A phrase you’re going to hear more often in saltwater fishing circles is micro jigging – ultralight jigs and braids to target some of the lesser targeted and caught species available on our coast.
While this can be taken to the extreme, this article is going to focus more on the light jigging than the ultralight. Africa isn’t a place for sissies so going to less than 10lb braid and targeting fish in our conditions will more than likely end in a hard luck tale.
Much has been written over the past few years on vertical jigging and the general minimum tackle is an 8000-size reel spooled up with 50lb braid, but more often than not, it’s a 20000-size reel with braid of more than 80lb strength. What I’ll be discussing in this article will be far lighter, where 30lb and a 5000 is on the heavy side and 15lb to 20lb braid on a 2500- or 4000-size reel is the norm. This is by no means anything new, but it is certainly gaining a bigger following around the world as fish stocks are under more and more pressure.
Many of the fish we catch on light or micro jigs aren’t the most common lure-caught species. Many game fish feed almost exclusively on tiny bait fish, prawns and small squid. They are found deeper down in the water channel, so invariably you can’t actually get a small lure down to them unless you are jigging. Generally, they also tend to be slower movers and aren’t very aggressive. Having said all that, I am by no means implying that these are small fish or weak fighters. You will be pleasantly surprised on what you find down there in the depths.
I’m going to start with the business end of what you need and by that I mean the lures that you will be using. After that we will look at the various rod and reel options that will suit your needs. Many of the jigs we use are available in tackle stores around the country. Because of their versatility, they are often cast and retrieved and are rigged with a hook on the back instead of an assist hook. I’m talking about the spoons that are used for shore fishing for species such as queen mackerel and the many types of kingfish that call our coastline home. We also use them offshore for targeting queen mackerel, small tuna and bonnies for live bait. Generally, they weigh anything from 20g to 60g, topping out at around 100g or just over 3oz.
Williamson lures have a couple of lures that are lethal, both in the cast and retrieve as well as in the jigging scenario. The first is the Williamson Slick Jig. This is a slim, slightly elongated jig that is one of the best queen mackerel spoons I have ever seen if you rig it to be cast and retrieved. It is very stable in the water (it doesn’t spin at high speed) and can be retrieved very quickly, which often triggers more bites. As a jig, its slim profile allows it to sink quickly and it is a perfect sprat and anchovy imitation. So no matter how you intend to use it, it certainly has to be in your tackle box, and its versatility makes it an obvious winner. The Williamson Thunder Jig has a deeper body than the Slick, which means it will give off a lot more flash when retrieved. It needs to be worked slightly slower but is great for attracting fish in slightly off-colour water. The Thunder is available in a number of sizes up to 60g – the heaviest Slick is 40g. Small squid jigs are always winners and on this light tackle, you can’t go heavier than the 50g (2oz) model. Those who have used squid jigs will agree that very few lures account for as many species of fish as the squid jig does. Thin pencil jigs are also great fish catchers, although it is rather difficult to find them less than 100g.
Rigging these lures for jigging is pretty simple if you have access to the right things. First you need to find assist cord in around 100lb to 200lb. Sufix have a great one that comes in 110lb and 180lb for a 5m length and comes with the needle to splice and make your own assist hooks. There are plenty of small jigging hooks on the market to choose from that have price tags to match any budget. The VMC 9260PS is a very good all-rounder and you will use sizes from 2/0 to 6/0, depending on the brands and models you choose. Generally the assist lengths once your hook is tied up is very short (1cm to 5cm) simply because your jigs aren’t very long. I rig them onto a Centro Crane swivel that’s around 200lb (#5 or #7). You need it to be big enough to take the Kevlar cord and a split ring, yet small enough not to be conspicuous. You can also use a small solid ring if you don’t want to use a swivel. A small trick that can yield big rewards is to put a small glow skirt on the assist hook. It increases bites and hook-ups exponentially in many situations and is definitely worth a try.
Leaders also vary greatly depending on the environment you fishing in, but there is no denying the advantage that fluorocarbon gives you when targeting fish on tiny jigs. A general rule of thumb when selecting a leader is go 30% to 50% heavier than the braid. So when using 10lb braid use 15lb fluorocarbon, with 20lb braid use 30lb fluorocarbon and with 30lb braid use 40lb to 45lb fluorocarbon. Knots are crucial when using light line and leaders, so make sure you use a good one such as a PR knot. Knots like Albrights just don’t give you the strength and will almost always end with the angler being the loser. When selecting the braid for jigging, you will most often want a braid that is multi-coloured so you can see the depth your lure is operating at, but in this case, because you only fish in 10m to 35m, the colours make little or no difference as they generally only differ every 10m. Make sure you get a good braid in X8. Cheap braid = heartache later.
The greatest challenge in kitting yourself out for this type of fishing is finding a suitable rod. For your ‘heavy’ 30lb outfit it is simple: you get a Shimano Trevala TVS 70 Medium Light. This rod has proven itself in the harshest environments and is unbeatable in its price range. As you go lighter, so it becomes more difficult, as you are actually looking at heavy freshwater/bass rods. The best choice is either the Shimano Crucial 72 MS or the very impressive Shimano Aerocast 21XH. I have been using the Aerocast range for a few years now and the 7ft (21XH) is a winner for light jigging, as well as being versatile for many other applications.
Reels have many choices, so it’s a case of getting one that suits your budget. On the 30lb outfit, you can go as big as a 5000 reel. Buy the best that you can and you won’t regret it. Shimano’s range is substantial and starts from the top with a Stella SW, Twinpower SW, Saragosa SW, Sustain and Stradic all offering a 5000 size. When you go to a 4000 or 2500, you lose a few models but it will still be available in a Stella, Sustain and Stradic. A 5000 takes a full roll (300m) of 30lb braid, a 4000 takes 300m of 20lb, and a 2500 takes 300m of 15lb – and I would suggest using those breaking strains on those reel sizes. Remember that the breaking strains indicated above are what the reel is generally designed to use. Going lighter often means not using your reel to its full potential, and going heavier can put additional strain on certain of the reel’s components.
Where to try
Right, so now you’re kitted and you’re off to fish. Jigs are rigged and you can’t wait to test it all out but not sure what to expect. Let me put your mind at easy, you will get plenty of bites from a large variety. On the KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique coastline you will encounter many kingies, from the usual suspects like blacktips, bigeyes, greenspots, yellowspots and GTs to the not-so-common goldens, shortfins, threadfins and mirrorfish. Plenty of shad in all sizes will also hound you, especially early in the summer season on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, then some other unusual fish like bonefish, grunter and small kob. When I first started jigging, I thought of them as a fluke but I’ve seen way too many caught on jig for it to be a fluke. And they are suckers for small 40g jigs, especially with that little glow skirt on the assist hook. You will also catch bottom dwellers like jobfish and emperors, and occasionally get properly stretched by tropical and greater amberjacks.
So next time you want to go and seriously enjoy an angling session, try light jigging. I guarantee you will have loads of fun and get plenty of bites.
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