New series – part 1, slow-pitch jigging.
Slow-Pitch Jigging is beginning to take off in the UK in a big way. I was first introduced to it a few years ago when I went out on a fieldtesting mission for Tronix Fishing with Pete Cook. Ever since I have ensured that I have some slow jigs with me at all times, ready to jump at any given opportunity to send one down to the seabed.
After a successful initial trip, I started looking into SPJ a bit more, and I came across a chap in Mexico who specialises in making all manner of jigs. He went by the name of ‘Jimyjigs’, and a quick email later I had some sample lures winging their way across the Atlantic.
I have to say, the quality and finish of them is unlike anything else I’ve come across – they are works of art.
More recently, I received a message from the skipper of Kelley’s Hero III down in Hayling Island, asking if I’d be interested in a dedicated SPJ day. I wasn’t going to refuse.
Joining us was Matt Crook, the UK agent for SAME, another company that specialises in all things jigging, especially slow jigging. I discovered that Matt has sponsored the boat with SAME gear, and I was excited to see what was on board.
The beauty of SPJ is that it enables you to fish with exceptionally light tackle. Although slow jigs are designed to flutter, they have a unique balance system. If you drop the jig over the side and freespool it, the chances are that the jig will begin to flutter – and that it will take forever to get to the seabed, especially in 150ft of water.
What you need to do is lift the jig with your rod tip so it hangs vertically, then gently let it go. When you get this correct, the jig will shoot down like a rocket. It’s only when you lift the jig sharply and allow it to fall that the action gets imparted and it begins to flutter. It’s a clever design that suits the purpose perfectly.
As far as rods and reels go, you can spend a small fortune on specifically designed ‘spaghetti’ rods, jigging multipliers and the like, but there really is no need unless you want to really get into it and look the part. You can get away with your regular lure fishing kit.
I use one of my DB3 or DB4 lure rods, coupled with a 4000-size HTO Lure Game fixed-spool reel (nice and cheap) loaded with 20lb Daiwa J-Braid. To the end of the braid I add about three feet of 20lb fluorocarbon leader. This is for two reasons; firstly to give an ‘invisible’ break between the lure and braid, and also to have something to grab hold of when pulling smaller fish into the boat.
The only other addition is a Breakaway Mini Link clip tied to the end of the fluorocarbon leader, which enables changes of lures in an instant without having to tie more knots and, ultimately, shorten the leader.
HOW IT’S DONE
The slow jigging method takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s basically vertical jigging slowed right down with the aid of specifically designed jigs. The aim is to keep the jig in the strike zone for longer, which enables all manner of species to home in and grab your lure.
There are two distinct approaches when it comes to the actual physical working of a slow jig. Firstly, you can work it by dropping down to the bottom and imparting a sharp lifting of the rod followed by a sharp dropping of the rod tip so the lure to flutters back down. Alternatively, you can lift the rod and wind down at a steady pace as you drop the rod tip to bring up the lure slowly through the water column. This is where the term Slow Pitch comes from, because you’re pitching the rod tip and lowering it again in a constant fluid motion.
I have found the former tactic to work exceptionally well, mostly because it keeps the lure working in a six-feet area right above the seabed, reef or wreck, where most of the target fish are lurking.
The way these jigs are rigged is perfect for wreck and reef fishing. There are no treble hooks, in fact you can fish with either one or two single hook stingers, which are rigged on to nylon cord and attached via a split ring at the top of the jig. These are called assist hooks and they’re deadly effective. Not only do they give the full potential of the jig’s action, but also they help reduce snagging and lost gear.
On this particular day I managed to catch bass while using both a single hook and twin hook set-up, but I prefer the single-hook approach.
I believe it gives a superior hook hold, does less damage to the fish, and obviously halves your chances of being hung up on the bottom.
CRAZY DAY AFLOAT
As the day of our trip dawned, I picked up my trusty fishing companion, Jim Midgley, and we headed south. The temperature was already in the low twenties, and with no wind forecast we knew we were going to be in for a fantastic day afloat, if nothing else.
The plan was to head offshore to fish a reef system for bass and pollack, maybe stopping at a few wrecks on the way back. This is one of my favourite forms of fishing because you get so much more sport when fishing a single lure connected directly to the end of your line, without any additional lead weight swinging about. In addition, you can feel everything that’s going on, even whether your lure is bumping rock or mud in more than 150 feet of water.
As we neared the reef after 90 minutes of steaming, we prepared for the first drop of the day. The tide was slack, so we’d be drifting over the reef much slower, keeping our lures in the strike zone for longer.
During the first hour we amassed a few small pollack, loads of pouting and even a red gurnard, but the bass weren’t in a feeding mood just yet. Like any other form of bass fishing, we needed to wait for the tide to start running in order to wake them up.
As the hour passed I began to wonder if we would find our target species, and decided to clip on a flat 120g Jimyjig in fluoro pink. It’s one of my favourite colours for any type of lure when fishing in deep water for bass. I like blue too. I don’t know why, but they just work.
The tide was running well now and, as the pink lure hit the reef, I lifted it sharply and let it flutter down. I felt the jig stop just a couple of feet into its descent as my first bass of the day grabbed it. I lifted the rod instantly and felt the weight and telltale headshake of a bass connected more than 150 feet below me. This fish was angry, she tore line from the reel, making numerous powerful runs during her ascent to the surface.
Skipper Bex Florence soon had the fish in her net and my heart was thumping as I gazed on the rather large bar of silver that was laying on the deck. After a quick photo, we placed her back in the net to weigh her and then hung her over the side to get her breath back. As soon as she started thrashing about, we knew she was ready to go, and go she did. What a fantastic start, a beautiful fish weighing just over 8lb.
Next up was Matt, with a smaller bass, followed again by me with another cracker of 6lb 8oz to the lumo-pink Jimyjig. While we were concentrating on the bass, Jim Midgley managed to hook a rather lively double-figure pollack, which ran him all around the boat. Then Pete Thatcher hooked into another cracking bass, over the 8lb mark. Just as quickly as it had all started, the bass fishing stopped dead, which can so often be the case when fishing a reef. I’m guessing the fish simply move to another part of the reef where there is less commotion.
We did try a few more drifts, but couldn’t find them again, not that I was complaining – I’d caught and released a couple of crackers on my intended method. ■
A smidge over 8lb, this bass fell to Dave’s fluoro pink Jimyjig
An HTO Slow Jig producted a double-figure pollack for Jim Midgley
The fluoro pink Jimyjig is a thing of beauty
You only need a small selection of slow jigs
These SAME slow jigs are stunning
NEXT MONTH: In part two, Dave explains the finer points of fishing for bass in shallow water with weighted soft plastics.
Pete Thatcher got in on the action using a SAME blue and silver jig
Even gurnards will take a slow jig