Hello Hookpoint readers, it’s a real privilege to have been asked to contribute to the magazine. If you don’t know me, my name is Ben Bassett and I live and breathe light lure fishing – also known as LRF or Light Game. For my first feature, I want to talk about a style of shore jigging that has been really effective for me recently. It is all about keeping the metal jig, or similar lure, as close to the bottom as possible. This year alone, I have had turbot, bass, mackerel and tub gurnard using the technique.
So hopefully I have caught your interest, let’s get into it.
Shore jigging is just a fancy name for what most anglers would call spinning. It is the simple act of casting out with (usually) metal jigs/spoons and retrieving them in a variety of ways. Almost every sea angler has cast out a Dexter Wedge or spinner in their lives, shore jigging just takes that and expands on it – with addictive consequences! Although shore jigging tends to mean casting larger metals, especially around the Mediterranean, using much lighter jigs from 2-10 grams is my focus and catches me a lot of fish. The technique I’m going to talk about in this article can easily be scaled up to heavier jigs though, so I hope even if you couldn’t imagine fishing ultralight, this may be of use.
‘Bumping bottom’ is not just a way a toddler gets down the stairs, it’s a jigging technique. If you consider how many species hunt on or near the sand or mud, the reason for keeping your lure there is obvious. You can achieve this easily with soft plastic lures like Fiiish Black Minnows or similar but the fluttering action and profile of a metal jig can be hard to beat at times. The technique also requires a little faith that a fish will home in on a piece of metal even when it’s completely still. There is a reason why some of these metals are called ‘slow jigs’ – they have an action that holds them in the strike zone for longer and slowing the retrieve down can be key.
Tackle wise, I use two rods for this technique and it’s very easy to scale these up for heavier jigs. The first rod is for the lighter jigs up to 7 grams. For these I use the Apia Grandage Lite 74 – 7’4’’ of pure tackle tartiness. For the bigger jigs up to 10 grams, I switch over to a Daiwa Gekkabijin ML-T, a longer more powerful rod at 8’3’’.
You don’t need to spend hundreds on the rods (although you will be rewarded if you do), as there are some great lower priced options from HTO and Majorcraft.
Shore jigging rods tend to be tubular and fast actioned. You don’t want the rod tip to fold over or the whole rod to bend as you are working the jig, you need to keep in contact and maintain the feel of how the jig is working. For the light stuff, 2000 sized reels are perfect and I use either 6lb or 12lb breaking strain Majorcraft Dangan braid as my mainline, depending on how big the jigs are that I’m casting. Couple that up with a lighter fluorocarbon leader of 4-6ft. I use 4lb BS for the ultralights and 10lb BS for the 10 gram jigs.
For the jigs themselves, there are so many to choose from. Some of my favourites are the Majorcraft Jigpara range in regular and slim, from 5g up to 10g. Their shore slow jigs in the 10g size are also brilliant. I also have had real success with the Zetz Slow Blatt Cast range, from the very slow and flashy Oval to the Long, again weighing 10g. The Duo Tetra is very effective too, but there are so many out there. What I look for in a metal is a slow flashy fall – you don’t want it to drop like a stone through the water. That action could be a side to side movement like you find on the Majorcraft Jigpara Slims, or a pulsating vertical drop like you find on the Regular shape. Both have their advantages. Colour wise, I feel more confidence with silver, pink or cotton candy paint jobs. I am more trying to get the fish’s attention and the lure doesn’t have to look super natural to tempt them.
Location is everything in sea fishing and you don’t want to be bouncing these lures on a rocky bottom, that’s a quick way to lose a lot of metal! The perfect ground for using this technique would be clean sand, shingle or mud.
If you can find a rock mark that gets you out onto clean ground, all the better and steeply sloping beaches can also be very productive. You don’t want to be too high up from the water though, the closer you can get, the more effective you can work the lure. Keeping in touch with it is vital.
The technique itself is incredibly simple and I’m not doing anything new or fancy here. In fact, fishermen have been doing this or similar for decades, yet I think not a lot of lure anglers try it. I cast the lure as far as possible and let it sink to the bottom. Once the line is slack and I’m satisfied the lure is sitting on the sand, I tighten up. If the fishing is really good you can often get a hit on the first drop, so as the lure is falling through the water column, keep an eye on the braid. If it quickly tightens without input from you, a fish has made your life very easy!
If there isn’t a take straight away, I leave it still for a few seconds – this is in the hope that something nearby may have noticed the commotion and come over to investigate. Now the braid is taut and I’m connected to the jig, I flick the rod tip up sharply, once or twice. This imparts motion to the jig, bringing it off the bottom, I then lower the rod back down to the horizon and feel the lure come back down to the sand again. Once the line goes a little slack as the jig hits the floor, I wait a couple of seconds then repeat. If the water is deep, I give the lure longer pauses between flicks. This is to make sure I’m getting the jig all the way to the bottom before I lift the rod tip again. It is harder to detect when the lure has hit the bottom in deeper water and in strong current, in the shallows though you will feel the thud every time the jig lands on the sand. I repeat the flick and rest pattern all the way to the shore. Try not to neglect the water right below the rod tip, as a predator will often take at the last second.
As I am fishing light, I much prefer calm conditions with little wind and swell for this technique. The surf bass fishing guys will know though, that if you scale this up with heavier jigs and stronger tackle, it can be used in tougher conditions for big hard fighting bass that have come close inshore to feed on disoriented baitfish. Just please be safe. Lure fishing works best when you are closer to the water but that does leave you vulnerable to freak waves and bad weather.
I will finish this introduction to the world of down and dirty shore jigging by giving my quick species guide. This is what has worked for me while targeting these species:
Two of the most obliging species that inhabit our south coast beaches. There are also red and streaked varieties but as I am yet to catch them, I will focus on the two species I have experience of. Both of these colourful, armour plated sea robins are voracious predators. I target them from East Devon beaches or Cornish coves and harbours. The jigs that have worked for me are the Majorcraft Jigpara Regular in 7g and 10g sizes, with the pink glow colour being my favourite. The 5g Savage Gear Jig Minnow in the mackerel colour is another successful metal for me. The most fun I have had, however, has been using the 10g Zetz Slow Blatt Oval in the cotton candy colour. The slow flashy fall really pushes the gurnard’s buttons.
Not a common lure fishing target from the shore yet these fish are aggressive! They fight incredibly well too even when small. I have had the best success from rock marks that jut out onto clean ground in either South Devon or North Cornwall. Lure choices for me are sandeel imitations, with the Zetz Slow Blatt Long in silver being a fine choice. For the tiny turbos, the Majorcraft Jigpara Slim in 5g is perfect. Be prepared for the bite from these, turbos hit like a train!
Sandeels, small flatfish, dragonets and gobies all have one thing in common – they live on or in the sand. They also share the unfortunate position of being food for many pelagic predators. Jigging your lure off the bottom imitates these prey items, so all of the jigs I’ve talked about will often be picked up by bass and mackerel, even when resting on the seafloor. So it’s a technique that can provide superb variety, sometimes even when the classic cast and retrieve is failing to trick the fish.
So hopefully that’s pushed a few buttons and provided some inspiration. So many of the fish we target on big heavy gear can be caught on lighter tackle and with lures. Next time you are at the beach, take a spare rod and let the jigs hit the floor!
You can find more of my writing and blog posts via my Facebook page Ben Bassett Fishing, embedded after this features last image below.
Thanks for reading!