Introduction to fishing slow-pitch jigs

By Scott MacDonnellNZ Fishing World
Introduction to fishing slow-pitch jigs

If you haven’t tried slow pitch jigging, you should! You will catch more fish, you will have a versatile weapon for deeper conditions and workups, and you will have a great excuse to buy some very stylish new gear.

Slow Pitch Jigs are now available in a huge array of shapes and colours

You'll notice slow-pitch jigs heavily adorning the shelves of most NZ fishing retailers for good reason.

They have been in action for many years now overseas, particularly in Japan where they take their origin, and are now rapidly gaining popularity here.

The impact they have had on the NZ market has been significant, but would be greater if more fishermen appreciated just how well they work and how much fun they are to fish.

These multi-coloured and often randomly shaped lures have proven to be one of the most effective and versatile lures to hit the market in decades. Used correctly, slow-pitch jigs excel on the snapper grounds as well as catching bin loads of kingfish, hapuka, John dory, blue cod and just about any other predatory species.

If you are enjoying fishing with kabura/slider lures, inchikus, or soft baits, you will love fishing slow pitch jigs.  It is a more active, and often more effective lure.  The added benefit is that in a hot bite, perhaps under workups, you will not munch through skirts, small hook rigs, or soft plastic bodies.

The Catch 'Boss' jig is accounting for many good fish such as this west coast snapper

Choosing shapes and colour

There are a massive variety of colour options on the market, and without doubt some will out-fish others on any given day.  We talked about preferred colour with the CEO of Sea Floor Control in Japan, one of the pioneers in the development of slow jigs, and he always starts with silver and changes from there. 

The bands of luminous paint also seem to entice bites as baitfish 'band-up' themselves when under stress.  Other colours that have proven to work well are orange/gold and blue/green.

Shapes are key dictators of the lure's performance.  Narrow bullet shapes dive faster and shimmer more rapidly, making them a good choice for deep water or fast current situations.  I also prefer these shapes when fishing workups as they tend to beat the kahawai and get to the bottom where the big snapper love to eat them.

Fishing in slightly shallower or slow current situations, a flatter more leaf shaped jig will spend more time fluttering about and can make the difference attracting nearby predators. 

These shapes need to be worked a little more slowly, and also retrieved at a smooth, steady pace when winding up to avoid them spinning and twisting your line.  Many shapes feature a keel design that has the express purpose of keeping the lure flat and imparting the correct swimming motion.  Deep keel, deep water.

Slow-pitch jigs generally come in sizes ranging from 60-300g

In fact, in our recent experience if the depth sounder is showing the presence of fish in depths greater than 25 metres, slow-pitch jigs will catch them. 

The ideal depth to fish these jigs is around 40 metres plus, where they flutter quickly into the strike zone and stay there.

Where did slow-pitch jigs come from?

Relatively recently invented in Japan, the slow-pitch jig is generally a leaf shaped, fairly flat lure with one or two assist hooks attached to the top eye point of the lure. 

Widely available from top manufacturers such as Catch, Zest, Daiwa, Shimano as well as various boutique importer/retailers, they vary in weight from around 60– 300 grams, with 100-130 grams being the most popular and versatile sizes.

Deliberately shaped and weighted to slide and flutter in the water as they fall, a slow pitch jig simulates an injured baitfish darting erratically sideways as it is worked in the water column.

What to look for on the sounder when slow-pitch jigging

The sounder showing classic slow pitch targets at 50 metres.  Action here is virtually guaranteed

Slow-pitch jigs work best in water deeper than 30 metres and are especially effective on snapper in water between 40 metres and 60 metres plus.

What gear is needed?

Although not absolutely essential, slow-jig fishing is by far best done with purpose built rods, which tend to be very long and thin with a soft, slow action.

The rod is actually designed to work the lure rather than play the fish, and once a fish is hooked most of the heavy lifting is actually done by the reel and its drag system.  The rod is usually so soft it has a massive parabolic bend, particularly noticeable on decent sized snapper or kingies.

Overhead reels are required, and to give the ideal action and recover line quickly during the working motion, they must also have a retrieve at least 6.3:1 

Good reels are important, especially in the drag department.  All manufacturers now make suitable weapons and you can expect to pay $400 upwards for a reel that is ideal.

Quality makes a difference here. 

Braid lines are a mandatory, usually around 20lb breaking strain with a 2-metre fluorocarbon leader attached using a PR or FG knot.  (Click here for how-to tie knots)

Notice how slow pitch rods feature very minimal butt grip to allow the ultra-slow blank to bend all the way through

How do you fish a slow pitch jig?

Slow pitch jigs must be fished on the drift and a quality sea anchor usually necessary to keep the line close to vertical.

The action used for fishing a slow pitch jig is fairly simple, and requires much less energy than speed jigging.  The lure falling and skittering creates its own action and entices fish to strike just as aggressively.

Release the jig to the bottom allowing it to fall as quickly as it wants to, this imparts the best action.

THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT.  The entire attraction of a slow jig is in its free falling ability where the shape of the lure is able to impart its designated action.  Fish will hit the jig 90% OF THE TIME ON THE DROP or when it pauses between lifts.

Fish on the drift using a good drogue for best results

Assuming the lure is not intercepted on the way down, as soon as it hits the bottom engage the reel and waft the rod tip from a downward pointing, to horizontal position, allowing the tip to flick the jig upwards.  This is a key strike point so be ready. 

Fishing with barbless hooks is a good option when the bite is hot as it allows easy release of fish (either into the bin or back over the side), and they hook up with very little effort.

Occasionally working the lure up several metres from the sea floor with a very slow mechanical jigging motion is a great way to stimulate bites from less active snapper with the added bonus of the odd kingfish.

When setting the hooks it is important to remember that they are comparatively small and razor sharp so there is no need to strike, just apply pressure to the running fish.

The Author with a magnificent snapper on a 120 gram blueblue lure

Once hooked up always keep the rod pointed downward, never lifted more than 45 degrees.  This keeps a good bend and constant pressure on the fish, while the reel does the job of a mini-winch.  Let the fish run freely top avoid pulling the hook, lean back and enjoy the fun.

Here's a detailed video breakdown of how to fish slow pitch jigs with slow-pitch expert Markus Church from Rod and Reel

For top slow-pitch jig advice and equipment talk to the guys at Rod and Reel, Newmarket, who supplied the equipment we used to put together this story.

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