How To Fish a Jig

Man vertical jigging from a boat

Jigging (“fishing a jig”) is one of the most common techniques for fresh and saltwater fishing. It can be used in various conditions and water types. Many of the current fishing world records are held by anglers who use the jigging fishing method. This guide will help you master the basics and start using jigging to starting catching your own trophy fish.

Jigging Basics

Jigging is when a lure is jerked up and down, or back and forth, in the water column. The movement is made by an angler jerking or popping the tip of their rod in a vertical or horizontal motion. The jerking motion of the lure imitates the movement of an injured baitfish, which attracts the attention of larger game fish.

Basic jigging is performed with a weighted lure by letting the lure it drop to the bottom of the water column. Once on the bottom, snap you wrist make short jerking motions with the rod to bring the bait up a few feet, then let it settle back down to the bottom. The cadence of jerks is up to the angler to decide what is appropriate for the target fish species. Aggressive saltwater gamefish respond best to solid and aggressive jerks, while freshwater species typically respond best to short, quick hauls with longer stops in between. You typically jig up and down, but jigging can also be performed side to side, or a combination of vertical and sideways movements.

How to Jig in Four Simple steps

Jigging is not complicated but does require a little practice. Here are four steps to follow:

  1. Cast out and allow your jig to sink to the bottom. You can either wait until you feel the lure hit the bottom or count down the seconds. (A 1/32oz jig will fall through the water at about 1 ft per second. A 1/8oz jig at 2.50 feed per second.) So it will take about 10 seconds for 1/8oz jig to reach a depth of 25 feet.
  2. Using your wrist to drive the motion, snap the rod tip up quickly and then let the jig drop back down. This will produce a vertical motion as the jig jerks up in the water.
  3. Jig in different directions: up and down; up, down, and sideways; side to side; or a combination. Different fish species will respond to different jigging patterns. Vertical jigging is the most common technique, but try a few.
  4. Prepare for a strike by by reeling down just a bit to keep your line tight. Then repeat the above steps until you get a bite.

Types of Jigs

There are several different types of jigs. The type of jig you employ will depend on water conditions and species of fish you’re trying to catch. Jigs can be weighted in the tail, center, or front. Front-weighted jigs are good for penetrating through dense structures and vegetation. Center-weighted jigs give the lure an exaggerated side-to-side fluttering motion and a slower drop. And rear weighted jigs are better for sinking lures quickly into deeper water.

  • Bottom Jigs (Front weighted)
    Bass fishing jigs are used similarly to how soft plastics are used. These jigs are fished in thick vegetation or structure to entice hungry Largemouth Bass. There are multiple types of jigs used for bass fishing, such as flipping jigs, football jigs, punch jigs, and pitching jigs.
  • Vertical Jigs (Rear weighted)
    The vertical jig is also known as a speed jig or butterfly jig and has a long, skinny shape that cuts quickly through the water. Vertical jigs are made of lead or other metal and weigh anywhere from 1/32 oz. finesse jigs up to massive 6 oz. deepwater jigs. These jigs have one or more hooks attached to their top or bottom using a split ring, which allows them to swing freely.
  • Bucktail Jigs (Front or center-weighted)
    The bucktail jig is named after the hair (traditionally from a deer, or “buck”) that is tied to its end (which makes a “tail”). With this lure, a hook is secured to the bottom of the lead head. The hair comes out from the bottom of the head like a skirt, camouflaging the hook. Bucktails come in many colors and can be baited with live or natural baits, rubber worms, or used alone.
  • Spinners and Spoons (Front, rear, or center weighted)
    Spoons and spinners are ideal for jigging, as their concave metal design, combined with the jerking motion of jigging, creates lifelike movements and flashing in the water. Spoons and spinners can be jigged vertically or horizontally through the water column.

Jigging Techniques

There are a variety of jigging techniques. Below we’ll cover four excellent techniques for both freshwater and saltwater jigging.

Punch Jigging

This method is used for bass fishing in freshwater systems or in areas with heavy vegetation. Punching involves using a front-weighted jig to “punch” through heavy surface vegetation and cover to present the baits below the surface. Punching is an effective way to catch fish hiding under dense vegetation.

Speed Jigging

This quick, rhythmic technique uses a tail-weighted jig and is excellent for catching yellowfin, lake trout, salmon, albacore, striped bass, mackerel species, snapper, and groupers. It is also great for moving your hook through different depths to attract a strike. To speed jig, drop your jig over the reef or structure and wait for it to hit bottom. Once it does, snap your rod repeatedly while quickly drawing in your reel until the jig returns to the boat. Then cast again and repeat, doing your best to keep up a quick rhythm with the tip of your rod. This is an aggressive form of jigging and can really work out your muscles.

Flutter Jigging (slow pitch)

As the name implies, flutter jigging takes advantage of a center-weighted jig’s fluttering motion and slow descent to give fish the maximum opportunity to bite. Drop your jig over the target, allowing it to go slowly to the bottom. Then pop it up 10-15 feet, and then let it drop down 5 feet, then retrieve it up another 10-15 feet. Repeat this until the jig is back to the boat, then cast again or until you get a strike. Flutter jigging is a slow and patient method but creates a large time window for a fish to strike.

Bottom Jigging

Bottom jigging is great for targeting Corvina and grouper, and snappers. This method can use both center and tail-weighted jigs. If your jig has a treble hook, use pliers to turn in the barbs so they won’t snag on the reef. Drop the jig and let it bounce off the bottom, then draw it up 10-15 feet. Repeat this bounce-and-retrieval rhythm until you pass through the hi-spot.

Boat Handling/Drifting

It is also important to observe the wind conditions and the current when jigging to set the right drift. You can use the panning mode on your GPS to pinpoint your drift direction, but you’ll also want to check your tracks regularly. A good method is to take your boat 20 or 30 meters out from the hi-spot, kill the engine, and allow your craft to drift over the entire reef. Many of the large, predatory fish patrol the edges of the hi-spot hunting for prey, so don’t forget to fish over the drop-off. Most importantly, drop your line over the down current side so that it is moving away from the boat, not being drawn under it.

Jigging Tackle

Almost any rod and reel can be used for jigging; however, considering where and what you will be fishing for should help you with your decision. Bass fishing jigging rods are usually medium-heavy to heavy action rods that have enough power to pull big Bass out from under dense cover and vegetation.

Short and stiff rods are used for salt and freshwater jigging for optimal maneuverability and leverage when fishing off a boat or a fixed platform in deep water. Avoid using overly flexible or flimsy rods when jigging for larger species.

Reel choice should be based on the rod’s size and the depth of water being fished. Conventional lever-wind reels hold significantly larger line capacities than spinning reels and are good options for fishing deep water. Spinning tackle is a good option for smaller species in shallower water. Bait-casters are the go-to reel type when punching and pitching jigs for bass fishing.