Generally, nothing in fishing is new, names change, new brands come along but there are very few unique lures or other pieces of tackle. With the growth of lure fishing and with the internet making the marketplace global we have seen an explosion of new brands and new ideas for how to design, dress and market fishing tackle. Recently on one of the Facebook saltwater fishing groups I saw some confusion about a rod casting ability, it was a Shimano rod which had two weight ratings, one was for the 'plug' weight, the other was for jigging, this lead to a deeper discussion as it normally does about jigging in general, my thought was I need to share my experience in much more detail than a simple Facebook post.
This post is going to look in detail at metal lures or 'jigs' as I'll refer to them as through this article.
Using the power of Google and Wikipedia it's fair to say that metal spoon type lures have been around for a long time, some dating back as early as the 8th -13th century AD, judging by some of the tackle boxes you see on my local pier I think people are still using those spoons.
With my fishing experiences I like to reflect on the market around us, our fish species and our fishing styles and how we can adapt to use tackle that's often not made for our waters for the species that we fish for and with that said I'm going to introduce you to the first metal lure that I used.
My first metal lure was a Toby Spoon from Abu Garcia, relatively inexpensive at around £4.99 this metal spoon used to travel with me to the coast, it was a stamped piece of metal with a little coloration, as far as I was concerned it cast a lot further than a plug, it swam at 1-3m and it was easy to use for a beginner, you could simply cast and retrieve, and it would swim happily away. I caught many fish freshwater and saltwater on these spoons including a very nice pike.
I often dipped into the local tackle shops and with me being scared of asking questions I'd buy the odd different metal lure without prior knowledge and tried to apply them to my fishing with varying success, one that sticks in mind is a Dexter Wedge, a lure made popular by bass and mackerel fisherman from the shore and boat, the Dexter Wedge was the lure you'd be recommended in the 00's era on fishing forums if you wanted to go bass fishing. My own experience was that the Dexter was a bullet compared to the Toby, it pierced through the wind a lot better but also sank faster and snagged easier leading me to lose a few over the early years. The Dexter again was relatively easy to fish, cast it out and wind it, I caught fish on them, but it wasn't a favourite.
I moved on with my fishing and as I got heavily into freshwater fishing I got heavily into spoons, larger profile spoons that would appeal to pike and perch such as the Landa and Kussamo brands, if anyone remembers my posts from the LAS forum around 2011 I think I must have had 100+ pike on a spoon that was like a bar of soap in profile, I was mad for them. One thing I noticed is you could do a lot more with a spoon, old texts would talk about sink and draw and I often would work my spoons with a spin stop to get them moving and fluttering in the strike zone on the shallow waters I was fishing. On deeper waters we'd use the spoons to get us distance into the middle of the lake and then use a sink and draw approach. It's only when I get thinking about this that I start to see the similarity between freshwater and saltwater approach to metals.
Shore Jigging/ Shore Jigs With the growth in tackle import from Japan we started to see all manner of jigs appearing on tackle shelves from exotic Japanese brands. In the early days it would be the Art of Fishing, Chesil Bait n Tackle, Lure Heaven and Mr Fish that would have the main selections unlike now where every European tackle brand is vying for shelf space with the Japanese tackle houses. The Japanese jigs that we started to see were different, fundamentally they were the same as old fashioned spoons and but with their high-quality finishes, sleek shapes, new hooking arrangements (assist hooks) and being made from different metal types these were different to what we'd seen before.
For sheer consistency and efficiency, jigs are among the best catchers of pelagic fish, modern metals with their fluttering actions and long casting ability provide the perfect solution to fishing the water column thoroughly, they allow you to effectively search the water levels and often provide fish on the drop.
The jigs we use in the UK from the shore are known as Shore Jigs. Typically shore jigs come in weights from 0.6g through to 60g, the upper weight limit generally is due to the depth of waters we fish around our coastline.
Most jigs will have a standard density and are mostly made from lead however some jigs are made of tungsten which have a higher density and will give a smaller profile for the same weight as a standard density metal, this will sink faster, there are also jigs made from zinc although these are harder to find, these are typically larger in profile for the same weight and have a slower fall rate.
From left to right here you have a 15g jig made of zinc, a 15g made of lead and a 14g made from tungsten.
Like hard and soft baits the shape of the jig will alter its performance, how it casts and how it works in the water, some require the angler to impart action, others will work on a straight retrieve
Examples of Jigs and Their Actions
A jig such as the Major Craft Jigpara Slow when worked correctly will spiral to the bottom on a slack line (we will talk about working the jigs later in this article)
The Jigpara Micro Slim falls horizontally with a wider side to side action
The Jigpara Micro falls with a tighter side to side wobble
The Jigpara Surf is made to be cast and then just wound, the design of the lure is one that will allow it to keel and work by itself without any angler intervention.
Lures like the Zetz Slow Blatt Oval are closer in construction to a traditional spoon, this particular lure is made from zinc and it's wider profile lends itself to fishing in shallower water as it will sink slower and remain face down, they can be used from the boat in deeper water if a super slow fall is required but in saltwater with any flow this becomes difficult as they generally won't get down quick enough
Japanese brands have started to add attractor blades to their jigs and Major Craft are no exception, the new Maki range has jigs from as light as 3g through to 60g that have added spinning blades on the rear of the lure, these are simply to add more kick and flash.
Most jigs these days come dressed with hooks albeit they will vary from single dressed assist hooks to treble hooks depending on the brand. On the Jigpara Slow from Major Craft the assist hooks are UV reactive, on the other jigs they are often dressed with flash fibres or foil, you can't underestimate the importance this has with some species as it mimics small invertebrates etc and has proven especially effective on slow days for all manner of species in fresh and saltwater, it's not uncommon to get double hook ups on jigs!
Which Jig Should I Use?
Anglers and fishing tackle brands are constantly looking for new ways to innovate, to give themselves an edge whether that is an edge in the market or an edge on the bank but stripping it back, saltwater fish specifically are quite rudimentary, understanding where the fish are and how they want the lure presenting is half of the battle, all jigs and lures 'work' despite what some people would have you believe. From the shore understanding where the fish are likely to be and the type of ground you are fishing first will allow you to choose the right jig, take into consideration the depth of the mark, the species of fish you are targeting and where they are likely to be in the water column.
I'll use Major Craft specifically here as a reference point as I know their jigs best, if you're fishing a surf beach I would be looking for something like a Jigpara Jet, Jigpara Shore or Jigpara Surf. The profile of these lures lend themselves better for distance casting. The Jet tends to roll nicely in the surf imitating an injured baitfish being rolled around The Jigpara Surf will generally keel and hold straighter if you are wanting to straight retrieve, the Jigpara Shore is somewhere between these two.
On a beach such as Chesil for bass I would go with a Shore jig in the 15-20g range and let it flutter in the wash or on quieter days when the fish aren't active in the wash I would be using a 20 or 30g jig twitched for as long as you dare across the bottom. I've not typically used heavier jigs on Chesil but know others that do, using metals in this way is a risk and reward method, you're going to snag and lose jigs but on days when the fish aren't having it higher up then it can pay dividends. I remember vividly one meet between a bunch of bass anglers and one angler had 12 fish, he fished a silver Jigpara Shore in 20g and just idled it across the bottom in a way similar to that i mention in my book that i use with soft plastics when bass aren't actively feeding but you know they're there. The way I can explain the method with the metal is to fish rod tip up and almost drag it back with little uplifts of the rod to make it jump up off the bottom.
If I were fishing either of the above locations for other species such as pollock, pelagics like mackerel, scad and garfish or bottom dwellers like gurnard and flounder I would scale back to either the Jigpara Micro Slim or Wide. If I'm fishing for pelagics I want a slower fall, if I'm fishing for gurnard and I want to get it down to the bottom a little faster I'll up the weight of my jig in to something like he Jigpara Shore in 20g or 15g Jigpara Micro and twitch it along the bottom with the odd little flick up to draw fish in.
Moving onto rock and harbour marks on heavier tackle I would start to move towards the Jigpara Slow jigs for all species, where the water is deeper you can change your approach to cover the layers as shown in the graphic below, in the heavier weights the Jigpara Shore becomes your friend here as it will work for you on the drop. On lighter tackle I would still opt for the Jigpara Micro Slim, Micro Wide or the new Maki Slow.
If you are casting into an area where there is running water around a headland or similar I would opt for a lure like the Jet which will give you optimum casting distance, it won't hang or be as affected by the tide as a Shore would be but it will still roll nicely against the current.
Working the jig
There are many methods I've found for working jigs and catching fish, whilst they don't all conform to what you might see anglers talk about in other countries, you have to remember that we're fishing for different species and have to adapt our approach to them wether that be bass or other species.
Most jigs are made in a way that once they are on a horizontal plane they will fall on the pattern they are designed for, it's up to you as an angler to learn how to animate the jig and to identify which situation requires each action.
Straight 'Skittish' Retrieve
This is the least technical and one of the easiest to master, it involves casting a metal like the Jigpara Shore and working it through the surface layers of water on a fast retrieve, i twitch the rod tip erratically to mimic a fleeing fish whilst reeling- the speed of retrieve will depend on the wind and any current, i will generally keep my line tight and the jig will roll and flash and really resemble a fish acting skittishly. You will sometimes feel a bump where a fish has hit the lure but not connected, depending on the species I'm fishing for i will then pause and let the jig flutter like a wounded fish other times i will pause, rip the jig up with an upsweep of the rod and continue the retrieve. Bass, particularly school bass love this, pollock love this style of retrieve as well, it lends itself to their way of feeding especially when they are darting out of cover and swiping at your lure, hook up rates with pollock generally increases when fishing like this. For the LRF anglers garfish love this method.
For bonus points i'd suggest trying this across reefs when you are abroad, fish your jig as close as you dare and see what happens, I've done really well with some of the smaller grouper species doing it in the Med.
Working the layers
If you are fishing into deeper water from rock marks or from harbour walls you need to decide the species you are targeting and make a best guess where they are going to be in the water column. If you are fishing for bottom dwelling fish such as flatfish or gurnard you want to get down and dirty so will often cast and let the jig sink to the bottom, if you are fishing for pelagic species then there are various retrieve styles you can use to cover the layers, simply casting, counting the jig down and then getting to work on working/ animating the jig.
The graphic below is taken from Hooked on Lure Fishing, it illustrates the principles of working a jig but doesn't include animating the jig which i'll go into below.
We mentioned above a jig called the Major Craft Jigpara Slow, this is the style of jig i would use in a scenario like the one shown in the graphic. I need to animate or work this jig to get it fishing correctly and to do that i employ a traditional shore jigging technique. I cast, i let the jig hit the water and i close the bail arm with my rod parallel to the floor (horizontal) or at worst 35-40 degrees depending on wind. I count the jig down usually on the slack line that's been created by the wind and cast. I will then wind in most of the slack until i can feel the jig and then in one fluid motion sweep the rod tip up so that the rod is roughly 85-90 degrees to the floor (vertical). This action should see the jig move up and take on its horizontal fall position, it's at this point that the jig starts doing its thing, it will flutter back down on its pattern to the bottom. I will allow it to fall for as long as i feel necessary dropping my rod tip from 85 degrees through to 0 as the jig falls to ensure the line isn't tightening - if the line tightens the jig will move to being vertical and stop working correctly. The upsweep or 'pitch' creates the slack for your jig to work, try not to reel excessively - it's hard to describe this but understand slack line on the drop is your friend.
There is no hard fast rule for retrieval speed, it depends on the time of day, the species and each day can be different like with most fishing styles, this is part of the fun understanding what the key is on that day. Try the Skittish method, try the traditional shore jigging method or hug the bottom. Another tip is to mix it up, change the weight of your jig, you may be fishing a bit slow, you may be fishing too fast.
We also need to consider the rod, i will talk about rods briefly the end of this article.
Before we move on, below is a bass caught this week by Dydy MG- Way of Fishing crew from France on a Jigpara Slow fishing from a wall. Without speaking to him i can imagine he was working it very similar to the method above.
I've not got a name for this so i am going to call it wobbling, it's something i happened upon when fishing for gurnard on a sandy bottom and it's become a thing for me taking bass, wrasse flatfish and gurnard on it.
I cast the jig as far as i can, let it sink to the bottom. I then reel until i can feel the jig and then lift the rod to about an 80 degree angle, I shake the tip of the rod making the lure puff up sand and then pause holding the jig on a tight line, if it's windy you may need to reel slowly and drag the jig across the bottom, you need to be patient at this point as the bite can sometimes come 5-10 seconds after the pause. After 15 seconds i will drag the lure whilst winding the slack taking the rod to about a 10 degree angle to the floor, sometimes i will sweep the jig up with a big pitch taking the rod to 90 degrees other-times i do a little flick just to make it jump up off the bottom, this is simply to try and spark interest from fish further away.
This is a good technique late morning and early evening when bass aren't active, it's also effective on calmer days on sandy beaches I've found. If you're a hardcore bass angler I'm not promising this is going to change your life but it will give you some extra sport, you can also do this with a Fiiish Black Minnow or any other soft plastic that stands up off the bottom.
In the Surf
I'm still learning here, I've had a bit of success whilst letting Shore Jigs roll in the surf but i need to do a bit more before i feel qualified to give any solid advice- this is TBC.
There is one fundamental thing with the rod, balance. You need to have a rod suited to the style of jig that you are fishing, if you are fishing a jig that doesn't have much of a flutter then a faster actioned rod is absolutely fine, a fast rod when fishing the Skittish style of retrieve is fantastic as the tip recovers quickly and will allow you to work the jig like you would with a topwater plug.
If you are fishing a jig like the Jigpara Slow a slightly slower actioned rod will be better suited as it will not bring the jig up as fast allowing it to move into its horizontal position easier.
In simple terms, imagine you were using a rod with no flex at all, the jig movement will correspond with the movement of the tip, it will move faster, with a slower rod the jig will move later giving it a lower velocity this allows it to move more as intended into it's fall position. I'm not a physicist but from experience- tens of thousands of casts i can tell you if the rod is too fast the jig isn't working properly.
The Japanese style seabass rods will allow you to work a jig better than the more steelier, faster actioned UK style of bass rods as they are more progressive in action. For HRF and LRF there are more dedicated rods to suit your style of fishing.
You can often afford to go over the recommended casting weight on a rod when using a jig due to the way that the jig loads a rod, generally when using a jig the stresses placed on a rod are lower than if you were using a plug. Try it yourself by using a plug and a jig of the same weight (within your rods casting weight) and feel how the rod loads differently and then make your own call from there, please be careful though, you don't need to cast a jig with the same vigour that you cast a plug. (Please don't quote me if you break your rod- I don't think your warranty will be covered by the 'Andy said this was ok' line)
Jigging from the open coast is better on a longer rod, length and casting weight is really dependant on your own style of fishing and mark and probably deserves an article in itself so I'll wrap up the rod section here. If you've any questions or would like a recommendation drop me a message directly.
I hope this has given you a bit more insight into the world of jigging, I've used metal lures in the sea for 20+ years but since moving to the coast they've really become a solid part of my fishing, they never cease to surprise me, I have caught over 30 species in the UK on metal lures. On the Major Craft Facebook page we started to collate a list of species captures and although i need to update the list i think the running total is now over 50 species caught on Jigapara jigs, it's clear there's something in using metal.
Whilst this gives you some insight into how i approach things there's more that can be added such as adding a trailing lure to the rear of a jig and jigging from a boat but they can be posts in their own right some day.
I'm interested to hear what's been working for you, if you've anything to add drop a comment in the box below.
See you soon.