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January 13, 2014

Fishing with Slow Jigs

Creature jigs are worth a spot in your offshore arsenal.

Be sure to click through all the images in the gallery above.

Put down your jigging rod. Rest your aching arm. It’s time to consider slow jigs. The bean-shaped heads with wavy tentacles from manufacturers like Shimano, C&H Lures and Braid Products catch a variety of species without making you pump your arms into a cramp.

But why try these odd jigs when traditional metals are so successful?

“You don’t have to work them fast because of their design and action,” says Steve Grant, general manager of C&H Lures. “Offshore, sometimes you want to relax a bit. Drop the jig all the way to the bottom, and then make five or six cranks. If there’s no bite, drop the jig again. It’s great for getting those bottomfish.”

The list of species that bite these types of jigs is expansive. On the West Coast, yellowtail, white seabass, lingcod and rockfish all take the squid-looking metals. In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, black sea bass, weakfish, fluke, amberjack, tilefish, snapper and grouper are liable to attack.

C&H Lures’ 2-ounce Alien jig is also a cobia killer on the East Coast, says Grant, who’s based out of Jacksonville, Florida. He should know: The north Florida port is widely recognized as a top ­destination for cobia each summer.

Deliberate Design

One of the first questions that has to be asked is, where did the crazy colors and designs originate?

“The styles came over from Japanese ­commercial fishermen,” says Doug Rusch, a Shimano sales representative in Asbury, New Jersey. “The small hooks on jigs like the Shimano Lucanus were designed for highly pressured species. Sea bass chew on the tentacles of the baits, slowly making their way up the bait — those small hooks are never detected.”

Jigs like the Lucanus, Braid’s Sea Fox and Thumper Squid, Salt Life’s Big Eye Salty, Warbaits Warblade, and Toro Tamer’s Soft Tako all have unique features. But there are definite similarities with each of these slow baits. Each has a heavy head and some sort of skirted body, and many are rigged with a pair of trailing J-hooks. The Warbaits Warblade might be the exception — it incorporates a willow blade and a weed guard.

The color schemes all seem to mimic the Hypercolor T-shirts of the late ’80s that changed color in the sun. The wacky colors and skirts likely mimic squid or octopus. After all, the two cephalopods startle predators by changing colors with their special pigment cells.

“I definitely think the jigs imitate squid in our area,” says Grant. “Even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter, because the fish eat them!”

Rusch thinks it might be something else, at least for the black sea bass that he catches.

“After harvesting sea bass and looking in their stomach,” says Rusch, “I noticed lots of crabs. The colorful jigs imitate the calico crabs that are orange-spotted, and brown-and-orange jigs imitate the darker crabs.”