Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – An article by Durban based fishing charter and guide on Vertical Jigging, the article covers tackle, rigging, methods and techniques for light tackle vertical jigging to target Game Fish offshore

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Light Tackle Vertical Jigging

 

Article by Mike Laubscher of  Blue Water Charters | Durban

 

Vertical Jigging off-shore is a relatively new facet to angling, most certainly by name, although the basic principal of the method have been used for a long time and for many fresh and saltwater species. With this style of angling starting to become more popular and well known the range of products on the market is growing and more and more anglers are practising this form of angling. With vertical jigging you can catch virtually any kind of fish, from the bottom and right through the water column to the top. You also can catch almost any size of fish from small bait fish slightly larger than the jig up to a bus that strips off all your line and leaves you with a smoking hot empty spool and a wide gaping mouth. With this in mind here are some crucial pointers to get you going.

 

Vertical jigs for off-shore come in a huge variety of sizes generally from 28g (1oz) up to 480g (17oz) and so with this wide range there is not one outfit that would be suitable for all the possibilities, one would require at least four complete rigs. The lighter jigs are only suitable for shallow water as they are not heavy enough to get to the bottom in deeper water fast enough in a current, the heavier jigs are extremely hard-work and the average angler will not enjoy pulling these all day, and he will suffer and pay the price the next day. If only one outfit is affordable then the best option is to go for a medium outfit that can pull jigs from around 56g (2oz) to around 140/168g (5/6oz). With this size outfit you can get to the deeper waters and still be able to pull the rig all day without too much suffering the next day. Because the possibility of catching really big fish is very real, I would strongly recommend that you spend more money on one good quality strong outfit instead of going cheaper and getting two or three, buy the best one you can and it will give you years of joy and service. I have seen low quality reels last only for one big fish and then they are finished, and I have seen low quality reels seize up and the gears break up after just one fishing session. Vertical jigging is hard and so needs good tackle and the reel is the most important piece.

 

So a really strong good quality medium jigging stick 6’6” to 7’0” capable of pulling jigs from 56g to 140/168g is recommended. I personally prefer the 7’0” stick as I can then also use this stick for plugging, drop-shot and spoons, which the 7’0” you can cast up to 112g (4oz) comfortably and a reasonable distance, the shorter sticks do not cast well, jigging sticks are also suitable for trolling  lures and baits and can also be used for bottom fish. So with this stick you have a wide variety of options and the ability to handle a fish up 30Kg very easily, bigger fish will require a little more skill. Due to the heavy duty nature of vertical jigging the fittings on the stick are important and the eyes should be of good quality and at least double or triple bound, the rod seat also needs to be of good quality as the jigs are heavy and you are working them all the time and with the strong possibility of big fish a lot of stress will be placed on them. I use a Shimano Trevala medium Light Jigging stick for all my lighter jigging operation, this is a 7ft rod and will pull a jig up to 150g without any problems. Jigging sticks need to be really light and strong and must be able to bend. If you can afford more than one outfit, then you can get a heavier rod like the Shimano Trevala Medium Heavy or Extra Heavy. I really like these rods for jigging, if you really need to pull the heavy jigs, then I suggest you look at the Shimano Beast Master jigging rods.

Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Bull Dorado caught Vertical Jigging off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Bent Rod with a fish taken on Vertical Jig

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation

With vertical jigging you can use a multiplier type reel or a fixed spool reel (coffee grinder) and there are a lot of reels on the market. The choice of reel for vertical jigging is very important due to the constant heavy pressure being applied. The reel needs to be of a heavy duty and rugged construction with strong metal components, there is no place for plastic parts when vertical jigging, remember the reel is working all the time. The drag also needs to be strong and smooth as you cannot afford for the drag to stick or seize when the big one takes you, and you will need to stopping power. The reel also needs to have a high (fast) gear ratio of a minimum of 5.0: 1 and preferably 6.0:1  With a multiplier reel (size 20-30 is recommended) and the advantage is that you can spool on a lot of line up to 900m, which will be needed only in the event of a really big one. The disadvantage is that due to the constant winding and dropping you need to be careful and constantly watch how you wind your line on; the multiplier reels are also not so good for casting plugs and drop-shot as you will not get anywhere near the distance of a fixed spool reel. A fixed spool reel is my personal choice and generally a good fixed spool reel is twice the price of a good multiplier reel, but then the drag on the top range fixed spool reels usually has double the Kg rating of the multiplier and so has much more stopping power. Fixed spool reels are also much easier to use as you do not need to pay attention to winding on the line and they cast well if you are going to plug or drop-shot. The fixed spool reel should be of a 4500-6500 size range. The only disadvantage of a fixed spool reel is that the line capacity is about a third of a multiplier reel and if you match the reel and line you can generally fit 300m. It is important that you match the reel and line as you will need all of the 300m and wish for more believe me.

With vertical jigging using a braided line is essential and monofilament (nylon) is not an option. Monofilament has way to much stretch and you will never get the line capacity and breaking strength required. Again quality is important as this is the long connection between reel and leader; there are a lot of good brands of braided line out there and you should make sure you get one of the better ones. For the medium outfit mentioned above you need to have a minimum of 30lb braided line up to about 60lb, I use 30lb because I want more line on my spool and it casts further but perhaps 40-45lb line is a more general option and will help when the big one takes you. With 50-60lb you will need the larger and more expensive size reel which is also heavier and so more strenuous on your body. Whatever braid you choose be sure that you can fit at least around 300m of it onto the reel that you choose. The reason for the heavy breaking strains is firstly the heavy shock load you get when a big fish hits your jig; and believe me they hit hard as the jigs are moving fast and so therefore the fish hit your jig at high speed, secondly you want to get your fish away from any reefs, and thirdly you want to get your fish to the boat before the taxman (sharks) tries to take his piece of your fish. For the really heavy jigs you could go to a 10000 or 20000 size reel with 80 or 110lb braid.

My reel of choice here would be the Shimano Stella, the Stella is a little pricey but worth every cent you pay as they have super strong gears, and a drag like nothing else around with up to 30Kg on the larger reels.

There are a lot of mixed reports and feelings about the use of braid over monofilament, and the truth is that braid is better for most lure angling as it offers the angler many more advantages over mono. It is thinner which means you can spool more line and cast further; it has a much higher breaking capacity for the diameter; it has zero stretch and so much more sensitivity and direct contact to your lure which means better action and this means more fish; it lasts up to 5 times longer than monofilament and so although initially it might be more expensive, it is cheaper in the long run.

Because braid is so different to monofilament; and this is the area where all the misunderstandings arise from, it needs to be used differently as it is after all a completely different material with different properties and characteristics.

Complaint one is always that the knots slip loose. With mono you always tie your knot and lubricate it and then slide it down loosened before you pull it tight, and this is done because of the damage the heat generated by the mono does to itself and because the line has stretch which needs to be tensioned in the knot. With braid you need to work it the opposite way, once you tie your knot you need to pull it as tight as you can on the tag end, (you can lubricate it but it is not essential as very little heat is generated) once you have pulled the tag end as tight as you can, only then do you slide the now tightened knot down. This is because there is not stretch in the braid and so you need to compensate for it at the beginning of your knot tying process.

Complaint two is that the knots snap when you get a strike, and whilst most of the problems are from the reason above it must be noted that you need to make adjustments to your fishing style to accommodate for the zero stretch. Because there is zero stretch you have a direct contact to the fish and so you do not need to strike anywhere near as hard as you do with mono, a simple tug and speeding up of your reel will suffice to set the hook. Also because there is zero stretch you need to compensate for it on your drag and you must keep much less tension on your drag as you would when using mono, this is of utmost importance as when you get a strike this puts a heavy shock on your whole rig and the weakest point of you rig is always the knots which do not like heavy shock loads. Even when fighting a fish your knots can break on the head shakes if your drag is too tight.

Complaint three is that on fixed spool reels the braid unravels off the spool and causes a really nasty crow’s nest usually accompanied by a series of four letter words. Firstly there are two different types of braid those that have a coating and those that don’t. The coating gives the braid a memory which helps to keep it wound onto the spool of a fixed spool reel; the ones without a coating have no memory and are more suitable for multiplier reels. Secondly when winding your braid onto your spool and this applies to both reel types you need to load you braid onto the reel with a lot of tension in comparison to mono. If you do not put enough tension your braid will start moving on the spool and it will start cutting in and then your problems begin.

Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Mako Shark taken on Vertical Jig off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Yellowfin Tuna taken whilst Vertical Jigging off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation

Knots. I cannot stress enough the importance of knots. Your knots will always be the weak link in your entire rig and with the constant dropping and rewinding of your jig your rig will be working continuously and so your knots will always be under strain. Your knots are also going to be subject to heavy shock loading when you get a big strike, and even the smaller fish hit hard. You will be reeling and jigging your jig and all of a sudden you will be stopped instantly, you will go tight and your rod will bend and your reel start screaming and your line start peeling off at a fast pace. When that fish hits you, he hits hard and at speed and if your knots are not up to it they are going to part and you will lose your fish and your jig.

When tying your leader to your main braided line you firstly need to double your braided line as the leader material which will be either monofilament or fluorocarbon is much thicker than your braided line. The best knot I recommend is a double figure of eight knot if you can tie it, if you cannot tie this knot then the next best will be a double uni knot, in both cases you need to have a minimum of 4 turns in each knot and note that too many turns make it difficult to pull your knots tight which then weakens the knot so not more than 6 turns. I prefer the figure of eight knot as I have found this to be the strongest knot for this application. When tying the braided line to the leader, remember to keep the braid double and first tie the knot with the braid, then as mentioned earlier pull your braided knot as tight as you can on the tag end, you then proceed to tie the knot on your leader, then lubricate the knot thoroughly and the lines down to your braid knot before pulling tight. Remember when tying the knot on the leader material that you must not pull the tag end to much and leave the knot loose so you can see the loose shape of your knot and then pull the knots together and tight on your main lines. This method will give you the strongest connection between your braid and your leader. Then test your knot by pulling the braid and leader as hard as you can, rather you break it than the fish.

When tying your leader to the jig or to the steel trace, I recommend the single figure of eight knot, or at least a uni knot and again 4-6 turns in the knot. Remember to keep the leader knot loose and lubricate the leader and the line to the tying point before pulling the knot tight. These connections are suitable for plugging, spooning and drop-shot.

Your knots are important and you need to practice them and make sure they are strong; this can mean the difference between a tale of victory with photographs and a sad tale of the one that got away.

Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Yellowfin Tuna on Vertical Jig off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – A very large Tuna Fight

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Record sized Kawa-kawa (12.1Kg - 26.6lbs) off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Another Tuna on Vertical Jig

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Kingfish on light Jigging off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Durban Yellowfin Tuna on Vertical Jig

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation

So you now have a rod attached to a reel attached to braid. Now you need your “invisible connection” from the braid to your jig and hook. There are two chains of thought here, the on is that you have a leader that is around 10m long so you have a solid line when you get you fish to the boat. This is all fine and well and makes a lot of sense BUT there is a huge draw back here, you need to pass the knot through the eyes of your rod. Personally I do not like this idea and I have had the knot pull out the seats of my guides when there is a lot of pressure on the line from a big fish. The braid is very thin and your leader material is at least 4 – 6 times thicker and so my advice is to NEVER let this knot pass through your guides on your rod. I would rather have a leader that is only around 500mm – 1000mm long.

For leader materials you basically have two choices; mono filament or flouro carbon. Each of these materials has their own good properties and aspects. I have heard it said that flouro carbon is “noisy”, however flouro has less stretch than mono which is better for jigging and flouro is heavier than mono and so sinks better. Mono is in fact lighter than water and so it floats, flouro is heavier than water and so it sinks, jigging is done in deep water and the faster you sink the better. Flouro is also more abrasion resistant than mono and it is harder. My personal choice is to use flouro carbon for vertical jigging, but you can use mono and still get good results.

It is always better to allow your leader material to be stronger than your braid so typically with the 30lb braid that I use on my light rig I would use a 30 -38lb leader, the heavier your rig and braid the heavier your leader, with 80 -100lb braid you can go up to a 100-130 lb leader. If you are fishing for toothy fish you can add a bite trace of 100mm-150mm, you can have a much longer bite trace but this will reduce the amounts of strikes you get, especially in the clearer deeper water where the fish may tend to be “leader shy”. I like to tie my leader to the wire with an Albright knot rather than a swivel as it makes you trace more “invisible”. You can even use blood wire (Red wire) as your bite trace; I have found this to be exceptionally good when using “red heads” which are my personal favourite.

From your Leader to your hook you will have the jigging “hook set” which will consist of one or two hooks, a thick braid or wire a solid ring and a split ring.

Firstly a lot of the standard jigs come with a lousy “hook set” as the hooks and the braid are simply not up to the task at hand and will cause you to loose your fish, and so I chuck them off and make up my own or put on better ones, you can buy some really decent ones that are already made up with top brand hooks, personally I only use the “hook sets” from Mustad or Owner as they do the job and even though they are initially expensive they do not get lost so easy like the cheap ones and in the end work out cheaper. When I make up my own I use 200lb or more of carbon coated stainless steel wire and brass or copper lugs to connect, you must also always cover the connections with “heat shrink” which you get from any electrical shop usually available in red or black. Because the chance of catching a toothy fish is very high with jigging and because vertical jigging can really yield almost anything down there I almost always only use a wire “hook set”.

NOTE: The connection of the hook set must be as follows or you will loose fish. The hooks are connected to the wire or thick braid, this in turn must be connected to the SOLID ring and the SOLID ring must be connected to you line. The SPLIT ring must be connected to the JIG and to the SOLID ring. DO NOT attach you hooks to the SPLIT ring as these are too brittle and will not withhold the pressure of a big fish and they will leave you with a tale of the one that got away.

As mentioned earlier, there are so many jigs on the market now that it makes selection extremely difficult. Sizes go from around 28g – 480g and I have even seen them at 10g, but you really need to go bigger from around 70g upwards if you want to reach the bottom. You then have a myriad of colours to choose from and could end up buying one of each and this is a mistake as you will quickly discover the ones that work for you and the rest will just lay around unused forever. My suggestion is to get several of a few colours in certain sizes and shapes. Essentially jigs have two basic shapes, the long thinner ones and the shorter broader ones. There are some other wonderful ideas but these two cover the bulk. The long thin ones sink faster and are generally designed for a faster retrieve; the shorter broad ones will flutter down slower and are generally for a slower retrieve. Depending where you are fishing you will decide on your colours, for example in Durban and up the KZN north coast my favourite colour is always a red head with a silver or white body, then we can imitate the bait fish colours with blue/silver and black/silver combinations and if fishing in these areas then you only really need these colours and I would rather have several of each of a these few colours in say 3 or 4 sizes than one of everything, if the water is dirty you can get the luminescent varieties which glow in the deeper water or go a bright pink or chartreuse colour or even go for an all white. I do not recommend the jig sets that are available as there are many jigs you will never use. For the medium light outfit I would recommend a few of the small 28g for the shallower water or bad days but my favourite size is always the 110g which I would have the most of supported by a few 75g and a few 150/160g, I would also recommend only the long thin jigs to start with as they are more versatile. So typically a starting out set of vertical jigs for Durban and KZN North could be as follows: 2 x Red head 28g, 2 x blue/silver 28g, 2 x black/silver 28g, 2 x Read head 75g, 2 x blue/silver 75g, 2 x black/silver 75g, 6 x Read head 110g, 4 x blue/silver 110g, 4 x black/silver 110g, 2 x Read head 150g, 2 x blue/silver 150g, 2 x black/silver 150g. This is already 32 jig heads and once you add some good hook sets will set you back around R1500.00 or more but they will serve you well as an initial starting stock which you just top up if and when you loose or break the jigs

For the heavier rigs you can get the large 350g and 480g jigs in the same colours

 

There are a variety of ways to fish with your vertical jigging rig, and when I take clients out on the boat it is explained to them that you need to constantly vary your style until you find what is working for that day/area/depth and I tell you the same, keep on changing until you get a hit.

Remember that what ever the tip of your rod does, the jig will do the same, due to the zero stretch of the braid. Look on the sonar to see for reefs or structure and then drop and jig whilst on the drift over these areas.

Bull Dorado caught Vertical Jigging off Durban

Bent Rod with a fish taken on Vertical Jig

Mako Shark taken on Vertical Jig off Durban

Yellowfin Tuna taken whilst Vertical Jigging off Durban

Yellowfin Tuna on Vertical Jig off Durban

A very large Tuna Fight

Kingfish on light Jigging off Durban

Durban Yellowfin Tuna on Vertical Jig

Record sized Kawa-kawa (12.1Kg - 26.6lbs) off Durban

Another Tuna on Vertical Jig

Here are some methods of retrieving you jig once it hits the bottom, and I have given my own names here for these styles to help remember.

 

Pump It – This is an ultra fast retrieve combined with a rapid up and down yanking of your rod. Basically you point your rod to the water and then whip it up vertically to around ten “o” clock and bring it down again to point at the water whilst at the same time you are cranking up your reel at high speed. Although very tiring it is very effective and cane produce extremely satisfying results and you can catch virtually anything like this. You must try varying your speeds here from slow to ultra fast.

 

Yank & Crank – This is a more erratic retrieve and the operation is similar to that above where you yank the rod up, but whilst yanking up you do not crank you reel, you only crank your reel when bringing the rod down, hence yank and then crank. You must try varying your speeds here from slow to ultra fast.

 

Straight up – Here you simply wind up your jig without yanking the rod and you must try varying your speeds here from slow to ultra fast.

 

Note: With these retrieves if you get a hard bump and you did not get the fish on. DO NOT continue retrieving as the fish is still around. Stop open the bail arm or your reel and let the jig fall to the bottom again and begin the exact same retrieve you were doing when you got the bump. The chances are the fish or fishes will follow the jig down and hit again on the way up and this is more often than not. I have got some of my very best fish like this.

 

Bounce – I use this method when fishing is tough or I am tired at the end of the day and as simple as it sounds it has produced me some superb fish. Wind up your jig half to one turn on your reel or so and as the boat is drifting along then simply lift your rod up and down, trying various speeds of the up and down movement. I found a slow up followed by dropping the rod fast works best.

 

Angular Jigging – Here you cast out you jig and let a lot of line out until it is far from the boat and on the bottom, in this way you will retrieve at an angle instead of vertically and you then apply either the pump it, the yank and crank or the straight up method.

 

Because braid has no stretch you need to set you drag much lighter than you would if you are used to fishing with mono, the reason for this is to reduce the shock of the impact when you get a hit, and believe me with vertical jigging the fish hit HARD, by setting you drag as low as possible, basically the spool should move just a little each time you yank your rod with jigs from 75g upwards. In this way you have enough pressure for the hook to set and with vertical jigging this is an automatic process as there is no need to set the hook; you will be jigging the one minute and in the next second your reel is screaming and the line is peeling off.

 

I have seen clients get worried when the line is peeling off and they always want to tighten the drag, I always advise against this. Play your fish, let him run if you put to much pressure you risk tearing the hooks out his mouth. He will make his first run and even another 2 or 3 before you get him to the boat. You will off coarse get that big one and start running out of line as with jigging you are normally limited to 200-300m and you can put more drag pressure in the second or third run or later in the first run if need be, but if it is a really big one then I rather follow the fish with the boat as in this way you stand a much higher chance of getting that really big one.

With vertical jigging you always stand the chance of a huge fish that will simply strip all your line and leave you with a smoking hot empty spool. It happens.

Light Tackle Vertical Jigging –  Black Tip Shark taken on a Vertical Jig

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Giant Trevally (GT, Giant King Fish)

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation

Black Tip Shark taken on a Vertical Jig

Giant Trevally (GT, Giant King Fish)

Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Kawa-Kawa taken whilst Vertical Jigging off Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
Light Tackle Vertical Jigging – Sarda-sarda taken on Vertical Jig

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation

Kawa-Kawa taken whilst Vertical Jigging off Durban

Sarda-sarda taken on Vertical Jig