather than on the retrieve. Volume of line on the reel is also something to take into account. Fishing deep water vertically can reduce a spool diameter quickly and affect the end result of the retrieve speed. Using braided lines has somewhat alleviated this dilemma due to its thin diameter/breaking strain ratio. This thin diameter also assists us to stay in contact with the jig as it attracts less water pressure and therefore exhibits less, bow in the line that is in the water. This is a good thing when fishing vertically in the water column but sometimes works against us when casting and retrieving jigs over the bottom. Some water pressure on a line is advantages in the latter situation. Once a jig is cast and it settles on the bottom, water pressure on the line allows the jig to lift vertically off the bottom when the "jab of the rod tip is imparted to it. This in effect allows the jig to bounce over the bottom and alleviates some snagging and reduces the amount of rubbish such as weed that we pick up on the way. While we have to be amongst the habitat we don't want to get continually stuck in it.
The length of leader that you use will have a direct bearing on how much water pressure is put on that line. This water pressure will dictate how much time your jig spends in the actual strike zone.
The terminal end of the outfit is critical and there are so many variations it is downright confusing to say the least.
A jig that gets down to the strike zone fast will be less affected by water current simply because it spends less time in those fishless parts of the water column. While it is getting there it may as well be capable of doing its job in case we pass a fish with it on the way.
There are many thoughts on hook set ups for this style of vertical jigging. Most of our metal jigs are actually casting lures with the weighted end of the lure armed with the hook or treble. This in effect makes the hook less than effective as it is laying next to the body of the jig as it descends at speed. Look at the image hereabouts and see this style of lure with the hook reversed to the other end and attached with Dacron. This style of jig set up is favoured amongst anglers targeting king fish on the East Coast, especially in the vicinity of shipping channel markers and buoys.
If you hadn't noticed the massive amount of soft plastics available in the tackle shops these days you need your eyes checked! There is literally aisle after aisle of them and many of them make very effective jigs straight out of the packet. They are often a one off use due to body damage and loss so a bundle of spare bodies will be handy.
I am not amiss at running "stinger" hooks on my jig rigs either. These secondary armaments ensure fish that nip tails and short strike will be accounted for. There are various ways to attach these stinger hooks, the first being to spread the eye of the hook and place it over the other. I like to have it face the opposite direction. A short Dacron tie will also assist putting the hook on. A favoured rig in the west is to tie on a small treble to the towing eye of the jig. Remember that many fish, including bream, attack the heads of their prey first. This should pull them up quick time!
It may be that you are fishing water too deep to anchor and are drift jigging. With wind and current against you, staying in the strike zone long enough to effectively catch fish can prove a problem. Sea anchors or drogues are an asset to the saltwater jigger. They slow the drift dramatically and keep you over the prime target areas longer. They may be strategically placed on a forequarter or some other place on the boat to allow the boat angle in relation to the drift direction to be set to your advantage. It will allow multiple anglers to fish on one side of the vessel with ease. I use a Para Anchor effectively in salt and freshwater. Remember that in big seas it is wise to tie off the drogue only to the bow as breaking waves may suddenly come over the gunwale and possibly capsize the craft should it be side on to an approaching sea.
Burleying an area when jigging at anchor is an effective adjunct to lure fishing. Obviously don't overfeed the fish and remember that the fish that are down there are feeding on the burley as it descends, not as it ascends. Therefore many of the strikes will be on the "drop" rather than on the retrieve. This is where a good outfit will help you stay in touch with your jig for effective fish catching. The well-balanced rod, reel, line, leader and jig will be a formidable tool for jig fishing.