There has been a change in LRF this summer, not a seismic one, no grand restructuring of the scheme of things… No, just an expansion of what is possible, fuelled by a new wave of tiny metal jigs from Japan. These jigs have exploded the number of species that a Lerfer can deem possible on metals alone, and that is what this article is about.
Firstly, we must define a ‘metal jig’…
Traditionally called spoons, perks, spinners or wedges, these are lures that are made of metal, can be plain silver or decorated with bright colours or realistic designs. They come fitted with either a treble or single hook, and sometimes both. In Light Rock Fishing (LRF), we are spoilt for choice for ‘metals’ ranging from a half a gram and more. It is the ‘micro’ sizes, ranging from 3 grams and under, that have opened the door to the species hunting possibilities.
When we talk about species that are caught on metal jigs, we think of mackerel, garfish, bass and gurnard, but so many more can be targeted. In the recent Big Lerf Weekender, taking place on the 10th-12th September, we set up a prize category for ‘The Most Species On Hard Lures’. This category would go on to inspire a number of fine catches and a truly remarkable 20 species haul by Cornish LRF wizard, Will Pender. As usual, Will took on the challenge with vigour and absolutely demolished our expectations. His Cornish ally, Josh Fletcher, pushed him too and had a remarkable catch himself, a black bream on a metal vibe lure!
But before I get on to the other species that were caught, the jigs themselves have to be talked about.
The metals that have really changed the game are the new Majorcraft Nano Aji range. I have reviewed these recently on my blog which you can find right here. Although these tiny oval jigs, complete with beautifully tied assist hook, have been the catalyst, there are plenty more out there. Thanks to the DIY ordering of a few entrepreneurial Lerfers, we have a broad range of Japanese micro jigs to fish with. These include the Jackall Nano Drop, Rudies Super Light Slow Jig, Majorcraft Jigpara Micro, Palms Miniature Dax, Xesta Afterburners, Magbite Bladed Jigs, BlueBlue Searide Minis, Zeake Micros and many more. That’s without looking closer to home with the HTO Tic Tac or even miniature Dexter Wedges. All of the above can be found in sizes 3 grams and under.
To fish these micro jigs, I recommend a rod with a casting range of no more than 5 grams. Unlike with heavier jigs, I actually think a solid tipped rod is beneficial with the ultra lightweight sizes. The solid tipped models don’t tend to flick the jig too much which would make the action too erratic for fish to catch; instead, they cushion and absorb the movements, helping them appear more subtle. A 1000-2000 sized reel loaded with fine braid or Ester line is essential, the smaller sized reel helps maintain the slower retrieve and the ultrafine line enables you to punch out even tiny jigs a good distance.
With great jigs and balanced tackle, come great captures and more than the typical species. The first worth discussing are the couches bream. These pink and blue seabream appear to be increasing in number around our coasts, and that has meant that smaller bream are more and more targetable on LRF tackle. What is fantastic about this species is that they are aggressive! If you can find a location that they are found with any regularity, then you can target them on micro metals. I caught mine recently by casting a 1.5g Majorcraft Jigpara Micro Regular in Zebra Glow colour, into a feeding shoal. I let it sink to the sandy bottom, then flicked it up and let it fall back down and repeated. The take came at the end of the retrieve and the fight from such a small fish was electric! I recommend small, fluttery jigs for this species and the larger specimens will take heavier jigs too.
Going from the tropical to the more typical UK LRF species, the gobies. In our seas we have many species and at least four could be reasonably targeted on metals. I have caught giant and rock gobies on Majorcraft Nano Aji Jigs in 0.6 and 1.5g, plus the 1.5g Jackall Nano Drop. The easiest way to target these is to treat the jigs like they are a scented soft plastic, fished slowly, sometimes static, with tiny lifts and twitches just off the bottom. The gobies will often attack the assist hook, making striking easy. On ultralight tackle, these spirited fish are a fun target and often bite when nothing else will.
Talking of gobies, we can’t leave out the blennies. During the Big Lerf Weekender, there were multiple captures of common blennies and the larger tompot variety on metals. These comb-toothed fish are famously aggressive and can be tempted using the same technique as described for the gobies. The Nano-Aji lures seem to be the go to for these fish. Whilst targeting gobies and blennies, another species you may find is the long spined sea scorpion. These scorps are even more likely to take a shiny piece of metal, I would recommend the ultralight 0.6g sizes for these fantastic looking beasts.
The flounder is an incredibly popular flatfish species, being widespread and relatively simple to catch. Which makes them an ideal candidate for experimentation. We all know how flounder love to chase and follow a baited spoon, well, as proven by Will Pender, they can be taken on unbaited metals too. Sight fishing would be my recommendation, with flounder being somewhat unfazed under the light of a head torch. Using an ultralight jig like you would a soft plastic, twitched around the head of the flatfish to provoke the strike!
If flatfish aren’t in your area, then how about the various wrasse species? Ballan wrasse are well known to snap at metal jigs but even corkwing and goldsinny will too. You have to pick your venues carefully, as we know wrasse love a snag, but on the right ground it can be exceptional sport. Like the flounder, sight fishing may be the best bet, watching the bold wrasse chase your jig down in shallow water is guaranteed to get the heart pumping! Just don’t forget to stop, wrasse almost always take when the lure is stationary.
Herring, pilchards, sand smelt and even anchovies are small pelagic predators. Being so active and aggressive, even in the colder months, means they can make for exceptional winter fun on metals. Not traditionally targeted unless for bait, these species are fantastic for the species hunter and the larger herring can be genuine sporting targets – leaping clear of the water to shake the hook! My tip would be to fish near artificial light, working the shadow line and back eddies formed by the tide. In these areas, small predators will lurk. Small fluttery metals with quality assist hooks will tempt most of these.
There are so many to target and personally, I’m on 18 species caught on metals so far this year. Although that’s a total I’m proud of, the Big Lerf Weekender metal total really showed what’s possible. All in all, anglers across the UK in salt and freshwater, caught 29 species on metals and hard lures! Here’s the (rather impressive) list:
Rock goby, black goby, giant goby, pollock, tub gurnard, mackerel, garfish, bass, long spined sea scorpion, flounder, scad, lesser weever, tompot blenny, common blenny, thick lipped mullet, goldsinny wrasse, sand smelt, corkwing wrasse, ballan wrasse, gudgeon, minnow, turbot, brown trout, salmon, black bream, twaite shad, lesser sandeel, perch and coalfish.
Thank you to everyone who got involved during The Big Lerf Weekender, we will be doing it again so keep a look out for that. In the meantime I hope that this article has whet your appetite. As we go into the colder months, micro jigging remains a solid way to keep active and catching as the temperature drops. As always, thank you for reading.