Mechanical Jigging is a relatively new technique introduced to New Zealand from Japan only in the last few years by Chris Wong. Mechanical Jigging is now undergoing a huge surge in popularity due to the extreme effectiveness of Mechanical Jigging at targeting Yellowtail Kingfish. These sections show my introduction to Mechanical Jigging, as well as describing the Mechanical Jigging Technique, and finally how to rig your equipment for Mechanical Jigging
The first time that I witnessed mechanical jigging was in 2007 in front of the Hole In The Rock at Cape Brett in the Bay Of Islands. I was taking a charter that was entered into the Northpower fishing competition and we were bait fishing when a boat came within 20 meters of us, started drifting. The two guys at the stern started doing what appeared to be the most spastic jigging motion I had ever witnessed. I was just thinking to myself "well these guys are no threat to the fish" when the first guys rod loaded up and he was pinned to the gunnels calling to their skipper for a gimbal. I steered in disbelief as we were catching a few snapper and other species - my pulse increased a few seconds later when the second guy hooked up and they slowly drifted away playing the fish for the next 10 minutes. Once they had landed those fish a couple of hundred meters away, back they came and repeated the scene - over and over again. Just so I don't sound total useless here I should mention that we did follow up with a nice snapper in the mid late teens that one the ladies section of the competion.
The second time that I witnessed mechanical jigging was a year later and I had told this story to dozens of people in an attempt to get an understanding of what I had witnessed but was no better enlightened other than they must have been using some super jig. I was parked up on the southern side of the Dog at Brett again this time with a mate who was a speed jigging expert and we were cranking away like fury resigned to the fact that their were just no fish, when another boat turned up 30 meters away. I watched closely as the boat had an MSA number on it meaning that it was another charter boat and the fulla would probably know what he was doing. The first guy dropped his live bait down and the second guy dropped his jig and repeated the same spastic seagull action I had witnessed the year before - crank, crank and wham! He was hooked up - to be followed shortly after by a bust off so as he drifted away and re-tied another jig, we crept into his spot and wound like fury - again to no avail. The other boat starting coming back so we moved out of the road and the guy dropped his livie over, and then the jig - crank, wham! In around 30 - 40 minutes the guy on the first boat with a live-bait had managed 1 kingie, the guy on the jig around half a dozen and had lost around a dozen ($400 worth) jigs. He then left to go home - probably ran out of jigs. I had been watching him intensely over that time and had spoken to him asking him what jig - he said "any - it doesn't matter". What I did take more notice of this time was the motion. He appeared to be pumping the rod up and down and winding one revolution on the reel handle for every pump of the rod. We moved in again and tried to follow what he was doing and would you believe it my mate got one, shortly followed by yours truly hooking up and getting busted - loosing our last jig. A mechanical jigging fanatic was born.
Since then I have learnt that what I had witnessed and was attempting to do is called Mechanical Jigging.My kingfish tally has long since become uncountable. Mechanical Jigging can be so effective that some days it is seems impossible to retrieve the jig to the surface without hooking up. My record drift with my brother in law who works for Top Catch in Whangarei was around 1km on the chart plotter in very light winds and we never missed hooking on a single drop. The fish come big and small and the comment that people make about getting the bigger ones on live bait probably holds true only if your live bait is over 5 pounds, though I suspect that I live-bait of this size just makes it more difficult for the smaller Kingfish to swallow hence catching less and probably you would catch the big one on a Jig but you would have to work through a lot of 20 kilo fish first.
After loosing a lot of jigs and teaching a lot of people how to jig I have now formed some strong opinions on the right and wrong way of doing things.
- Firstly, it is important to start with the right gear, I would suggest a rod rated as a 300, that means it can comfortable handle jigs from 200-400 grams. I would suggest an over-head reel such as Shimano Ocea Jigger or similar. with a retrieve ratio of 4:1 or 5:1 - spool diameter also comes into play of course as it is the combination of spool diameter and retrieve ratio that determines how much line is retrieved per crank of the reel handle. Diameter x 3.14 x ratio = distance retrieved per crank -this obviously reduces as you have less line on the spool like in deeper water.
- It is easier to learn the motion in deeper water say in excess of 50 meters and with a 400 gram jig on your 300 rod. The deeper water is denser and hence creates more resistance against the jig which is transmitted up through the braid and down the rod to you and helps you get a feel for what is happening quicker than starting shallow and light.
- Assuming you are a right hander, take your new 5 foot Jig-Master Power-spell 300 rod or similar and place the handle right up under your left armpit and angle the rod tip out over the boat edge and down towards the water. Your left hand cups the reel on the left side with your first finger on top of the rod in front of the reel, the other 3 fingers under the rod/reel, and your thumb on the spool to stop an overrun when the jig hits the bottom. Ensure your drag is set reasonably firm but not ridiculous - will get to this later.
- Free spool to the bottom with your left thumb on the spool stopping an overrun. Upon touch down immediately put into gear and put your thumb on the left edge of the reel and crank a few turns to pull the jig away from any snags. Stop now and get ready.
- Go slow in the beginning and don't try to keep up with more experienced jiggers around you.
- Ensure your rod tip is low - nearly to the water if the gunnels aren't too high and that the reel handle at this point is at its lowest position.
- Slowly but simultaneously crank half a turn on the reel to the vertical position and raise the rod tip around 2 feet to horizontal or maybe just a little below (this is not what you will be doing when you get better but to begin with you need to get some muscle memory going to achieve the coordination needed to make the action most effective). Do not do this too fast and do not lift to high as the rapid movement will cause the jig to bounce upwards and then when you do the next stage you won't retrieve all of the line so that your next upward movement won't actually move the jig up - coz you will just be retrieving the bounced line from the previous pump-crank.
- Your rod should now be horizontal-ish and the reel handle should be its highest position.
- Simultaneously but slowly crank down to the bottom reel handle position and lower the rod tip back to near the water.
- Repeat the steps 7 -9 over and over again, slowly getting faster and faster but only at a speed that you can manage without breaking coordination.
In the end you will find that you will vary the amount of rod lift dependant on the jig you are using, the rod you are using, and the reel you are using. I would suggest targeting the biggest lift movement that you can manage as long as the downwards retrieve movement can retrieve pretty much all of the line - you don't want to be lifting too high and then only retrieving half that line on your downwards stroke because your next upstroke won't start lifting the jig until you are part of the way through your rod lift. Basically you want to feel resistance through the rod for the whole upwards stroke and then no resistance on the down stroke but timing it so that you don't get slack line on the down stroke. Starting with a heavier jig in deeper water allows you to more easily feel the resistance on the upstroke to know if you have overshot the previous lift. In the end the motion should be fluid and requires little energy or effort - though more is required once you start using the heavier gear in deeper water.
After loosing thousands of dollars worth of jigs I have found the following.
- I tend to use 80lb rainbow braid. Rainbow braid is highly useful as often you can see what depths the Kingfish are at on the sounder and then concentrate your efforts only on fishing this area of the column of water below you rather than wasting effort fishing above or below the Kingfish. This dramatically increases your success rate.
- Onto the end of the braid I like to use around 3 outstretched arm lengths plus a little bit - 20 feet - of 80 pound fluoro-carbon. The fluoro-carbon is expensive and can be substituted with 130 pound mono or heavier but I find the fluoro breaks less probably due to better abrasion resistance qualities.
- The most important thing to remember to do when tying onto the jig is to use some kind of loop protection like a thimble. Otherwise you will consistently get busted at your jig due to the abrasion between the solid ring and your line. Tie onto the solid ring through your loop protection with either triple uni-knot or crimp. NB: thinking you can get away without a loop protector just by feeding your leader though twice is going to be an expensive lesson but try if you must.
- Join the braid to the fluoro with a PR knot. This knot almost never fails. I have tried to make wind-ons and have read and listened to a lot of people but try for the life of me I can't stop the braid breaking above a bimini when I do put the hurt on. I have read and tried wetting the biminis as I pull it up, 70 turns 10 turns, 20 turns, making the first few winds back down over itself, loose, tight - everything but still can't crack a high performance bimini on braid. Myself and the brother in law have been playing with the Aussie/offshore plait for this but haven't got any definite results yet. Their are plenty of people who claim the bimini is fine on braid - but have they actually run a series of tests and tested under shock as well? All I know is that we were loosing a lot of gear until we went back to PR's which are a pain to tie out in the boat in a moderate conditions with others catching fish around you. Having the ability to quickly loop on wind on is the obvious solution but tying the double at the end of the braid to cats-paw (loop to loop and through again) the wind-on to, seems to create a weak point - I guess created by friction either from when the knot is tied or perhaps due to its give under load.
- We used to crank the drags up full and try to stop the kingies taking us to the bottom and wrapping us around a rock. Now we just back the drag off and let them have a little and then once they have slowed increase the drag a little and slowly work them up. The exception to this is when the Bronze Whalers sharks are known to be around and we try to get the Kingfish in as quick as possible. Of course once you have lost one to a shark it generally pays to move or you will just deplete the Kingfish population of your reef by making easy meals of them for the sharks.
At the moment I prefer to use my JM terminator 300 with an Ocea Jigger 4000(5:1 retrieve rate) in water up to 100 meters deep with a 370gm pink and blue Zest Deep Slim as my go-to jig. In deeper water I generally pick up my JM Powerspell 400 with Ocea Jigger 4000P(4:1)retrieve rate and generally either a pink and blue 470gm Zest Deep Slim or an orange jig of some sort. If it is windy and I am drifting fast I immediately go for the heavier rig even in shallower water.