My infatuation with slow pitch jigging began just a few years ago, but I can already tell you that there’s no method I’d rather use to catch fish. The presentation, attention to detail and the ultimate bite make the process worthwhile, not to mention the incredible results this tactic has produced. Until recently, slow pitch jigging, to me, meant going offshore and dropping a multitude of metals to the seafloor to catch a variety of demersal and pelagic gamefish. However, the truth is that slow pitch jigging can be effective in many venues. In shallow water, micro jigging is a great way to fill the fishbox, but it might be a little different than what you’re used to.
To me, and many slow pitch jiggers out there, this is an art form that we never stop trying to perfect. However, the term “slow pitch jigging” is somewhat of a blanket term for the technique. In reality, there are several “sub-tactics,” we’ll call them, that are very different from one another. Not long ago, I was dropping a 440-gram jig in 1,000 feet of water in Mexico fishing for queen snapper and snowy grouper. A few weeks later, I found myself micro jigging off Miami Beach in less than 100 feet of water. While these two pursuits are both considered slow pitch jigging, they are not remotely the same.
I say that to say this: Micro jigging, though it shares a few basic principles with slow pitch jigging in deeper water, is an art form all its own and should be treated as such. Different as it may be, whether you’re an avid slow pitch jigger or simply want to explore fun, new ways to fill the fishbox, micro jigging is something every angler should try. Besides the results that it yields, which include some of the tastiest fish in the ocean, this is one of the most enjoyable forms of fishing I’ve ever experienced. Constant action (literally a fish on every cast/drop is not uncommon when the bite is on), aggressive bites and a huge variety of game fish species in play make this one of the most intriguing tactics I’ve ever come across. However, as enjoyable as it is, it’s not as simple as dropping a tiny jig on a reef and hoping for the best. Preparation is key, and that includes having the right equipment, assessing the conditions, positioning the boat properly and rigging properly.
First, let’s talk boat positioning. When it comes to reef fishing, this is arguably the most important step in the process, regardless of your intended tactics. Micro jigging is no different, as you need to be in prime position to achieve the best results. Though you can micro jig anywhere fish are present, this tactic is most commonly done on reefs or over hard, natural bottom that’s conducive to strong biodiversity. When fishing a reef, I recommend anchoring. This allows you to make the most of a promising area. However, drifting can also be productive and allows you to cover more ground, but with any current you could move too quickly and miss opportunities at less active fish.
When anchoring, the idea is very simple but can be very difficult to execute. Wind, current and waves can make boat positioning a nightmare, which is why there’s nothing like experience on the water to get good at it. That said, some of us are novices and it may take a few tries to get the boat in the right spot. That’s fine. I will stress, however, that if you’re not in the right position, even just a little bit off of your intended target, retrieve your anchor and try again. This could make the difference between a few bites here and there or an all-out slay-fest.
Every reef or patch of good bottom is different, and some anglers may choose to fish different parts of a reef structure. However, as a rule of thumb, you should always drop your anchor a good distance up-current of where you want to fish. Keep plenty of scope attached to your anchor as you don’t want to limit yourself in the amount of line you can pay out. Remember to account for wind as well, as it may be a more influential factor than the current with regard to how your boat will move once the anchor is thrown. The goal is to end up very close to the area you want to fish, which in many cases, will be the outer edge of the reef. This allows you to drop at the deepest part of the structure and still cast towards the apex if you feel like it. Ultimately, it’s easier to anchor up-wind or up-current of the area you want to fish and pay out line until you reach your ideal position than it is to toss the anchor close to the area and hope you hit it perfectly.
Once you’re anchored and in position, it’s time to chum, and chum heavily. While many choose to go slow pitch jigging to avoid dealing with bait and chum, it’s a huge asset in this pursuit. Of course, chum is largely only effective when anchored; so, if you’re drifting, you can skip it. For those who stick with anchoring, though, it will significantly increase your haul. When chumming, you need moving water. Whether you fish the incoming or outgoing tide, current is necessary to get a chum slick going not only to bring the fish in, but also to ignite the bite. If you decide to chum, you have a few options. At the very least, you’ll want to throw a few blocks of traditional ground chum on ice before leaving the dock. I recommend the double-ground variety, as it yields a finer end result that flows more easily through the holes of the chum bag. However, when using double-ground chum you’ll fly through block after block if the current is heavy, so make sure you bring enough. Traditional ground chum is enough to get the bite going, but I like to supplement with glass minnow or silverside. This tiny baitfish, tossed overboard in small scoops every minute or so, will really fire the fish up.
Finally, let’s talk gear. Slow pitch jigging in general requires its own specialized tackle, and micro jigging is no different. However, this doesn’t mean you need to break the bank and invest in an entire new set of outfits. Truthfully, many of your existing outfits can be used for this pursuit. Slow pitch rods have different ratings based on jig weight, so you want to make sure you have a rod that corresponds to the jigs you’re using. While some manufacturers produce rods that support 20- to 100-gram jigs, or thereabout, there are other options that are more versatile and can be used both in this pursuit and further offshore with larger jigs. For those who don’t yet possess slow pitch jigging gear but want to give this a try, light inshore spinning gear will work, too. However, just make sure you have a rod that has a sensitive tip, as rods that are too stiff won’t impart the proper action on your jig.
As far as reels are concerned, smaller is better. With the use of thin diameter braided line – I recommend 20 to 30 lb. when micro jigging – today’s small reels are powerful enough to beat big fish yet can hold plenty of line. Furthermore, you want something that’s comfortable to hold and cast. Daiwa’s Saltiga 15 Star Drag is one of my favorites, as it works well in this pursuit but can also stand up to larger fish in deeper water. As far as spinning reels are concerned, any quality reel in a small size will do. Regarding leader, it all depends on the situation. On a reef with very little structure, you can lighten up to 20 or 30 lb. fluorocarbon. Conversely, with larger structure and the possibility of larger fish, you may need to scale up to 40 or 50 lb. fluoro. It also depends on the fish you’re targeting. When using tiny 30- or 40-gram jigs higher in the water column for yellowtail and mangrove snapper, I recommend going with 20 lb. or lighter. If you’re dropping all the way to the bottom for grouper or mutton snapper, beef it up accordingly.
Jig selection can be dizzying with so many options, but just remember to have a few different shapes, styles and sizes on hand, as you never know what the predators will be keying in on. Some anglers like to keep things simple with a single assist hook at the top of the jig, and I find that this gets the job done most of the time. However, if you find yourself missing bites, don’t be afraid to add a dual hook setup to the top or even hooks at each end of the jig. Just make sure they don’t overlap in the middle. Regardless, if you prepare properly and get set up correctly in an area that lends itself to abundant game fish activity, the action will be hot and heavy, and the bites will be electrifying.
Though micro jigging is predominantly a shallow water tactic, there are situations further offshore in deeper water where these magic little metals are effective. When running and gunning for dolphin, a small jig on a spinner can not only reach stubborn fish swimming lower in the water column, but also allows for long casts. Furthermore, aggressive mahi rarely turn down a jig fluttering and darting around in their vicinity. Another scenario where these jigs are wildly effective is when large tuna schools present themselves offshore. I’ve seen countless occasions where small blackfin are busting off in the distance but won’t even look at a larger live bait. The reason for their refusal is their pursuit of much smaller baitfish, usually perfectly imitated by a micro jig. These fish are also boatshy, so the ability to cast a jig a long way is very advantageous.
Curious about one of our favorite micro jigs and where you can get it? Watch this video to find out and listen in as we go over jig selection and more tactics.