One of the latest styles to hit the fishing scene is micro jigging. It allows anglers to gain easy access to a wide variety of fish species at different stages of the water column.
Vertical jigs are the oldest artificial fishing lure, with crude examples unearthed from the bronze age that date back to around 300-600BC. Micro jigs are simply smaller versions of the big vertical jigs used to target amberjack, kingfish and dogtooth tuna in the wide depths of the world’s oceans.
Micro jigs or small vertical jigs, along with their associated gear, are at the cutting edge of technology and design and are making their presence felt on the Australian jigging scene.
There is a common misconception about jigging in Australia as many people, including a lot of high profile writers and TV hosts, refer to vertical jigs as knife jigs. This is simply not the case. Smith originally released the Jackknife, which was followed by Surecatch’s Knife, and along with their general shape you can see where this misconception comes from.
For those who may not be familiar with jigging or micro jigging the method can get quite technical, but here’s how it works.
A metal vertical jig with a free swinging hook is dropped beneath the boat and retrieved with a rhythmic motion that creates a vertical walk-the-dog action that is irresistible to a wide variety of species. Micro jigs, being downsized versions and this being a typical vertical jig retrieve, can also be downsized or refined to the basic essence of the retrieve to suit these smaller jigging scenarios.
Micro jigs can be retrieved by a method referred to as ‘mechanical jigging’. This consists of dropping and raising the rod tip quickly as the line is being retrieved giving the jig an erratic fish-attracting action. This method works well for pelagic and schooling species suspended in the water column.
By slightly altering the technique, micro jigging has also attracted far more random and odd bottom dwelling species. These reef dwellers like a slower series of jigs that impart a similar action but only moves the jig in the vicinity of the bottom. In this method a series three to four flicks of the rod tip get the jig to dart erratically but is then stopped and lowered back to the bottom keeping contact with the jig. This is very similar to the way a soft plastic is worked.
Most jigs look long and skinny with one side having a larger profile. They are designed to have the centre of gravity either at the top, bottom or in the middle of the jig. These weight positions, in conjunction with body shape, add to the sink rates and the way the jig will glide or flutter.
Jigs that have weight in the top and bottom will tend to sink straight down and are most commonly retrieved with a bit more speed and have a tighter upward zigzag action. Jigs that are centre weighted tend to flutter on the sink and will have a wider action when worked at a slower more methodical retrieve.
Then there are jigs that throw asymmetrical designs into the mix of centre and bottom weighted configurations that add glide to the equation. These jigs usually have one side that is convex and one side that is flat or sometimes slightly concave and, when retrieved with a slower rhythmical motion, these jigs have the widest zigzag action out of all the designs.
On the sink, jigs tend to glide off or get a wide circular spiral happening, which helps dictate where and when these different styles should be used. The latter has by far the most erratic action but can take longer to sink and it’s usually not straight down, and when trying to drop a micro jig on a small wreck in deep water it may not be as practical as the rear weighted designs.
A perfect storm of gear allowed micro jigging to reach its full potential with a combination of Japanese designed jigs, parabolic rods, spin reels with heavy-duty gearing and quality drag systems and no-stretch braided lines. Each of these elements makes an indispensable contribution to the system.
After the jigs the next piece of equipment that is crucial to the success of micro jigging is a specialised rod built for this purpose. A quality spin rod around 5-6’ with purpose-built specifications according to line class and jig size is essential to snap the jig and get the most out of the jig’s action.
Spinning gear is the preferred choice for the smallest of the micro jigs. Those that range from 20-90g are ideal, as light weights can have a unrestricted descent from a spinning reel as opposed to a overhead reel that creates friction or resistance and can impede the rate of descent in deep water. I often jig with a good mate who prefers a small dedicated overhead jigging combo, which is fine for jigs 100-150g, but he simply can’t get the micro jigs to bottom at the same rate I can with the spin gear.
The rod needs to be built from high modulus graphite. This gives the snap or quick return to its original position after the rod is loaded with the weight of the jig and has a slow taper.
The taper is the total opposite of most of the spin rods on the Australian market, which are fast tapered and load in the tip section first before spreading down into the butt section. The slow taper of the jig rod is thanks to its parabolic curve, which means it spreads the load equally through the rod and has one even curve from tip to butt. It is this curve that has the most influence on the action of the jig and allows the jig to be worked with less effort on the angler’s behalf. This becomes more relevant when doing serious deep water jigging and trying to work a jig that weighs 300g or more for extended periods of time.
Two of the rods getting a name for themselves in the micro jigging circles are Golden Mean Sabel Dance and Evergreen Poseidon Spin Jerker L-5. Both of these rods are built to work the smallest of jigs up to around 120g.
Next in line is the reel component of the system. The slightly aggressive style of retrieve placed on the reel, especially with some of the faster techniques, it needs to able to handle the rigours of jigging.
The reel size that matches up nicely to the rods mentioned earlier is in the 4000 size bracket. When spooled with 12-20lb can carry between 250-300m of quality braided line.
When selecting a reel for this purpose you need to think about what’s going on inside the reel during the jigging process. The gears need to be able go through the motions with minimal wear or damage to meshing parts. It’s hard to go past Shimano and the advances they have added to their reels over the past few years. Advances like X-Ship that give the pinion gear support at both ends by S-ARB bearings, along with a bigger drive gear, increases the gears efficiency and power. High durability gears, like Paladin and HD gears, have increased strength and longevity from cold forged aluminium and have hardened brass pinion gears incorporated into the system resulting in stronger, smoother running gear systems.
Reels to consider would be the Stradic 4000FJ, Biomaster 4000FB and, if you want to go all out, the Stella 4000FG would worth a look.
For a look at any of the gear mentioned and for more information check out any reputable tackle store.
Examples of micro jigs ranging from 20-60g.
Ethan Farrell with a GT jigged from a wreck with 20lb overhead gear.
Micro jigging the Hinchinbrook Channel accounted for a lot of excellent specimens, like this fingermark.