In a general sense, the term jigging refers to fishing with a jig lure. Jigs encompass a broad family of lures that are used on a wide variety of saltwater game fish. Almost all jigs feature a single hook and weighted head molded together into one unit. Many are dressed with a soft plastic body or a combination of feathers, fur, thread or yarn. Jigs are also frequently tipped with live bait such as shrimp, baitfish or cut bait, which are either threaded onto a bare jighead or used in addition to a jig body.
Jigging also refers to the fundamental fishing technique whereby the angler lifts and drops the lure (almost always a jig) at various intervals that produce a quick rise in the lure, followed by a slow flutter. While this describes the basic jigging motion, jigging is not limited to the continual lift-and-drop motion. As mentioned above, anytime a jig is being used, an angler is technically jigging or jig fishing. (Note: the use of jigging spoons is considered jigging, even though jigging spoons are technically not jigs.)
Unlike other artificial lures, such as plugs, spinners, surface lures or flies, jigs have little or no action on their own. At times, that subtle nature is what makes them so effective. In fact, sometimes letting a jig lie motionless on the bottom is all thats needed to produce a strike. In other situations, a violent upward snap of the fishing rod may be required to make the jig appealing. Whether the retrieve technique is fast, slow, subtle or aggressive, it is up to the angler to produce the right action and fish-attracting movement that will result in a strike.
Jigging is employed throughout the saltwater spectrum in shallow bays, sounds and lagoons; off piers, jetties and causeways; in the surf; in deep-water reefs; and in open water miles off the coast.
Jigging is a common tactic for many species that spend some or all of their lives in relatively shallow salt water. These include striped bass, bluefish, snook, bonefish, tarpon, redfish and speckled trout, among many others. For most inshore fishing beaches, inland waterways, bays, flats, piers, etc. jigs are typically cast to a target and retrieved in the basic jigging motion or any number of possible variations. Casting targets may be rock or boulder outcroppings, tidal pools, bridge or causeway pilings, channels, mangrove roots, edges of aquatic vegetation, boat docks or anywhere active fish are found. Once the jig is cast, anglers normally allow the jig to flutter naturally to the bottom or through the current. In general, if the jig is dressed with soft plastic or another body type, it should be kept in motion during the retrieve, whether in an up-and-down jigging motion or slow, steady swimming motion. If the jig is tipped with shrimp, live baitfish or strip of cut bait, slower, more deliberate retrieves are often more effective.
Jigging For Bottom Fish
The basic objective when jigging for bottom fish is to drop the jig to the depths and move it about so it appears to swim or hop along the bottom, which is the ideal presentation for catching many bottom-feeding fish, such as halibut, flounder, cod and grouper. Essentially, jigging in this manner is referred to as vertical jigging, though vertical jigging does not always entail keeping the jig near the bottom. Compared to most inshore jigging, which involves casting and retrieving the jig in a horizontal or diagonal path, vertical jigging keeps the line straight down below the boat. For bottom fish, anglers typically add strips or chunks of cut bait to the jig before casting or dropping it down to the depths. Once there, the jig is usually worked in an up-and-down fashion, with most strikes occurring as the jig falls. Occasionally, the jig is allowed to rest motionless, especially if its tipped with large pieces of bait.
As with bottom fish, jigging for offshore game fish like tuna, amberjack, snapper, cobia, mackerel and many others is almost always a vertical jigging method. But unlike a bottom fishing situation, offshore fish are usually suspended somewhere between the surface and the bottom. This requires the angler to drop the jig to the general depth where fish are holding. The deeper the water, the heavier the jig should be. Most jigs will drop at the rate of about 1 foot per second, and many anglers count down as the jig is falling to determine where the fish are biting. For example, after a fish is caught in 100 feet of water, the angler can drop the jig, count to 100, and resume jigging at that depth. When fishing in depths of 100 feet or more, a rapid upward snap of the rod followed by a downward drop is a common presentation. In shallower depths, the vertical jigging techniques are the same, except the angler does not need to use as hard a jerking motion on the rod. Whether shallow or deep, relatively jigs with soft plastic bodies are popular for offshore fishing, though tipping with live bait is also common.