You may have heard of slow pitch jigging, or just slow jigging, or even seen slow pitch jigs in your local tackle shops or online and thought, it’s just a modern looking pirk… drop it down, bump it around a bit, catch a fish, how hard can it be?
In reality, slow pitch jigging is a relatively new method of fishing a hard metal lure that at its most optimum uses specifically designed tackle to get the presentation and method just right.
Those innocuous looking lumps of big metal with a few patches of colour on them hide some secrets, with various slow pitch jigs all designed to suit different conditions.
The results on slow days with little tide, perhaps over slack water in particular, can be so impressive, that it is hard to ignore. With seemingly no end of species in UK waters starting fall to them, including some the most consistently big bass and pollack catches, now’s the time to learn this technique.
Now we’ve understood that it isn’t just a fancy metal pirk, what exactly is it? The technique was first established in Japan, where a method to entice fish in deep water to feed, when otherwise uninterested in feeding, was sought. There’s no coincidence when UK slow pitch jigging anglers talk of success over slack water, which is the state when fish on wrecks and reefs tend hand almost immobile in the water. If a fish is not actively hunting, you have to entice it into an instinctive take, you have to tap in to the innate reactions of those fish to stand a chance… which is exactly what slow pitch jigging does.
If you imagine how most lures are used, they imitate an injured fish. The surface lures we ‘walk the dog’ with on a surface to dexters and other metals made to swim with an erratic action.
They are designed to be cast where bait fish are already present, and to stand out as easy prey within them, one worth the chase where the fish has calculated a good probability of success in the energy it will exert to catch it.
When it comes to slow pitch jigging, much lazier fish are being targeted. They don’t want to be chasing an injured fish… but very few predatory fish are going to turn up what they perceive as a free meal, one where next no energy is needed to be exerted to catch it, such as a dying fish that can barely even swim away from the seabed, let alone keep swimming. A predator is going to engulf such prey it stumbles across without a moments hesitation, thus this is what a slow pitch jig looks to imitate.
The design principle behind slow pitch jigs is therefore to flutter, but also fall through the water columns easily. Many weights of slow jig are available to deal with different depths and tidal flows. It’s key to get the balance right to get the action right. You don’t want to go too light and have one that won’t be able to frequently feel the bottom with, and you don’t want one too heavy for the tide that doesn’t flutter upwards when lifted from the seabed.
Yes and no. As we said, if you really wish to optimise your slow pitch jig fishing then there is a world of tackle out there designed specifically for the job, with rods tailored to the weight of the jigs.
Slow pitch jigging rods are usually thin, light and parabolic. This all helps to feel contact with the bottom easily whilst making the smallest of movements to your jig. Too stiff a rod, and that fine level of feel will be lost, hampering how you can make the jig perform.
Likewise, specialist reels exist, usually very narrow high drag multipliers with lever drags for quick adjustments in the fight with a fish, but which offer close control of the line when working the jigs.
You certainly do not need to rush out to buy specialised kit to get going with it though, simply consider the relative qualities of the tackle you already own, and which rod and reel set ups will allow you to keep in constant contact with the jig and play any fish you may hook.
Because you want to stay in constant contact with the jig and received regular feedback, it will come as no surprise that you are best off using braid as your mainline. The zero stretch quality ensures you feel every movement of the jig, whilst the way braid cuts through the tide will ensure that you can stay to as light a jig as possible to maximise the ‘flutter’ effect.
You’ll find that slow pitch jigs come rigged with assist hooks as standard. Do not be tempted to switch these out, as they are designed this way for a good reason – it absolutely maximises your hook up rate, where conventional hooks or trebles may end up poorly presented when the jig is ‘fluttering’. For jigs fitted with a front and rear assist hook, you may wish to consider removing those at the bottom of the jig and leaving only those attached to the the top. This is because, some traditional slow pitch jigs are designed to hook the fish both in the mouth and outside the mouth, along the body. Whilst this may limit the number of lost fish, it’s not greatly conducive to catch and release.
We’ve already spoken of balance, such as making sure the rod matches the jig, but once down there, how do you work it?
There’s no right or wrong way… so long as you achieve the desired movement in the jig, which is to dart up off the bottom before fluttering back down. The more contact you have with the jig through a balanced set up, the easier this will be. In order to get the action, you need to very suddenly load the rod before leaving it to naturally unload.
There’s a couple of favoured ways to do this, one being a short strike of the rod, but we’re talking very small movements, but purposeful strikes, not going through a full arc! Short, sharp, powerful strikes, before letting the jig flutter to the bottom again and repeat. Most fish will take on the drop, you when you go to strike again you’ll find you’ve connected into something more than the jig!
Alternatively, some will prefer to use reel movements to achieve the same effect… At the end of the day, there’s a millions ways to get the same action, you just have to find what is most comfortable to you on the gear you are using.
Whilst it can be done from the shore, that is a slightly different technique and has its own unique challenges. It’s principally a boat fishing technique best done in conditions where you can be vertical over your jig. To start your foray into slow pitch jigging, we’d suggest obtaining a few jigs, pairing to a suitable rod in your armoury and giving it an hour over and either side of slack whenever fishing a reef or wreck which will hold suspended fish during these conditions.
As tides pick up, the jigs are just as effective, but less easy to work and hold less of an advantage over more conventional lure fishing methods. So to gain your first experience, it is most certainly best to start on slack water and build up your feel for it from there. We doubt you’ll look back!