My explanation on the Art of Vertical Jigging
This is just an expansion of the vertical jigging article I wrote over ten years ago. And as before it is intended for the beginners in this art or those who have done it differently than me. It is meant to help not criticize.
Vertical Jigging is NOT just letting a piece of metal down in the water letting it hit bottom and then reeling in like a mad man! No ladies and gentlemen, there is an art to it and many have mastered it in many ways. The trick is always finding a rhythm, your rhythm. Yes that 1,2,3 all left footed people can’t seem to find on the dance floor but after many tries and much practice and repetition they finally find it. Just like dancing some will try it and think it’s worthless and not for them. But you know they still shake their shoulders and feet to the music and still want to learn how to dance. I will leave that to those that like many just don’t want to work hard for their goals. Vertical Jigging is always a goal, always a “Yes I can do this” again you might get tired of me comparing it to music but that is how it really works. You have to find your beat. You have to find your genre. And when you do, you will feel that hook up as an accomplishment each and every time. For the sake of this article I will refer to “pumps” as “Jerk” since the Japanese refer to “pump” as “Jerk”. I am not jerking you around, this is how it is. Always keep in mind that I live in South Florida. I am old school so I say pump and reel. They say jerk and reel. You will see this reference on many of the overseas made rods; Fake Jerk, Fast Jerk, Slow Jerk, etc…
All water columns at once
Freestyle: It is your eclectic beat, mix it up. But keep in mind there is a goal. Many years ago I wrote an article in regards to this. Start at the bottom and move to the top. This is in reference to jigging the entire water column. Keep in mind that here in South Florida where I live we do have a chance at catching trophy fish at all depths depending on the time of year and sometimes this means all year round depending on the species. I’m I confusing you already? Well, this is fishing and fishing is complicated. So I am going to break it down for you. I will split it into 3 water columns.
First column: The Bottom, take it slow!
Bottom dwellers: Snappers, groupers, other reef fish like porgies and trigger, and some pelagic fish that tend to cruise the bottom from time to time. This is where it gets tricky and complicated for many. As always try to match the hatch. Try to figure out what the fish are eating so you can target the entire water column starting at the bottom. Think slow motion; think very near the bottom but not bouncing directly on the bottom just for the sake of any natural reef and to prevent yourself from snagging the bottom and losing your jig plus many feet of line. Again, think of it as bouncing near the bottom, what I call YoYo. Let your jig go and once you hit the bottom you will get the fish’s attention so lift your rod up as high as it can go and then as you lower the rod turn the handle on your reel about 2 to 3 full times and bounce jig there. Simply swing your rod tip upwards and swiftly then let it go back down while trying to keep your line with as little slack as possible. The 2 to 3 turns should put you 8 to 10 feet above the bottom. Try keeping tension on your line so you can feel the bite. This will allow for your jig to flutter downwards in the action pattern it was intended. Once you feel a tug, set the hook once and reel in as fast as you can. Bring your rod tip up to no more than a 45 degree angle and reel as fast as you can as you move your rod tip down wards. The objective here is to hope for a bottom dweller so you can reel it in out of the reef and to a different depth pressure zone. Once the fish is out of a deep pressure zone its bladders should swell up and it will make it easier for you to get it to the boat. Sometime you will have the feeling as if you lost the fish but just reel fast enough and you will feel that the fish is still there, if you don’t you will run the chance of giving the fish too much slack line and will end up with the fish shaking the hook off. So just reel and reel until you feel the fish again. Once you feel the fish depending on what fish it is you can now start to “jerk” the fish into the boat. You can now bring your rod tip to a 90 degree angle and reel as fast as you can as you bring the rod tip down. Hopefully all goes well and you will have the fish on the boat in a short time. Let me clarify that not all fish will have their bladder inflated to help you bring them up along the way. You will have to fight some fish like American Red Snappers and Grey Tiles all the way from 300 feet to the boat’s edge. When you feel the fish has too much power let them run and take your time bringing it in. Remember, when I say reel fast it just means fast enough to not loose tension on the line (slack). Many will now argue that this style is now called Slow Pitch Fishing when the truth is people have been doing this style of fishing for many years. The old flutter jigs are now called slowpitch jigs. Still they flutter in the many different patterns of “S” falling shape, “Z” falling shape, horizontal wobble falling, etc… The difference is that now specialized fishing rods and jigs are chosen to fish the demersal fish zone. Another thing is that many claim they slow pitch jig but the truth is on all the boats I have been and see people saying it they will try the Japanese way which is point the rod horizontally then do one full turn on the reel handle, stop, one full turn again, stop and the beat goes on all the way to the top and there is no jerking involved. Sometime this strategy works but I as many others here in South Florida prefer to just bounce up and down near the bottom and continue working the water columns as I explained over ten years ago..
Second Column: Mid water depth
If you are fishing in 200 feet of water and we are splitting the columns into thirds (3) then mid column is around 66 feet right? Well, sometimes nature forgets to tell the fish to stay at a certain water depth but many times certain fish like to stay suspended above the bottom or simply cruising above it. Many groupers and snappers like to do this as well like Scamp Groupers and Queen Snappers. It is not so easy to get them on the jig but for some reason they hit the jigs hard when they are presented with what they want. Just remember that if you are targeting them just jig slowly as you move your jig into the upper water column. If you are targeting amberjacks simply ask the boat Captain as to where the bigger signs of fish are, sometime they hang around the bottom, and mid water column but will be willing to get near the boat as you bring one up from the school of fish. Other pelagic fish like Blackfin Tunas and Wahoo do frequent this depth and this is where it gets tricky. You will have to choose what you are targeting, groupers, snappers, jacks, or pelagics. Jacks are unavoidable if they are in big numbers but if you decide to target pelagics then you will need to match the hatch and really find a fast beat, but always keep the same beat as fish are mathematicians. Fish really do calculate where the struggling bait’s next move will be so they can simply swallow it, slash it, or simply put “bite” on it. This is the reason why you need to have a constant beat no matter what that beat is. An example of a beat is Short jerk and reel, jerk and reel (let’s say a short jerk is when your line is downwards then you bring it up using your rod to start back at waist line then lower it to 45 degrees under your waist line while reeling the line in and bring it back to your waist then repeat). Long jerk and reel, long jerk and reel (let’s say a Long jerk is let line go down then bring it up using your rod to start at your shoulders and then lower rod tip 45 degrees under your belt while reeling in, then bring it up to your shoulders, repeat and repeat). Most of these fish will aim at the head but others like King Mackerel or wahoo will try to swallow the whole fish or just slash the fish in half. If you are lucky these will choose the bottom half. If not this is where you start to loose valuable jigs and will have to switch to your less valuable ones so you will not lose so much tackle. There is a remedy to this. You can use a small piece of wire, just not single strand as it tends to get kinks that twist the wire and simply break as you jig. There are solutions like purchasing readymade strand wire or special swivels with long solid metal shafts that look like this: 0————0-0 This is not to be mistaken with single strand wire unless you are using something like a #19 wire but you run a chance at losing the jig anyways. Also, using any wire sometimes deters the fish but not when they are really hungry. As always any wire leader means fewer hits, no wire leader means more hits. It is your choice. Nothing is better than trial and error.
Third column: The upper top water’s edge
This is the pelagic zone where fast is always better, but always keep a beat. This part of the column is where you can steadily reel in your jig. There really is no need for jerking the jigs. If the weather allows and you can see their flash or glow, this will be enough to catch the attention of any pelagic fish. Swim baits, pencils, and in occasions poppers are better in this column, but don’t give up as you still have to bring that jig to the boat. You can also slow jig it as you bring it up, sometimes it works.
Special thanks to all those specialized tackle shops and website vendors. Those that made this Art of Fishing a genuine and wonderful part of our lives but not our wallets. In special to those in the New Jersey, North Carolina, Boston, and Texas areas. The niche is no longer small and the people practicing this form are no more in the hundreds but in the thousands and thousands.