Slow action - for fast action!
While all sorts of gear can do the job to varying degrees, when initially confronted by the Shimano Lucanus and Daiwa Bay Rubber jigs I used them on my conventional soft-plastic gear and enjoyed success. However, this was soon replaced by an overhead reel on a long (8ft), fast-actioned rod, and it’s even more effective and fun now. I have since noticed that many other slow-jig exponents seem keener on the much shorter slow-jig rod options available, but no matter what proves better in the long term, it soon became plain that my technique rather than the tackle used needed updating and modifying first. This meant the quicker, tip-flicking retrieve used for soft-plastics making way for the slower, more deliberate action required by slow-jigs (described in more detail shortly).
Because of this preferred action, a good slow-jig rod will be quite forgiving, helping to provide the best possible action to the attached lure, and attracting more hook-ups as a result. Then, having accomplished this, the same rod enables plenty of strain to be placed on the fish, despite the relatively small hooks used, thanks to the its bendy upper section absorbing much of the excess pressure. This is an important attribute, as the smaller baitcasters and spinning reels of today often have drag systems enabling them to punch way above their weight.
The main reason for preferring overhead reels is because they enable me to thumb the spool during the lure’s descent, giving me more control. At this time of year, when the snapper are schooling and you’re often fishing under the bird action, the chances of getting nailed on the drop are better than 50-50. Consequently, when a snapper bites as the lure descends, a simple clamp down on the spool with the thumb is sufficient to drive home the hook, before winding the reel’s handle to engage the gearing and drag. There is no need for the ‘hell’ strike; most slow-jigs are fitted with compact, super-sharp hooks that can be set with minimal pressure.
Trace length is down to personal preference. I like a longer trace – around 4-6 metres – to create a another buffer between the unforgiving braid line and the soft-actioned rod, especially as this also helps to impart that slowly darting action required by slow-jigs.
And while it is possible to fish slow-jigs with mono line, braid enables far better bite detection, provides improved lure action, and reduces the effects of water drag on the line, especially when trying your luck in deeper water – 20-plus metres, say.
In all cases my preferred knot for securing the lure to the trace is the Lefty’s Loop, as this leaves the lure to swim more naturally.
A characteristic of all slow-jigs is the ‘fluttery’ tail or skirt which somewhat resembles the tentacles of a squid, giving the lure added life and attracts the bite.
As the name suggests, slow-jigs were designed to be fished ‘slowly’. And while susceptible to ‘being bit’ on the drop, it is the retrieve, combined with strategic pauses, that does the damage most often.
They can be fished from anchored or drifting boats, with the latter the preferred situation, especially when prospecting open, sandy or mud bottoms.
Start by driving slowly through the area you want to prospect, and when fish are encountered, place the boat upwind or up-tide, whichever is the stronger influence. Next, it usually pays to put out a sea anchor or drogue, as this will slow the boat’s drift to give you more time in the strike zone, as well as reduce your line angle.
Now it’s time to put down a lure and, fortunately, fishing slow-jigs can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it. The simplest method involves setting a moderate drag, dropping the lure to the bottom, winding it up 30cm or so, and placing the rod in an appropriately angled rod-holder awaiting a bite. Meanwhile, you can either work another slow-jig or perhaps a soft-plastic bait, thus doubling your chances of hooking a fish. Then, once fish are encountered, use just one rod and whatever method is proving the most productive.
However, a more active approach tends to pay higher dividends. After watching and talking with the more experienced slow-jiggers, they agree that several slow turns of the reel, followed by an even slower short lift and drop of the rod tip, works well. Imagine a mechanical-jigging action suffering from flat batteries, and you’ll get some idea.
Rather than a straight retrieve, this stepped or staged recovery of the terminal tackle allows the tail to flare and dart, a movement that imitates a cautious baitfish. (If you have ever dived and seen baitfish swimming, this is exactly how they act, especially as individuals rather than when part of a school.)
Commence the retrieve, as described earlier, for 5-10 metres from the bottom. If no luck, drop and repeat. Once the line gets beyond a 45-degree angle, fully retrieve and start over again.
Slow-jigs can also be fished from an anchored boat down a berley trail, especially if there is a good current running. The method here is to cast at about a 90-degree angle to the side and allow the lure to drift into the berley zone. From there begin the slow retrieve for the first 5-10 metres before retrieving the remaining line at ‘normal’ speed and recasting to the side again. This technique is not unlike that deployed by a wet fly/lure fisherman casting across the current to a trout.
The above covers the very basics of slow-jig fishing and is very much a ‘work in progress’. It is a fun, active way to fish and a nice change from the more sedentary bait soaking. While this form of fishing doesn’t come with a 100-percent guarantee, it can be ‘the way’ on occasion, making it one more potent weapon in the thinking angler’s armoury.
Experienced slow-jig angler Paul Senior deploys a stealthy lift-and-drop method when working the lure through the water column.
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