If the big 300-gram knife jigs are the “heavy metal” of the jigging world, the jigs used for the smaller species probably qualify for the title of “metal-minis.” I have to admit I see quite a few advantages to using these smaller jigs for targeting species such as snapper, kahawai, trevally, cod and the like, in fact for any fish that is not herbivorous and will snap at a small fish.
A spread of common jigs on the market today
A. Catch Kabura (note small split ring attached)
B. Shimano Bottom Ship Slow jig
C. Daiwa Slow Knuckle
D. Jaeger Micro Jig
Unlike softbaits, when fishing jigs, you don’t have to keep changing tails or checking to see if the tail is sitting straight. Jigs of 60 grams or more, for the most part, will slide past the kahawai in a work up and get to the bottom, where the snapper are prowling and scoffing up the scraps and wounded baitfish filtering down from the carnage above. Softbaits, by comparison, will often get intercepted by kahawai on the way down. Admittedly, jigs cost more than softbaits and it hurts more when they are lost. But when using the right gear, it is quite difficult to lose a jig and they usually expire due to paint removal and from damage from snapper teeth mangling them past their usefulness. You can always resurrect and refurbish beat up jigs ̶ unless, of course, barracouta have simply removed them from your line altogether.
If you haven’t gotten into the jigging game, it doesn’t take much to join. A small to medium-sized outfit typically used for softbaiting will work, so by tying on one of the jigs listed below you can get into it fairly quickly. Here are a few tips to help you either get into jig fishing or enhance your jigging game.
Sliders, Kaburas, Engestu, Kohga
These jigs are typically a ball-shaped head of lead, painted with an eye and an all-over colour scheme. The Catch Kabura, Ocean Angler Slider, Shimano Engetsu and Daiwa Kohga are the various common brands of this style of jig. They slide along the line or a short section of Kevlar attached to two small assist hooks hidden in a squid skirt with rubber tentacles. The tentacles will often be two styles, one with spindly thin tentacles and two broader-shaped tentacles to imitate the two dominant tentacles of a squid. These come in all kinds of colours and the heads will sometimes have different shapes to assist with the action of the lure.
These are effective lures and easy to use and score fish on. Gentle movement of the rod, or slow up and down movements, impart enough life to the lure to trigger hits. Even sitting the rod in a rod holder as you drift along, can be a deadly way to fish them. Don’t smash the hooks home when you get bites, but firmly lift the rod, and the sharp little hooks will pierce the lips of the fish. Another tip is to play the fish at a medium-soft pace so the hooks don’t pull out or bend.
These lures are probably the best ones to start jigging with because of their ease of use. 80 grams is a good weight to start with if you fish in 30 - 60 metres of water. The skirts eventually disintegrate, but a good 20 or 30 fish may be taken before they require replacement. You can easily source replacement skirts when this happens.
One tip that may help is to take a small split ring and attach it to the cord that runs through the head. This way the skirt can’t become separated from the head and become lost in the boat. It may be worth adding your own cord or leader to the heads that don’t have one so the skirt and heads stay together. The other advantage is that they are then easily and quickly attached to your mainline without having to thread material through the head.
Inchiku jigs, sometimes called “slow jigs” are like the slider / kabura-style jigs in that they also have a squid skirt hiding a pair of assist hooks. The skirt is typically attached to a long pencil-shaped weight painted in a particular style or colour scheme.
These are similar to kabura or slider-styles of jig in intent, and in the way they are fished, with the tentacles providing the action and attraction to trigger strikes and catch fish. These lures tend to benefit from a bit more action than fishing a slider does ̶ it is good to place more emphasis on lifting and dropping. When drifting, there will come a point where the jig is too far out the back and the line angle will make the lure action counterproductive, so minimising line out and keeping the lure in contact with the bottom is a good strategy. When we come to consider slow pitch jigs, keep in mind that they will need to be fished more or less vertically.
Remember to check the jig if you are getting bites but no hook ups. The hooks can sometimes twist around the body itself and become redundant in hooking fish. Keep the hooks sharp, so that hard strikes are not necessary. Inchiku skirts tend to last longer than kaburas, as they are shorter and thicker by comparison. You will inevitably get bite marks on the body but they seldom get so bad that they become useless.
Slow Pitch Jigs
Slow pitch jigs are a bit newer on the angling scene and the recommendation is to get a dedicated slow pitch jig rod. These rods have a more defined action to work the jig. They tend to bend further down the blank, so that the blank helps the jig to spring more on the lift and then to fall in an enticing way to convince watching fish that the jig is really a wounded bait fish in its death throes. Slow pitch jig rods are more expensive but can be used for most other types of lure fishing. You may have to get used to the fighting action of these rods because the Japanese tend to fight heavier fish with the reel more than the rod, so if your slow pitch jig rod bends all the way to the handle on a moderate fish or drag, don’t freak out.
Slow pitch jig action is a fluttering and side-to-side action that best works straight up and down. These jigs are usually good for getting fairly quickly to the bottom, although you need to keep an eye on the line at all times, because if the lure stops before you think you have hit the bottom, you need to strike hard and fast because something has grabbed it. Unlike the other lures above, you have to hit swiftly as the take will be a savage grabbing of the lure and you will get a lot of paint chips from smashing snapper grabs.
Different manufacturers will shape their jigs a bit differently on one side (or both sides) to impart a fish striking action. I like getting the slow pitch jigs with stripes on one or both sides, as these seem to appeal a bit more universally than straight coloured jigs do. Without too much detail, flat fall jigs are similar, in that they have a similar action built into their “fall” to entice strikes.
Flat fall lures can be more expensive than the above models. I sometimes add assist hooks to the bottom and the top anchor points. A bit more expensive if you lose a jig, but it can improve the hook up rates. Sometimes the fish will miss the jig and get hooked in the face. Some may feel this is un-sportsman like; however, I think of it as having just missed the fish’s mouth, which is as good as a strike.
These jigs, as the name suggests, are very small jigs, typically under 20 grams. They can be difficult to fish if the drift is fast, but they can really pay off on super calm days in the 30-50- metre depth range with little current. They take longer to get down ̶ don’t think about using them when kahawai are feeding, as this jig will never get to the bottom.
I have found when things are calm and slow, micro jigs can turn a slow day into a payday. They will fish best on lighter outfits (3 kg braid and 6-7 kg leader), but with a bit of patience, they will fish satisfactorily on heavier gear.
The secret to fishing them is to work them just off the bottom with small lifts and jerks. Keep in contact with the lure and if in doubt, strike anyway. When there is little or no water movement, food items drift down to the bottom and fish tend to sit with their noses hard on the bottom.
Occasionally, winding up 3-4 metres and dropping again so fish have a better chance of seeing the lure close to them, will also work. Some of the better-finished micro jigs have some fine detail and a quality single hook, so you don’t have to worry about bending or break offs. Check the hooks and hardware on other brands before fishing, as micro jigs can have micro cord or micro hooks which need to be changed out for stronger sizes or styles.
If you are new to jigs, start with the kabura-slider and definitely have a couple of micro jigs and slow jigs in case. Once you become confident, graduate to better-quality or specialised gear and slow pitch jigs which can enhance your fishing and add even more options to bring home the bacon ̶ or should that be the fillets?