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January 22, 2013

Bottom Fishing with Kabura Jigs

Revolutionary jigging style puts a new spin on bottomfishing.


Most anglers target bottom species for one purpose: meat. But the days of loading the boat with sea bass, cod, rockfish and grouper are all but over. With strict regulations and tight bag limits, bottom-bouncers are lucky to take home a handful of fish. So the focus has changed from fillets to fun. Christmas-tree rigs and sash weights are out. Light tackle and high-tech jigs are in.  

Enter Shimano’s Lucanus jigging system.  

When I first saw Lucanus jigs, I had to chuckle. The bullet head, wild rubber skirt, and impossibly small hooks make the thing look like an alien. Then I saw the Tescata rod that goes with the system, thin as a switch and bendy as a whip. Hilarious.

“You can’t be serious,” I told Robby Gant, Shimano’s research-and-development guru, over the phone.  

“It’s all about fun,” he explained. “We’re making bottom fishing fun.” Sounded tempting, so I couldn’t resist.

A few weeks later, when I showed up at the dock with my Lucanus system, my buddies did more than chuckle: They straight-up laughed at me. They called the rod a noodle, they called the jig a bug, and they called me a long list of unflattering names.

But 50 miles offshore, when I dropped the 7-ounce jig 300 feet to the bottom and hooked a fat blueline tilefish, I was the one laughing. The rod bent double, and the reel fought for every inch of line as I struggled with the 8-pound fish all the way to the surface. Who knew bottom fishing could be this much fun?

Mother of Invention

The Lucanus system, generically known as kabura jigging, originated in Japan, where commercial anglers continually up their game and their gear in order to stay competitive. 

A decade ago this fishery produced vertical or flutter ­jigging, which Shimano introduced to American anglers as the Butterfly jig system. In similar form, about five years ago Shimano introduced kabura jigging. The result is a space-age lure that looks like it came to Earth just to fool bottomfish. And it works. As well as Shimano, a ­number of manufacturers are producing kabura jigs, such as Williamson’s EBI jigs and the Braid Thumper Jigs.

Systematic Approach

Shimano has perhaps the most comprehensive kabura system, which includes jigs, line, rods and reels ­developed to work together. Rods are ultrathin and super light with an extremely slow soft action that bends well into the handle. The grip is split, with a small foregrip and short butt. Not only does this make the rod light and ­ergonomic, but it increases sensitivity, since the angler’s hands contact the actual blank.  

The rod blank is fiberglass for strength, and wrapped with graphite for sensitivity. A high-modulus carbon butt section reduces weight and increases sensitivity. 

The reel is a tiny titan. The Tescata rods come in both spinning and conventional models. ­Spinning reels will drop the bait faster, while conventional reels hold more line. Either way, a Lucanus reel uses a cold-forged ­aluminum frame to cut size and weight. Oversize gears provide torque, and the performance drag systems ­create 20 to 40 pounds of pressure without taking up a lot of space. Since the diameter of braid is a fraction of nylon monofilament, more than 300 yards of 30-pound line can be packed onto a relatively small reel. In addition, the small-diameter braid allows the line to passes through the water with little resistance, so less weight is ­required to reach bottom. The whole system comes ­together to deliver a surprisingly small jig to the bottom to then retrieve a surprisingly big fish.