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A beginner's guide to jigging

November 11, 2019
 A beginner's guide to jigging

Mechanical or vertical jigging with metal lures is not a new method of fishing and has been around for many years both in New Zealand and overseas.

However, a number of years back it was re-invented by the Japanese master jig fisherman, Yoichi Mogi, and his methods and techniques have proved to be deadly on most species of fish across the globe.

Many of Mr Mogi’s skills were honed here in New Zealand at places like the Three Kings and the Ranfurly Banks and he is now a regular visitor to our waters.

Jigging should come with a warning as it’s both addictive and an adrenalin rush, however it can be demanding and requires a good basic level of fitness to last a full day on the water.

For those looking to experience this fast-growing method of fishing there are a few things worth noting before you lay down any hard-earned cash.

Specialist gear and tackle is required to get the best results and the days of heavy stand-up rods and big capacity 50 wide reels doubling as a jigging outfit have long gone. Today’s modern gear is super light and very powerful.

Getting started

So where and how does a budding beginner get into jigging? Well, it’s not purchasing all the gear at the local tackle store where most would think. If you were planning on rushing out and buying jigging rods reels and tackle then loading up the boat and heading out to jig up a storm you just might end up being horribly disappointed.

In fact the gear you have just impulsively purchased will more than likely end up on Trademe when the results end in ‘no fish landed’. It’s not that the tackle is inferior, it’s more the way you approached the whole thing.

The single best place to get into jigging is by booking a trip with a recognized jigging charter operator. They can take you to the best jigging spots where you can learn about the correct techniques and they can show you what to look for on your own sounder should you wish to give it a go in your own boat.

You will see how best to release your fish to protect the fishery, the knots and the difference between the jigs, the weights for different situations and drifts - in fact you will see and experience the whole ten yards.

This will be one of the single best investments you will ever make when getting started in jigging, or any form of fishing for that matter. Most good charter operators with have the gear for hire so there is no need to rush out and buy anything just yet for this first-up experience.

Jig reels have narrow spools, loaded with multi-coloured braid, and powerful lever drags like this JG5000 from Catch Fishing

As a bonus you will more than likely hook up with some hard core jiggers as they regularly book trips with the top operators. These guys are more than keen to help you learn the tricks and if you like what you see and experience then you can make an informed decision on how you spend the right money on the right gear.

The gear

As mentioned, once you have made your mind up to get into jigging it’s critical to set yourself up with the right gear.

The cheap and cheerful $299 set simply won’t cut it if you intend targeting hard-fighting kingfish. These monsters will destroy any below- par rig in no time flat.

However, good equipment does not have to break the bank and you can get set up with a rod and reel to do the job for around $800

The reels

The choice of jigging reels is growing every year and the latest overhead jigging reels are now being designed with narrow spools and retrieve ratios between 4.1:1 and 6.2:1.

The reason behind the reels being narrow is three-fold, firstly a dedicated jigging reel spool is designed for braid and it will lay itself more evenly across a narrow section spool than a wide section spool.

Jigs come in different styles weights and colours for different situations.

This is especially important when using correct jigging techniques. Secondly, a narrow spool helps aid and reduce any sideways torque or wobble when cranking the reel and third is the weight factor as they are lighter than a wider spooled reel.

The reel will need to have high drag capacity of between 10-20kg to stop a hard-pulling fish. The drags also need to be smooth throughout their entire range, and this becomes apparent when using braid as only two things on your rig will have give – the rod or the drag on your reel.

When that big one starts to run you want a smooth but controlled fight, a drag that isn’t smooth is going to put the odds with the fish and not the angler. There are two main types of overhead reels especially designed for jigging, the lever drag and the star drag. Both will do the job well and it becomes a personal choice.

The other type of reel which is widely used overseas and is becoming more popular in this country is the spinning reel for those who choose to use spin rods. These are by far the most powerful jigging reels on the market with some putting out a staggering 65lb of drag.

Reels recommended for mechanical jigging in the overhead selection are the Shimano Ocea Jigger 4000p and 5000p, the Trinidad TN40N and TN16N, Torsa 16 and 16N. In the Daiwa a good entry level would be the Saltist 30T then moving up into the top line Saltiga 20, Z30 and Z40, the narrow series Accurates and the new comer Jigging Master PE4 and PE5, other good brands include, Avet, Alutecnos and Fin-Nor.

Catch Fishing have also just released an excellent range of reels that have proven to be very good looking and proven performers at very competitive price points.

For spinning lovers there are entry models like the Shimano Saragosa 8000 through to the top of the range Shimano Stella reels. Daiwa produce their ever powerful Saltiga range starting with the 4000 and moving up to the 6500 Expedition.

The temptation is to purchase the cheapest possible reel to get the job done but you must take into account the conditions you will be using the reel under like depth of water, rod weight class, and the fact that jigging places stresses and wear on a reel like no other method of fishing.

Most reels will have after-market options like drag and handle upgrades all designed to give added performance to the reel and comfort to the angler. A good entry level reel suited to jigging starts at around $399. The price will reflect the quality and performance, but do remember the reel is the engine room of your setup.


If the reel is the engine room then the rod is the chassis of the set-up. As with the reels the jigging rod is a specialized piece of equipment and as such has been designed to jig specific weight groups of jigs within a designated range.

Jigging rod developments are changing all the time and jigging rods can be split into two main camps – the parabolic action rods used in the Taiwanese style of jigging like Xzoga’s and Jigging Master ranges, and the technical jigging rods used for the Japanese style of jigging.

The Japanese style of technical jigging rods have a specialized tip section and mid- sections that offer greater lift and recovery over the totally parabolic action rods. This appears to be the biggest change in recent times and we will see more and more of these high tech Japanese rods here in New Zealand in coming times.

All good rod manufactures should have placed an instruction label on the rod stating a range of jig weights that can comfortably be fished. This will also include the maximum allowable drag setting for the rod. Nearly all maximum drag settings are worked out with the rod being angled at 45 degrees and with the tip of the rod pointed vertically towards the water.

Any angle greater than 45 degrees will see the rod becoming point loaded in what is known as high-sticked. This is where most breakages can occur.

The correct way to hold a kingfish for a photo before releasing it.

It is most important that these labels be adhered to as most rod manufactures will not cover a breakage due to high sticking, plus it is more obvious these days to tell if a rod has been broken due to high sticking.

Most rods will only carry a minimum one year warranty period for faults under the Consumers’ Act. Ask the tackle store owner to place a reel on the rod and thread it up, then put a decent amount pressure on the rod. If it was going to break due to a fault this is the time it will happen and not a year down the track after many fish have been landed.

Things to look for in a jigging rod all start with the top third or tip end. This is the steering wheel of the rod and the portion that imparts the action from the rod to the braid and into the jig.

A tip section that is too stiff will simply not work the jig correctly, it will end up jarring the angler as the vibrations are transmitted back through the blank via the braid. It will also be hard to maintain a good jigging rhythm as the jig will bounce rather than flutter.

A tip section that is too soft simply won’t recover on the upwards motion of the jigging action thus making the jig ineffective and the rod non responsive. One thing to remember is a rod can have all the power in the world but it is wasted if it can’t first impart the correct action into the jig to attract the fish.

The mid and butt section of the rod is your power house. This area provides both lift and the power needed to subdue the fish once hooked. One thing the very best jigging rod manufacturers are now doing is looking at the hurt factor placed on the angler by the rod when under load.

Grips and reel seat position are both critical for all-day comfort and something that can only be found out by using the rod. A butt length that is too long will have you stretching for the reel and foregrip, and visa versa one that is too short will have you bunched and cramped.

Most of today’s modern mechanical jigging rods will range in lengths from 5’ to 5’6” for both spin and overhead configuration. One thing that is for sure, all will vary in price and you get what you pay for.

At the very top of the jigging tree come the elite crop of technical jigging rods, most of these hailing from Japan which are absolutely superb to use but will cost to boot.

Some of the new technical style super jig rods will cater for a far wider range of workable jigs but these rods will be expensive and not aimed at the beginner.

The Top Five Tips

  1. Consider spending your first dollars in jigging on a good quality charter trip that specializes in targeting kingfish.
  2. Have a reasonable level of fitness as this is a physical method of fishing.
  3. When choosing a rod and reel, purchase one that will handle the job and last the distance.
  4. Match your line and jig weights to the rods make’s recommendations.
  5. Watch a good jigging technique tutorial on Youtube.


The new specialised braids are the best lines for mechanical jigging. They have no or very little stretch. Having no stretch allows the angler to staying in touch with the jig and assists in creating a positive hook set.

Braids are now being measured in what is called a PE rating. PE simply stands for Poly – Ethylene which is the base material these braids are produced from.

There is a crude but simple rule of thumb to convert these PE weight classes into pounds. A PE3 braid is roughly equal to 30lb(14kg) breakingstrain, PE4 to 40lb(18kg), PE5 to 50lb(24kg) and so on up the scale.

Most jiggers will choose to use a multi-coloured braid, not because it looks cool but because each section of coloured line is marked off in either 5m or 10m sections. This makes it easy for the angler to work out how much line he or she has deployed when targeting fish at a certain depth.

Be sure when choosing your braid to match the line weight class with the rod maker’s recommendations, which should state the maximum allowable PE rating as well as the best PE range for that particular rod.

Leader material

There are two main options for leader material : mono or fluorocarbon . Both have their own pros and cons; mono is less brittle and generally easier to tie with better knot strength, while fluorocarbon has better invisibility properties in water and is more abrasion resistant. Either way a line of 45kg-plus is recommended and 90kg is not out of the question.

Recommended leader lengths range from 4-7m, this will allow you enough line to cut and re-tie assist hooks or remove any worn or damaged sections without having to re-tie the braid-to-leader knot.

As with all fishing, it is recommended that you replace the leader after each trip. You never know when that trophy fish will strike and it could be the very first fish next time out.
The knot of choice to tie your leader to the braid is the PR knot.

This uses a small thread bobbin to tie the knot and when tied correctly the knot usually offers 100% line weight strength. This knot is very slim which allows it to easily pass through the small guides on all jigging rods. It will also add less bulk when on the reel spool.

The knot from leader to the assist hook solid eye will normally be an improved clinch knot but there are others as good if not better and I will go through all these knots and how to tie them in the next issue.


Since the revolution of mechanical jigging has been introduced into New Zealand we are starting to see jigs of all shapes and sizes appearing in tackle store displays. Like the braid line, the jig weight needs be matched to the rod you intend to use it on. This has several very significant purposes.

Firstly, the rod will have a jig weight range in which it can be safely used which I have already mentioned; secondly, if you choose a jig that is too light or too heavy the rod won’t impart the correct action into the jig.

The range of shapes of jigs available is immense and many have been designed to impart a certain type of action to attract fish. Colours also will range from the bright reflective to dark and even glow colours. Some will come pre-rigged with an assist hook, which should be attached to the top eye of the jig so it hangs towards the middle of the jig.

Jigs to look out for are Zest, Catch, Broken Arrow, Williamson and Jigging Master but there are many more brands available and prices will vary from around $10 to $40 depending on the weight, shape and make.

Assist hooks

As mentioned many jigs will come pre-rigged with a cheapish assist hook to get you started but many jiggers will prefer to remove this and tie their own assist hooks using better quality hooks and better quality cord. This is the piece of tackle that is attached to your leader line via a solid ring and it needs to be robust enough to handle the pressures of big fish.

White Island jigging success

Hooks will range in size, but for kingfish look for the bigger specialised jig hooks of around 9/0 to 11/0 in size. They will generally be straight shanked and have longer beaks on the hook points for extra penetration and holding power during the fight.

If you use a short-pointed hook you run the risk of the hook being flicked out if the pressure on the fish was reduced for some reason.

If tying your own assist hooks use a good quality Kevlar cord like Suffix braided Kevlar or JigStar Kevlar. These cords are available in small packs or spools ranging from10m to 30m. This cord should be at least 45-70kg (100-150lb) breaking strain to be sure it won’t snap or wear through during a fight.

The cord should then be looped to a solid stainless steel eye ring with a stainless split ring of 70kg breaking strain to attach the jig.

Other gear

Other items needed for joining the jigging scene are things like a gimbal belt or gimbal bucket to place the rod butt in after the fish has been properly hooked. A good pair of heavy duty split ring pliers is a must as is a good pair of braid scissors.

You can also dress up the assist hooks with fancy little squid-shaped squirts, and I will show these in more depth in the next issue and the purpose they perform on the assist hook.

While jigging is a physical method of fishing it is by no means age limiting.

It's super exciting so get out there and give it a go.

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