Earlier this year I had the good fortune to fish alongside Jim Sammons, who was making a New Zealand episode of his kayak-fishing television show.
This gave me the opportunity to refine my mechanical jigging technique from a kayak.
When I first decided to give mechanical jigging a go, plenty of people – including some experienced kayakers – told me it was a bad idea and could not be done. I am pleased to say that my best kingie is around 18kg to date, and I’m not the only one catching fish like that.
However, I have discovered a few key aspects do make a big difference to achieving success. The first is to buy a proper jigging outfit, as without one you won’t consistently catch fish. The key elements to this outfit consist of a large-diameter, fast-retrieve freespool reel spooled with 24kg braid, that’s paired with a relatively forgiving and parabolic rod.
Fishing from a kayak is predominantly an upper body exercise, and the vigorous action required for mechanical jigging, or quick retrieval rate used when speed jigging, requires a reel that retrieves plenty of line per handle turn. But when looking for a reel, don’t get too caught up in gear ratios; while this plays a big part in the equation, the length of line retrieved per handle turn is much more important. Consequently, look for a reel that recovers over a metre of line per handle rotation.
Conventional overhead-type reels are preferable, because when seated in a kayak the relatively low-slung spinning reels often clash with the kayak while working the rod. Additionally, as with any gear on a kayak, it needs to be durable to survive. I have been using the Fin-Nor Offshore OCH16, and it has yet to miss a beat.
The critical issue with rods is leverage: the longer and stiffer the rod, the harder it is to control a rampaging fish – even a modest fish will cause trouble if the gear is not working in the angler’s favour. Because of this, parabolic rods are ideal, as they fold away until they hit their working curve, at which point some serious lifting power is engaged. This means the load is kept closer to the fulcrum (where you are holding the rod), which greatly increases the odds in your favour.
A minimum of 24kg braid is required. While it is possible to use lighter line, this will result in a lot of lost gear and plenty of knot-tying practice. Kingies know where their home is, so you need the grunt to stop them. A note of caution: it takes a significant amount of pressure to break 24kg braid, so using it from a kayak is not for beginners.
One of the most common questions asked is: what type of jigs do you use and which colours are best? In my experience there is no silver bullet with regard to size, shape or colour. I prefer to have a range of jigs at my disposal, and if I am not getting hits when fishing, I will change jigs fairly frequently. When buying jigs I look for variations in size, profile, weight and colour. It is also beneficial to have a number of jigs, because inevitably some are going to be lost. There is nothing more frustrating that getting onto a school of fish that are on the bite but not being able to catch them because the only effective jig on board your kayak has been lost.
If, however, I had to limit myself to a couple of options, I would go for an orange, tail-weighted jig of around 200g, and blue or green middle-weighted jig around the same size. Most decent fishing stores have a range of offerings and are generally pretty good at recommending what to use.
Mechanical jigging is not for first-time kayakers, faint hearted or very unfit. Also, your kayak needs to be very stable, as well as fast and easy to paddle – most of the jigging spots I know require some paddling to get there. I am using the new Ocean Kayak 4.7 Ultra, as it provides excellent stability and good boat speed, with the added bonus of safe storage for expensive gear. It also accommodates fish-finders, the reversible hatch protecting them when not in use.
As kingfish hold on structure, a fish-finder and GPS are also critical to success. Likely spots tend to be around structure that quickly rises out of deep water with a good current running past. If the kingfish are there, they will show on the sounder as strong returns moving quickly through the water.
One of the benefits of a kayak is being able to work the jigs while keeping an eye on the fish-finder. It is not uncommon to see the jig drop and the fish follow it to the bottom, then chase it back up and strike.
While the action for working a jig is probably best left to Youtube or instructional videos, the best way I can describe what I do is that basically the hand holding the rod moves up and down in tandem with the reel-handle rotations. Increased speed comes with practice, but even a relatively slow mechanical-jigging style can do the job at times.
You will hook big fish on jigs, so a heavy drag setting is an advantage. I routinely fish well over 10kg of strike drag, although this does admittedly create a challenge to remaining upright when a monster fish is heading for the bottom. Therefore, start with a relatively conservative setting and steadily ramp it up as you gain confidence.
Some of the things that will help avoid an unplanned exit from the kayak include making sure you always fish on the kayak side that you intend to fight and land the fish from, as the short jig rod means you cannot move the line around the front of the kayak. For me, this means fishing off the right side of my boat, as I fight the fish with the rod under my left arm, the rod angling across my body giving greater stability.
Fighting the fish is usually straight up and down under the kayak. Therefore, try and keep the rod angling in the same direction as the kayak. If the fish gets you sideways, a lot of your stability will be lost.
Once you have survived the initial run and the fish is heading upwards, back off the drag. The closer the fish gets below the boat, the greater the ability it has to make a sudden change in direction, which can seriously de-stabilise you. For example, if a fish 50 metres down makes a change in direction and runs 10 metres, the difference in the angle of pull at the rod tip is fairly minimal; however, when that fish makes that change five metres below the kayak, the pressure direction changes hugely.
Then, once you have the fish to the boat, make sure you secure the jig. Once I made the mistake of lifting a rat king aboard the kayak by the leader; the fish then flailed the 250g jig around uncontrollably, catching me across the upper lip – not a pleasant experience.
The easiest way I have found to deal with a fish boat-side is to engage the ratchet once the leader is on the reel, grab the jig (they generally make a convenient handle) and lift the fish onto your lap. It is then relatively simple to drop the rod into a holder and flip it into free-spool, in case you accidently let go of the fish prior to removing the hook. I have used this technique with fish up to 18kg – but make sure there aren’t any sharks about. I have also found that it is the smaller fish that are the most troublesome, because the heavy gear used means they are usually still pretty green when boated.
As previously mentioned, this style of fishing can be pretty extreme, so always fish within your limits. Make sure that you are visible to boaties, carry safety equipment (including a VHF), fish in groups, check the weather, and let somebody know where you’re going.
There is something carnal about jigging for kingfish from a kayak – only those who have done it will truly understand. It seems a little bit more one-on-one, man vs fish – somehow a little bit fairer.
Finally, the best way to learn is to get out and do it, as there is no substitute for experience.
This article is reproduced with permission of
New Zealand Fishing News
2010 - by Jai Sanders
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited