The Inside Scoop on Modern-Day Metal Jigs
You have been offshore fishing your entire life. Deep dropping, soaking cut baits, trolling and pitching out live bait is your dojo, but you head offshore with a friend and he drops a metal jig down. Your first thoughts: “He is wasting his time.” Then he gets tight. First bite is easy to write off as luck, but then he hooks up again and again. Now these metal lures have your attention. You peek into your buddy’s jig bag in hopes of rigging one up, and you are overwhelmed with all the colors shapes and sizes. What jig do you pick?
This is an experience that has been shared by many anglers. Jigging has come a long way since the traditional diamond, hammered and bucktail jigs. The styles of jigs are now endless — slow pitch, high speed, ball jigs, bucktail, micro and light options and casting. Also know all jig styles have many different shapes, colors and size options. Walking into a tackle shop that is well stocked with jigs is enough to make your head and your wallet explode. There is a science to selecting jigs and, although there is not a perfect and exact answer, you can really narrow it down based on a few factors: target species, depth and drift speed.
Here’s a look at the main categories of metal lures today.
SLOW PITCH JIGS:
These jigs are extremely effective on everything that swims, but, in particular, tasty bottom fish. Depth and drift speed will play the biggest roles in your jig selection. Keeping your jig vertical to your rod tip is key in producing the most effective action. Size and shape will take priority over color. Most slow pitch jigs will be center-weighted or balanced to allow the shape to produce a horizontal fall pattern when the jig is not under any tension.
True slow pitch jigs will be asymmetrical in shape, which simply means one side will be different in shape than the other. This aids in the jig’s ability to have an erratic horizonal fall pattern. The reactionary fish strike on these jigs comes from its ability to imitate an injured or distressed bait fish.
A slow pitch jig is often rigged with corded single and double assist hooks both on the top and the bottom of the jig. Once a pitch of the jig is produced, then lower your rod tip and give the jig room to fall under no line tension. An inquisitive predator may perceive either end of the jig as the head of their prey depending on how it is falling. So, if you want the best chance to catch, you put hooks on both ends. It also may afford you multiple hook penetrations and spread the pressure among the hooks to limit the risk of pulling a single hook penetration.
HIGH SPEED JIGS:
This style of jigging can whip you into shape quickly and, if working the jig does not wear you out, the chances of hooking into a beast of an amberjack are pretty high. The strategy of high speed vertical jigging is to imitate a bait fish fleeing. These metal jigs are able to catch most fish, however, they are particularly effective at getting a pelagic fish to chase and strike as you are retrieving the jig rapidly through the water column. The jigs are symmetrical in shape, usually long and slender, and often bottom weighted to achieve the ability of dropping through the water column quickly and retrieved back even quicker with short pumping actions.
Although you can fish vertical jigs in any depth, you are likely targeting fish over a wreck or other structure, or maybe underneath some flotsam or jetsam, therefore, a common size selection is between 100g-200g. There is no mistake for a predator about which end of the jig is perceived as the head of the bait as vertical jigs are retrieved quickly through the water. Rigging with a slightly longer single assist hook on the top of the jig is therefore best practice.
If you are feeling fatigued, then this is probably the most effective and effortless way of jigging a metal lure. This style metal jig is known in other parts of the world as Tai rubber or Kabura jig. The shape is simple, a spherical mold of metal with an entry and exit point to allow rigging the assist hooks.
through the jig itself. The trailing hooks are often camouflaged with a rubber skirt. This lure is most effectively used by dropping to the bottom and slowly retrieved back using only the reel. Sluggish movements bring it to life making it appear like a squid swimming against the current. The ball jig’s claim to fame is for mostly snapper and other bottom species.
Ball jigs can be found in a range of sizes from 60g-600g and making the proper weight selection is easy. The 1-gram-per-foot-ofwater-depth rule can be helpful, but, ultimately, you will want to deploy as heavy a jig as needed to maintain a connection with the bottom.
Having a casting jig rigged and ready to go on a spinning rod is a must when offshore fishing. A metal jig designed for casting affords two huge benefits: long distance on the cast and sub-surface action. The head of these metal jigs are often slightly heavier than the bottom to achieve life-like swimming action when retrieved. Commonly rigged with a top single short-corded assist hook and a trailing treble hook. A casting jig, often weighted between 20g-90g, will be able to mimic baitfish both fleeing and wounded and be quite attractive toward pelagic species on the hunt. This style jig also allows two other key applications: jigging in under 100- foot depth ranges (light jigging) as well as trolling behind the boat at 6 knots for blackfin tuna.
Arguably the most handy and effective fishing lure ever created is a bucktail jig. This metal lure has stood the test of time. There are claims that the U.S. Navy issued the bucktail jig in survival kits during WWII. No rigging is needed as the hook is molded into the jig head. The distinguishing feature is the hair that is whipped to camouflage the hook and give it a realistic presentation. Its movements have a knack for not only mimicking baitfish but squid and shrimp as well. Offered in a wide variety of sizes allows this metal-headed lure to be fished from land or sea; shallow to incredibly deep. These jigs are most commonly used in casting situations inshore for snook or offshore for mahi and cobia in Florida waters, but also used in a pitch jigging motion for bottom species such as black grouper.
You can find bucktail jigs in a wide range of sizes (from 1/16 oz. to 16 oz.). When casting or pitching a bucktail jig, a 1 oz. to 3 oz. size is most common. When dropping a bucktail to the bottom for a grouper, you may find yourself bumping up your bucktail’s weight to 8-10 oz.
This style of jigging can keep you busy all day hooking up on small and large fish using metal jigs under a 100 grams. This category of jig is essentially dictated by its weight class. They will be smaller versions of the jigs previously mentioned. These lighter jigs are generally fished in depths of 100 feet and less — a depth range that often has lots of live and artificial reef, wrecks and other structure. These jigs can be casted out or dropped vertically and worked a with small twitching motions back to the boat. Yellow jack, mangrove snapper and vermillion snapper are just a few of the species you can catch on a micro jig. These jigs are generally rigged with a double set of assist hooks at the top and some anglers will rig the bottom as well. Originally designed for saltwater application, a new tactic with micro jigs is bringing them into freshwater fisheries for the likes of large mouth and peacock bass.
Most anglers look at dropping a jig as a last resort. Chris and I have progressively gotten to the point of leaving the bait at the tackle shop and only dropping jigs. Being able to take a piece of metal and achieving an action that lures a predatory fish into an intimate and generally violent strike is what drives our interest. We have gone as far as documenting most of our fishing adventures using metal lures on our YouTube channel (JohnnyJigsTV). Jigs are not the end-all of fishing but are definitely great weapons to add to your arsenal.
You may have some jigs in your tackle and are thinking, wow, I got the wrong stuff. Don’t necessarily limit yourself to what someone tells you it’s used for. Feel free to get creative with the applications for metal jigs. Slow pitch a vertical jig, troll a bucktail, high speed retrieve a slow pitch jig, and bring the micros to your bass hole. Jigging has experienced significant development and is a hot topic now, not to mention a ton of fun for all levels of experience. By no means does any of us have it all figured out — so, jig on!