Jig Fishing: All You Need to Know
Dec 13, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The idea behind jig fishing, also known as “jigging,” is simple. Basically, it’s all about imitating a struggling bait fish by jerking an artificial lure up and down. However, despite this, it’s fair to say that jig fishing isn’t the easiest technique out there. Firstly, there are a variety of ways you can jig – vertical, micro, slow pitched, fast…the list goes on. 

A woman jig fishing with a rod and reel into the open water

Secondly, there’s a real knack to jigging. It’s not just a case of throwing your line out and reeling it back in. A certain level of skill is required. The best jig fishers are those who really get to know the type of water they’re fishing in.

Practice really does make perfect – but once you get to grips with this technique, there’ll be nothing stopping you. The combination of a weighted lure and erratic movements from your rod and reel is irresistible to many fish!

Have you always wanted to become a master of jigging but are not sure where to start? We’re here to guide you through it. Below, we’ve covered the different types of jig fishing you’ll likely encounter, as well as the species that react best to this technique, along with the practicalities of trying it out. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is jig fishing?

Basically, it’s a term used to describe a specific movement that anglers implement with a rod, reel, and lure. The main aim is to fool your target fish into thinking that your lure is an injured bait fish. This should convince them to bite! Jigging is popular throughout the angling world because it’s extremely hands-on, and involves a certain level of knowledge and skill.

A man holding a Striped Bass with a soft-boddied jig in its mouth

A big part of jig fishing revolves around the actual lures you’ll fish with, too. The technique actually gets its name from a piece of equipment you’ll use – a weighted fish hook often tipped with artificial bait. This hook is known as a jig.

When jig fishing, you’ll usually drop your line close to the bottom of your chosen waterway, or along the actual bottom itself. This technique can also be used effectively to cover the area of water that lies between the bottom of the floor and the upper level of the water column. It’s a seriously diverse technique.

In order to better define what jigging is, it’s important to understand the main types of jig fishing you might encounter. Let’s take a look.

Slow Pitched vs. High Speed Jigging

Jig fishing can generally be split into two categories: slow pitched jigging and high speed jigging. High speed jigging is also known by a whole host of other names, but you’ll likely hear it referred to as either high pitch or vertical jig fishing.

It involves using quick up-and-down motions that imitate a wounded bait fish attempting to escape its attacker. It’s especially popular with saltwater anglers, as it’s effective for targeting hard-fighting fish that lurk further from shore.

Then there’s slow pitched jigging. It might not sound as exciting as high pitched jigging, but it can be just as effective! This technique removes the element of frenetic movement. Instead, it’s used to imitate an injured bait fish that’s incapable of moving quickly. Rather than an up-and-down motion, this technique relies on a pitch-and-retrieve movement. It’s especially popular with anglers looking to target big, lazy bottom dwellers who want an easy meal!

A man jigs from a boat

Basically, the type of jigging you’ll use depends a lot on the fishery you’ll be exploring and the fish you’ll be targeting. You can jig in fresh, salt, and brackish waters, and target a variety of species. You’ll generally be using this technique in deeper waters, although it is possible to jig in shallow waters too.

It also goes without saying that this is an active fishing technique. It requires you to be on the move, snapping and popping your jig up and down. Because of this, it can be tiring work – but the potential results make it worthwhile!

What can I catch when jig fishing?

As jig fishing is so versatile, you can target a wide variety of species with this technique. If you’re jigging in saltwater, there’s a huge number of fish you can target, depending on where you’re fishing.

If you’re going to be trying out some slow pitch jigging, you’ll generally be going after big bottom-dwelling fish, including a whole host of Grouper species, as well as Snapper. Around reefs and wrecks, Tunas, Cobia, Amberjack, and Mackerel are popular targets.

A man holds a large Grouper and a fishing rod with the water behind him

However, they’re not the only saltwater fish you can go after with this technique. The magic of jigging is that it’s pretty versatile, and you can target a whopping range of fish. It’s possible to go after popular big game species, such as Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, and Wahoo. You can even target species that stick closer to shore, such as Redfish and Speckled Trout. The opportunities really are endless!

When it comes to freshwater, your main jigging targets will likely be a variety of Bass species, along with Crappie, Salmon, different Trout, and Bluegill. Jigging through holes carved into iced-over waterways is also a popular wintertime technique, especially if you’re looking to get your hands on some Walleye.

Where to Go Jig Fishing

Jig fishing is a popular technique all across the globe, and there are plenty of places you can try it out. You don’t need to step foot on a boat to jig fish, but if you’re looking to cruise the open waters on a vessel, heading out with a local experienced guide is the best way to do it. They’ll provide you with all the gear you need, perfectly suited to the type of fish you’ll be targeting – and they’ll show you the ropes.

A brother and his younger sister pier fishing

However, there are some specific locations you can head to that’ll greatly increase your chances of a good jig fishing trip. If you’re just starting out, head to your local pier or dock. These are excellent places to get to grips with jig fishing. You’ll be able to sink your lure down to your desired depth with a lot of precision and care. Staying in a single, stationary spot gives you plenty of control over your lure, too.

You can also jig from the banks or shorelines. Most anglers fishing in these kinds of spots opt for high speed jigging, as this allows you to cast your lure and jig it back towards you relatively quickly. This optimizes your chances of attracting and reeling in a big fish!

How to Go Jig Fishing

Jig Fishing Gear 101

There’s a huge amount of jig fishing equipment on offer out there. It can be hard to know where to start! A big part of being a successful jig angler is getting familiar with your chosen fishery and target species. The more you know, the easier it is to adjust your gear and make sure you’re optimizing your chances of hooking a fish.

A selection of jigging lures in a green box

However, there are some items you should always have in your jigging arsenal:

  • Rods: Ask your local bait and tackle shop owner or do a quick search on the internet, and you’ll quickly see that there’s a huge variety of rods out there. You can’t use just any bog-standard rod if you want to master this technique, either. The type of rod you’ll opt for depends on where you’re fishing. A good jigging rod should be lightweight. You want it to be comfortable enough to pull up and down for hours without getting too worn out. Therefore, we suggest somewhere between 5–7 feet. It should be flexible enough to bend when battling fish but tough enough to take the vertical motion of jigging.
  • Reels: You have the option of using either a spin or conventional (also known as “overhead”) reel. Either will do the job. You just need to make sure your chosen reel is small, so you can work it all day on the water. It also needs to be strong so it can handle the fish you’re targeting.
  • Tackle: Braided lines are a must when jigging, especially if you’re vertical jigging. This is because you want your tackle to be able to withstand rough, rocky structure without breaking. The specific line weight you’ll need depends on what you’re fishing for. A lot of anglers opt for tackle within the 50–80 pound range.
  • Jigs: To put it simply, jigs are made up of a weighted jighead, a hook, and a skirt or plastic grub to attract the attention of your target fish. There’s a huge variety of jigs out there. They can be tiny, they can be hairy, they can be fluorescent, they can be shiny… You’ll want to choose your jig based on what you’re targeting, and what your target likes to chase and eat. We recommend always having a good mix of jigs in your fishing toolbox.

Top tip: Remember, the lighter and thinner the line and the heavier the lure, the easier it is to reach the bottom of your chosen fishery. The stronger your line, the more resistance it will put up when in the water.

How to Jig

A man jigs with the sun setting and casting a reflection on the water

Jigging can be tricky to master and, like most things in life, you’ll get better the more you practice. If you’re just starting out on your jigging journey, here are some basic steps you can follow:

  1. Cast out and let your jig sink to the bottom of the water. A good way to keep track of this is to count for a few seconds, or wait until you feel your lure hit the bottom.
  2. Snap your wrist and tip up the rod sharply for a short distance, then let your lure drop back to the bottom.
  3. Now, this is where your chosen jigging method will come into play. You can jig your line up and down, from side to side, or even to the side and then down.

Slow pitch jigging works similarly, except that you’ll be using your rod diagonally angled downwards, before quickly pulling up at 90 degrees. You can also keep the rod flat, making a sharp turn on the reel. The idea is to let your rod soak up the tension before springing back straight. This “pitches” your jig off the seafloor, giving it the appearance of injured prey. Then, it falls slowly down to the floor, giving your target fish ample time to bite it.

Jig Fishing: The Perfect Hands-on Technique!

An angler in glasses and a hat standing on a boat, holding a rod in one hand and a Golden Tilefish in the other that he caught while jigging

Whether you’re brand new to jig fishing, or you’re looking to become a master of this technique, there’s nothing quite like getting out on the water and spending a day practicing this way of fishing. It makes for plenty of hands-on action, even if you don’t end up reeling anything in on the first go! Practice makes perfect with this technique – and we have to say that all the practice you’ll be doing is seriously fun. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to grab your gear and cast that first line!

Have you ever been jig fishing? What do you usually target? Any tips or tricks to share? Let us know – we love hearing from you!

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