Getting Jiggy (without ripping your arm off)
  |  First Published: May 2007

There has been plenty written about blue water jigging of late with tales of monster GTs and dogtooth tuna. It all sounds great, but with champagne taste and a beer budget, sometimes we have to scale down. Fortunately, around Bundaberg we can scale down our gear and still be in with the chance of that monster fish. When it’s time to get jiggy with it, we are lucky enough to have an abundant array of fish species in our area that are keen to eat any number of offerings jigged in their faces. The bonus is that we need only do it in 30m of water, or sometimes even in 20m.

Where to start

To get you started on the road to scaled-down jigging, we need to look at gear. Even though we are scaling down you will still need decent quality gear as jigging puts a lot of unnatural strain on rods, reels, line and of course backs and arms.

You will not be able to drop down those 12” heavy knife jigs on light gear. However, in our inshore areas, I have been using a lot of plastics and metal slices to good effect on relatively light gear. A 6’6”, 6kg spin rod with a fast taper coupled with 4500 sized reel loaded with 20lb braided line will see you capable of handling most species encountered in close. When you have a look for a rod and reel combo for this job, choose a rod with at least a 12-inch butt section. It will get in the way a bit while fishing but will be well worth having when a decent fish climbs on. You can go the way of an overhead outfit but I have found that spin outfits let line out faster, are less effort to retrieve and easier to use if you need to cast while battling wind and waves.

The business end

People often talk about which jig or plastic is best. As with all kinds of fishing, it is more important to put your offering in the right place before you worry about whether it is the right colour, shape or brand. Concentrate on your jigs’ weight and size: generally the shallower or slower the water, the lighter the jig you should use. This is because the fish have longer to look at it and so it must look a little more natural. Of course, in deeper and faster water, it is time to get the bombs out. I usually switch to metal slices like Halco Twisties or Streakers as they cut the water well and have unique actions when jigged up of the bottom.

My most successful plastic is the 5” Berkley Gulp Jerk Shad in white. The next best is the Gulp Squid, while one to keep as a back-up is the standard Berkley Powerbait – their thin profile is great when the run picks up and they sink faster than other plastics.

What to do

Fortunately for us fishers, this jigging thing isn’t rocket science. If you are an accomplished drifter when fishing inshore, you have probably been jigging with your baits for years.

I like to drift and jig, which means watching the sounder and GPS closely, marking good fish shows and working with the wind and tide to get over those spots on each drift. Once on a drift run, drop your jigs in the water. When they hit the bottom give them a few short jigs up, dropping them back down after each jig. You will probably need to let a bit more line out to stay on the bottom. Jig them again and then, once more, make sure your jig is on the bottom. You will probably have to let more and more line out to keep your jig on the bottom, but this is okay as long as you have the line capacity on the reel.

Try to keep your jig on the bottom as long as you can, always watching your sounder. If you spot a few pelagics mid-water, you can always rip it through them as you pass over – this is great technique for mackerel.

You will soon learn what type of jigging action the fish are on that day, because they will respond to what they like. However, this can change hourly, so be ready to vary your action. Don’t go too hard on the jigging because it doesn’t need to be as physical as the deepwater stuff. Gentle jigs and shakes are usually perfect, but be prepared to experiment, as on occasion they do love those plastics bouncing all aver the place.

What to expect

My number one target this time of year is snapper, but I usually mix it up with just about everything that swims on the local reels – coral trout, sweetlip, cod, hussar, stripies and pelagics. When jigging the bottom during the day we have caught black king, Spanish mackerel, tuna and every member of the trevally family. It’s just a lucky dip sometimes and that just makes it all the more exciting!

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