Starting Out Jig-Fishing
Jigging has experienced a huge surge in popularity over the last 10 years, spurred on by developments in tackle and techniques typified by the ‘mechanical’ or Asian jigging craze that has swept the country. This jigging style began in Japan and soon spread throughout Asia, before heading downunder and around the world.
A whole raft of specialised tackle has evolved for this type of fishing. Jigs are generally of the ‘long’ or ‘knife’ style with assist hooks; rods are short, high-tech and expensive with parabolic actions; lines are superbraid and the reels are engineered for this style of fishing. The targets in New Zealand include kingfish, hapuku, bass and other large fish.
Although modern jigging relies more on rhythm than speed, and dedicated jigging reels are generally not high-speed (typically 4:1), speed still plays a part at times – kingfish are speed freaks and sometimes a high-speed retrieve is the only thing that does the trick. In contrast, the other current jigging craze is ‘slow jigging’. As the name suggests, jigs – madai and inchiku styles – are generally fished slowly. Like mechanical jigging, the style and its associated tackle were developed in Japan, primarily to catch snapper.
Getting the hang of mechanical jigging takes time and practice, but it’s not really hard to master. There are plenty of ‘how-to’ clips on You Tube, or you could invest in Chris Wong’s excellent Heavy Metal DVD (BCS Enterprises), available from tackle stores and online. The retrieve style is a rhythmical lift and wind that really makes the most of the jig’s action. Kingfish are very susceptible to this jigging style, but it takes a wide range of other species.
The mechanical jigging system comprises a short five to six-foot rod (1.5m-1.8m), usually built from expensive high-carbon materials, an overhead or spinning reel engineered for superbraid line and spooled with 300-400m of line, and a selection of jigs in different weights, colours and actions.
Rods are designed to work best with particular lure weights and specific line breaking strains (b/s). Some of them are rated for superbraid lines with b/s of 60kg or more.
For most New Zealand kingfish, 37kg jig tackle designed to fish lure weights between 250g and 400g is adequate. Lighter rods and jigs are better in some locations and certainly easier on the angler!
These short rods have parabolic actions that work with the lure. Once the angler gets the lift and wind rhythm right, it becomes almost effortless, even with heavy 500g jigs. The rod action also greatly aids in fighting large fish. The rod folds away, shortening the lever, and such rods are awesomely powerful, making them superb fish catching tools.
Reels need to be strongly built with powerful drags and fail-safe anti-reverse mechanisms, as drag pressures are usually set very high – in some cases 15kg or more. Only the best and most expensive reels provide that sort of performance.
Slow jigging with madai and inchiku jigs is a less physical business using lighter tackle fished in a more relaxed style.
There are specialist rods and reels for this type of fishing, too, and using them is advantageous, but you can use soft bait or light baitcasting tackle with good results.
I prefer overhead outfits – small conventional overhead reels or robust baitcasters spooled with 8-10kg superbraid line and suitably balanced rods. Specialist rods may be quite short and parabolic, or else longer, but with foldaway tips to cushion the small hooks fitted to both madai and inchiku jigs.
Although I’ve lumped them together, madai and inchiku jigs are different lure styles and should be fished differently, too.
Shimano Lucanus or Daiwa Bay Rubber are typical madai jigs, though there are dozens of these ‘octopus-style’ jigs available from many different manufacturers. They have in common a couple of small assist-type hooks, a heavy, bulbous octopus-like head, a skirt of fine rubber filaments and a couple of longer rubber tentacles.
Madai jigs are fished slowly near the bottom using lifts and drops and slow winds. ‘Slowly’ is the operative word – bites usually come just off the bottom as the lure begins its slow, wafting progress towards the surface. It can be worth continuing with the retrieve until the lure is in mid-water – bites are possible at any point.
Inchiku jigs have a metal head and trail a small squid-type lure with one or two small hooks on Kevlar cord. For best results, these should be fished a bit more vigorously than ‘slow jigs’ – a slowed down mechanical jigging action works well for me. Bites can come as the lure is dropping or at any point during the retrieve. Inchikus also work well fished like soft-plastics, cast ahead of the boat and retrieved with lifts and jerks of the rod. Typical examples include Prowlers, Shimano Bottom Ships, Power Jig Rock Jigs and Daiwa Pirates.
Starting Out Jig-Fishing