The art of falling; this is how I describe slow pitch jigging (SPJ). If you have tried SPJ, you may know that the concept revolves around mimicking wounded prey, and the key technique is to create enticing falling actions.
SPJ is growing in popularity among our fishing community. We see more people talking about it, doing it, and catching good fish. There are a few reasons why SPJ is coming into the spotlight around New Zealand. Firstly, you can target varieties of different species such as snapper, kingfish, kahawai, gurnard, blue cod, trevally, john dory, golden snapper, hāpuku, bass, bluenose and even tuna! Secondly, it involves a relatively sedate action so anyone can enjoy it and fish all day. Thirdly, you can create a few different actions with SPJ, so you can constantly try different actions to find what’s working on the day. It keeps you thinking and keeps you entertained.
Finally, SPJ rod and reel setups are versatile. You can use a SPJ rod to fish with other types of lures, such as kabura and inchiku, to maximise your return on investment. You can also speed jig with the SPJ rod and work a lure conventionally (yoyo technique). This is one of the actions that you want to master as part of the slow-pitch jigging techniques. However, you cannot use a kabura/inchiku rod to fish with SPJ jigs as they are too soft, nor can you slow pitch jig with a speed jigging outfit as they are too stiff.
I believe it is important that you understand the method correctly, so you will be able to make the best out of this fishing style and enjoy the art of falling.
John dory are suckers for a well-presented slow-pitch jig.
SPJ was invented in Japan a decade ago when anglers were looking for ways to catch more species using a metal jig. They studied the habits of different species and found that slow-falling actions are more enticing than the fast-moving actions of conventional speed jigging for many species. The falling actions mimic wounded or dying baitfish, which are an easy meal for predatory species.
A typical setup for targeting bottom/reef fish and kingfish in 30-50m depths is a small to medium size overhead reel (e.g., Daiwa 10/15, Shimano 1000/1500) on a 6’2” to 6’4” rod (specialised SPJ rod with responsive tip), PE1.5-2.0 braid, 30-40lb fluorocarbon leader, a 100g-250g SPJ jig and two sets of twin assist hooks. You can go heavier and choose PE3/PE4 sizes if you are targeting kingfish and/or fishing around a reef area/pin.
There are a few variations of SPJ rods and jigs. The traditional SPJ rod is super light, crisp and has a great responsive tip for making the best jig actions. However, the biggest challenge we face in NZ waters is that you may snap the rod if you try to lift the rod to fight the fish. Therefore, you need to keep the rod tip down and winch the reel to fight. This fighting style is not popular for Kiwi anglers, and there is always a chance that you may lose a dream fish to the reef or a shark easily as fight times can be long. Nevertheless, I still use one of the traditional SPJ rods for everyday slow pitch jigging. As it is super sensitive, it gives you a lot of information on how the jig is working. You just need to be careful with how you fight with it; otherwise, these are great rods to start with.
For those who are not comfortable with the traditional SPJ rod, you can try a ‘power’ SPJ rod. These provide both crispness and power and are designed for anglers who want to lift the rod to fight.
SPJ jigs are normally centre-weighted or close to centre-weighted and asymmetrical in shape so that they tend to move sideways, which helps the jigs flutter/slide down naturally. You will find that leaf shapes and long slim shapes will create distinct falling actions. They differ from speed jigging jigs that are bottom-weighted, symmetrical, and feature a thin profile for fast vertical actions.
Typical jig weights are larger than 100g for depths over 30m. You must ensure that the line is vertical to work the jig most efficiently. If the line is less vertical, it gets harder to work the jig, so you need to either control your drift speed or use a heavier jig.
There are also specialised rods and jigs for deep water slow-pitch jigging targeting hāpuku, bass, bluenose or tuna.
Typical slow-pitch jig weights are larger than 100g for depths over 30m.
There are three basic techniques for SPJ. Remember, your goal is to make the jig look like wounded/dying prey.
The first technique is ‘lift, wind and follow.’ You lift the rod, wind the reel, and follow the slack line by slowly dropping the rod tip down. When you lift and wind, the jig moves up and goes sideways, and when you follow the slack line, the jig falls and makes enticing actions for you. You then repeat the lift, wind and follow. As you wind, you will be hunting through different water columns.
The second technique is ‘lift and follow.’ You lift the rod (without winding the reel) and follow the slack line by slowly dropping the rod tip down. As you are not winding, you are targeting a particular range of water columns. If you lift the rod high, you will give the jig a long falling time. This technique is called ‘long fall’.
The third technique is ‘wind and pause.’ With the rod motionless and held horizontally to the sea surface, you wind the reel and give it a pause every time you wind. This creates short, falling actions as you are not lifting the rod. And if you repeat this with a very short pause, you will create continuous flipping actions of the jig, which can look like hovering prey.
You change how high you lift, how much you wind, and how much you pause – essentially combining any of these three techniques. As mentioned earlier, you can use fast retrieval jigging actions and give your lure a sudden pause. Mix them up and find the best action to entice the fish of the day!
SPJ is vertical jigging, so you need a certain depth to work the jig properly (typically over 30m). Shallower spots can be harder to fish as large fish tend to sense the boat and move away from you. There is a variation of SPJ, called Super Light Jigging (SLJ), for shallow water jigging, which employs a technique similar to soft-baiting.
Productive areas for SPJ are reef areas, pins, and any bottom structures where baitfish hold. Open areas with no sign on the sounder can deliver results too – perhaps because SPJ is so enticing for fish!
Snapper are the bread-and-butter slow-pitch jigging species in NZ.
February 2023 - Kaz Otsubo
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
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