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September 19, 2012

Tough Jigging Rods

Jigging rods pack plenty of a punch in a short package

The first time I laid my hands on a jigging outfit, I admit to feeling a bit sheepish. I was in southwest Florida dropping metal jigs alongside wrecks for groupers and other reef fish. I knew full well there were likely some bruisers around the structures, and I was skeptical of these short, thin spinning rods.

But I was in for quite a surprise. While no ­groupers were caught that day, the amberjack were thick, and time after time, I was simply amazed by the pulling power of these rods. It was the kind of day you’d call an eye-opener.

Finely Tuned Blanks

That was six years ago, and not only did I gain an education on the basics of metal jigging ­techniques (which can be quite a culture shock in and of itself), I had a revelation on modern tackle — basically, it ain’t your daddy’s sport anymore.

Jigging rods have been at the forefront of modern tackle evolution. That’s because deep jigging almost exclusively involves the use of braided lines, which have greatly influenced rod design and function in several capacities.

At first glance, these rods don’t look like much. They’re generally short (6 feet is about the average length) and thin in diameter. Yet, they’re incredibly strong and lightweight. But, more to the point, they’re designed literally to work differently than fishing rods of 20 years ago.

“In the old days of mono fishing, you needed faster, stiffer rods because of mono’s stretch,” explains Robby Gant, senior product manager at Shimano, which pioneered deepwater jigging in the United States in the mid-2000s with its Butterfly tackle system. “But now, you don’t need that extra-fast, super-stiff rod. With these rods, we call it the bendy concept. The rods are really designed to bend down, making it much more comfortable on the angler.”

This “bendy concept” is more formally described as a parabolic (or U-shaped) curve — or in fish-speak, being doubled over! The rod now absorbs all the blows (where mono used to absorb much). And that’s a big reason why the blanks of so many jigging rods today are a composite design.

“We call the blank used on our Van Staal rods a Powerlite Construction,” says Chris Littau, director of saltwater brands at Zebco, parent company of Quantum, Fin-Nor and Van Staal. “It’s a composite of glass and graphite. We’ve figured out how to layer them in such a way to get the most out of the strengths of each material. The glass is extremely strong but very slow in action. The graphite has tremendous action and is really strong, but it’s too brittle on its own, in our opinion. The two combined in the right configuration gives you ultimate power and strength, and gives you the faster actions to work heavy metal jigs all while staying lightweight.”