Jigging can take many forms in fishing and has accounted for many fantastic fish the world over. It is often perceived by the non-angler to be the simplest form of fishing that only requires the angler to drop a lure over the side of a boat and invoke an action that moves the lure up & down. Whilst this maybe in part true, the reality is that it's a technique that some anglers can deploy with huge success whilst others do not. Like any form of sport there will always be some that are better than others and the techniques used by those that are consistently successful with Jig fishing are so subtle that to the uninitiated often cannot be spotted. I do not consider myself an expert Jig fisherman but have been a fisherman long enough to know that the art is to present the lure in a way that will entice a fish to take it. With Perch, Pike and Zander if you can imitate a wounded fish you will not be far wrong.
Jigging is a commonly used technique throughout Europe, accounting for some of the biggest Zander and Perch landed over the years. Jigging can also be used for targeting Pike and will also entice the odd surprise fish including Trout & Bream but these are exceptions rather than common place regular occurrences.
Due to the nature of the vertical or near vertical line the method is normally practised from a boat, but of course waters in northern Europe are covered in ice for many months of the year which enable the technique to be used year round. In this article I will discuss Jigging on open water from the boat for fresh water predatory fish.
The availability of jigs has increased significantly over recent years due to the rising popularity of Jig fishing throughout Europe. Specialized weighted Jig hooks can be purchased on their own & are designed so that the angler can thread separately purchased lures and interchange these as required.
Jigs can be made of both hard materials such as metal and plastic and soft with many rubber and soft plastic options available.
The Jig can be designed to imitate natural baits including worms, fish, frogs, crayfish and shrimp or can be more generic so that they are designed not to imitate a particular food source but are meant to trigger the predatory instinct of the target species based on movement and colour alone.
The size and colour of jig to use will vary depending on what fish you are targeting. For Perch something representing a minnow would not be a bad starting point. Some Zander anglers swear that the lure has to be yellow or orange but in practice darker lures in green or black will also catch. You should be prepared to try different colours and sizes as you will find on some days a particular jig can be hot whilst on others you will struggle with it. The concept of bright lures for clear water and dark lures for dark water can also apply but as everything in fishing, it is a guide rather than a hard & fast rule.
Baltic Herring are an excellent bait fish that can be used to catch Perch & Pike either fished as live or dead baits. They can be caught in large numbers throughout the Southern and Northern Baltic Sea using Sabiki rigs fished over the side of a boat. It is not uncommon to catch 3-5 Baltic Herring on the same drop. If you encounter a large shoal swimming through it can be possible to catch them in enormous quantities in a very short space of time.
The Sabiki rig does not need to be complex and more often than not the simple rigs will fish better than the more flashy variants. Sabiki rigs with a small green bead with hook sizes of size 10 or 8 are ideal. The rig is tied using a lead sinker with the weight used selected based on the depth to be fished. Fishing in a drifting boat in water of depth around 10 meters using weights of approx 5 oz is ideal. Quite often simply dropping the rig over the side and relying on the wave motion to move the rigs is sufficient. In calm conditions with no wind it can be enough just to rock the boat from side to side to entice the Herring to bite.
Fishing would be boring if we knew exactly what a particular method or technique would provide each time we used it. Do not be surprised when targeting Baltic Herring with Sabiki rigs if some other species either smaller or much larger takes a fancy to your offering. You can catch plenty of nice surprises including Perch, Flounder and Sea Trout on Sabiki Rigs in Scandinavia whilst after Baltic Herring.
Prior to starting Jig fishing I would advise the would be angler to study the behaviour of small fish in the water and their reaction when predators arrive on the scene. Understanding this behaviour will help with understanding how the Jig should be fished. Too often the Jig fisherman will drop a lure over the side of the boat and proceed with bouncing it up and down with vertical arm movements that imparts a rapid rise and fall of 0.25-0.5 meter of the lure. Small fish like those most commonly imitated with Jigs tend to move quite slowly and when in a hurry do so in short darting movements before coming to a complete standstill or slow descent through the water. If you can imitate this behaviour your chances of success will rise significantly.
The concept of the fish taking as the lure falls should not be understated. It really does happen more than most novice anglers realize. This is also worth remembering when selecting the lure and also a common mistake is to use a lure that is far too heavy so that rather than fall enticingly it sinks to the bottom like a stone. If in doubt go with a lighter jig than you think necessary as you can change them very quickly when a snap swivel is used.
You should aim to stay in touch with the jig at all time so that you can spot & react to any knock or indication that the lure has been taken such as the line not falling back through the water as it normally would. If you strike and miss, you should let the lure fall again as quite often the same fish will take again.
As with any form of fishing, location is half the battle to success. Throughout the year fish will move between different spots either to find food, to breed or simply to follow warmer water (the following of warmer water can also be due to food sources moving). Area's worthy of special attention include those where the depth changes for example due to an underwater island, rocky areas or any other natural or unnatural object that will provide shelter for both the prey fish and the predator.
Jigging is one of the preferred techniques for Zander fishing in many European countries. There are two seasons of the year that can provide excellent sport. The first is in the late spring/early summer starting normally in April or May & running through to late June. Ideally the water temperature would be above 10c. At this time of the year the Zander can be found in shallow water of around 2-4 meters where they are actively feeding on the small fish. Zander will also be spawning during May - June. The period after spawning can be a productive period as the male Zander hang around to protect the young.
The second season for Zander jigging is in the autumn around September – November. At this time it is worth a try around river estuaries and shallower bays.
Zander can be and are caught between these two periods but as they move into deeper water, there are other methods that are more effective such as trolling and live or dead baiting.
Jigging is a method used to fish a lure either on a vertical line directly below the rod tip or with a short cast whereby the lure is worked very close to the bottom. Due to this the tackle required does not need to be capable of casting heavy leads towards the horizon and can be quite light in comparison to the tackle used for other forms of fishing.
The jigging rod is short in length as a long cast is not required. If you already own a light short spinning rod of 6-8 foot in length this can be used without problem for most jigging scenarios. Ideally the tip should be on the light side as very often the fish will take whilst the lure is falling through the water rather than on the rise.
Reels for jigging can be simple with both fixed spool and small multipliers capable of meeting the needs.
Braid is ideal for jigging as it does not stretch as nylon does and hence the angler can feel more, even to the point that a fish taking the lure on the drop can be noticed. Using a coloured braid will help detect bites even further as it provides a visible aid as to what is happening as the lure rises and falls. Any deviation in the line curvature between the rod tip & the water should be acted on as this can indicate something has grabbed the lure on the fall. The braid should be strong enough to cope with the fish likely to be encountered with a braid of 5 – 7.5 Kg ideal for most situations.