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May 19, 2013

Vertical Jig Fishing

The ancient art of jigging constantly reinvents itself. Don't get left behind.

Jigs have been catching fish for so long it would seem there's nothing new to learn about them. But not quite a decade ago, a variation came to the United States and revolutionized what we know about jig fishing. Call it Asian jigging, high-speed jigging, vertical jigging or butterfly jigging, after the trademark Butterfly jig by Shimano, which introduced this method to U.S. anglers; by any name it's a deadly way to fish.

"I have not found a species I can't catch with these jigs, except maybe flats fish," says Capt. R. Andrew Cummings of Outer Cape Waterman, in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts, who has been fishing these jigs since they first appeared and continues to refine his techniques.

Speed jigging is just as effective on the West Coast. "If the fish are active, I will catch more on a jig than on bait - way more," says Ben Secrest of Accurate Fishing Products, in Los Angeles, an early adopter and true believer in speed jigging.

What It Is
A perfect storm of equipment allowed the development of this style of fishing: a combination of Japanese-designed lures, parabolic rods, compact reels with high retrieve rates and heavy drags, and no-stretch braided lines. Each of these elements makes an indispensable contribution to the system. Learn to make it work right, and the rewards are great, as many have already discovered.

In case this is a new fishing method to you, here's how it works. A metal jig with free-swinging hooks is dropped beneath the boat and retrieved with a rhythmic motion that creates a vertical walk-the-dog action that's irresistible to fish. The technique works over featureless bottom, plus it's effective when fished through suspended schools of bait. It works over wrecks, reefs and rock piles. It works for rockfish, yellowtail and yellowfin tuna on the West Coast, stripers and bluefin tuna in the Northeast, and grouper, king mackerel, wahoo, snapper and tuna in the Southeast and the Gulf.

The Elements
The heart of the system consists of a short parabolic rod with a springy tip. Rods for this type of fishing are rated for the size of the jig that will be used. Mounted to the rod is a lightweight but beefy reel, either spinning or conventional. Because you hold the outfit and actively fish it, small reels light enough to be fished all day are essential. On the other hand, because the line and the quarry are anything but ultra-light, powerful, high-ratio gears and substantial drags are equally essential.

Reels get loaded with a minimum of 40-pound braid. Narrow spools are favored on conventional models. Speed jigging requires both hands, one on the side plate of the reel and the other on the reel handle, winding, so laying line on the reel is not an option. "Keep conventional reels narrow so you just wind and the line finds its own way home," says Secrest.

Metal Magic
The jigs themselves are where the rubber meets the road. Sizes range from 55 grams, just under 2 ounces, for shallow-water versions and up to nearly a pound and almost a foot long for deepwater species and big tuna. Jig action is determined by the cross section of the jig, as well as the action imparted by the rod, and every manufacturer has its own twist on cross section and shape. You'll find subtle differences in the shapes by Shimano versus Williamson, which differ from those by Ocean Tackle International, among others.