How To Fish a Jig

One of the best techniques for a new angler to learn is jigging. This article will help you master the basics and start using jigging to up your strikes.

Jigging Basics

Jigging describes the jumpy, vertical movement of a lure in the water column. This movement is made by an angler jerking or popping the tip of his or her rod. This movement imitates the way an injured baitfish would behave, which attracts the attention of larger game fish.

As a beginner there are two ways to learn jigging. One is to jig an already drifting hook up and down. Another is to cast a lure and jig it from side to side as you reel it back in. Just remember that in order to keep the jig deep in the water and near the bottom, you’ll need to reel your line in slowly.

Many different kinds of lures are used as jig rigs, including plastic worms and the hook-and-feather combos known as bucktails. Spoons are ideal for jigging, as their concave metal design combined with the jerking motion of jigging creates a very lifelike movement and flashing in the water.

How to Jig in 4 Simple Steps

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

  1. Cast out and allow the jig to sink. You can either wait until you feel it hit the bottom or count down the seconds.
  2. Using your wrist to drive the motion, snap the rod tip up quickly and then let the jig drop back down.
  3. You can jig in different directions: up and down; up, down, and sideways; or side to side.
  4. Prepare for a strike by by reeling down just a bit to keep your line tight. Then repeat the above steps until you do get one.

Types of Jigs

Different types of jigs are best depending on what kind of fish you’re trying to catch. Some of these types are the flipping jig, punch jig, football jig, slow-pitch jig, casting/structure jig, swim jig, and finesse jig. We’ll cover two of the most common types here: the vertical jig and the bucktail jig.

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 can weigh anywhere from 14 oz. down to 1/8 oz. These jigs have one or more hooks attached to their top or bottom using a split ring, which allows them to swing freely.

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 kind of lure, a hook is secured to the bottom of a lead head. The hair comes out from the bottom of the head like a skirt, camouflaging the hook. Bucktails come in many different colors, and can be baited with live or natural baits, rubber worms, or used by themselves.

Jigs can be weighted in the tail, for a fast drop to the bottom, or in the center, for an exaggerated side-to-side fluttering motion and a slower drop. The weight of a jig ranges between 3 oz. and 8 oz. If you’re after amberjack, broom-tail grouper, corvina, or yellowfin tuna, you’ll want to use a tail weighted jig.

Saltwater Jigging Techniques

Here we’ll cover four excellent techniques for saltwater jigging.

Speed Jigging

This is a quick, rhythmic technique that uses a tail-weighted jig, and is great for catching yellowfin, albacore, and Cubera snapper. It is also great for moving your hook through many different depths to attract a strike. To speed jig, drop your jig over the reef, 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.

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 window for a fish to strike.

Bottom Jigging

Bottom jigging is great for targeting corvina and grouper, and can use both center and tail weighted jigs. If your jig has a treble hook, use pliers to turn in the barbs so that they won’t snag on the reef. Drop the jig down 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

When jigging, it is also important to observe the wind conditions and the current in order 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 regularly check your tracks. 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.