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August 21, 2006

In-Depth Coverage

Work the Entire Water Column with Metal Jigs

Like Pokemon, the current metal-jigging craze started in Japan and spread rapidly around the globe. Anglers from Australia to Africa now maintain collections of small, colorful critters, each with specific personality traits and seemingly magic powers to trick fish into biting. Unlike the Pokemon fad, however, metal jigs, along with specialized rods and reels for fishing them, promise to stay on the angling scene for a long, long time.

The growing popularity of metal jigs stems from their versatility and effectiveness. These lures catch an incredible variety of fish from the bottom of the water column all the way to the top. Anglers who employ appropriate techniques and tackle get the most out of metal jigs in different situations. Starting at the bottom and working our way up, let's examine several likely scenarios.

Bottoming Out
"I'm a fan of fast jigging right out of the gate," says Robby Gant, Shimano's rod product manager. "When we stop at a spot, I work the jig quickly on my first eight or 10 drops."

Using Shimano's Butterfly jigging system, Gant lets a lure drop to the bottom and immediately gets in the game. He lifts the rod tip sharply from the 5 o'clock position to 3 o'clock, quickly drops the rod back to 5 o'clock while taking up slack line and then lifts the tip for the next cycle. "It's a one-to-one relation. I turn the reel handle one crank for each pump of the rod," he says.

The zippy pump-wind-pump technique imparts erratic lure action that often provokes a reaction strike from resident bottomfish such as grouper and snapper. If Gant doesn't get bit after five to 10 pump-wind cycles, he free-spools the jig back to the bottom and starts another retrieve. He says a fast-moving lure draws strikes from any aggressive fish in the area, so he often hooks up while fellow anglers who jig more slowly have no success.

"After I catch a few fish, everybody on the boat starts jigging rapidly. That's
when I usually switch to a slower action because by then we've caught the most aggressive fish," Gant says slyly.

He also shifts to finesse-jigging mode if fast, jumpy lure motion fails to produce any bites after 10 or so drops. In this case, Gant maintains the same one-to-one pump/wind relation but applies a slower rhythm to entice less-active fish into striking. "That's the beauty of jigging," he says. "You can vary the speed without changing lures."

Anglers should change lures according to variables such as depth, current strength and available baitfish. Capt. Antonio Luiz Amaral ( often resorts to heavy metal while plying his home waters off the state of São Paulo, Brazil, for grouper, tuna, yellowtail and amberjack. "At first glance, all those little metal fish look the same, but there are many differences in shape and especially in each jig's weight distribution. For example, I have some 300-gram jigs that are 5 inches long, with most of the weight concentrated near the middle. And I have other 300-gram jigs that measure 12 inches, with the weight evenly distributed from head to tail," he says. "I prefer long, thin ones when fishing depths in excess of 300 feet because they tend to sink quickly and require less effort to jig aggressively."

Amaral typically works long jigs in deep water with quick rod strokes and a fast retrieve, but he usually slows things down when targeting dusky grouper in 150- to 250-foot depths. In these "shallow" conditions he ties on a shorter, wider jig and works it by lifting the rod tip sharply to about the 2 o'clock position. Rather than winding in slack line to maintain the jig's upward motion, he lets it flutter back to the bottom while lowering the rod tip - the lure's shape enhancing the fluttering motion. "Pay attention because most bites come on the drop," Amaral says.

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