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Tips on butterfly jigging, Part I

By Staff | May 9, 2013

Vertical jigging has been around for quite some time. With the advent of the butterfly jig, braided line and high torque, high retrieval rate reels, this technique has gained widespread popularity in the last five years or so. Butterfly jigs have been exploding on the market as of late for their ability to force strikes from finicky fish. You get a purely reaction bite out of fish, not a feeding bite.

So just what are butterfly jigs and the technique called butterfly jigging? Butterfly jigs get their name because of their butterfly-like fluttering action when jigging. Butterfly jigs were created in Japan in the early ’90s and were fished at depths down to 500 feet for bluefin tuna.

Not only is it effective for catching bottom fish like snapper, vertical jigging can also be most effective when targeting big game pelagic species such as ono and tuna. There are several factors to consider if you want to target tuna with the vertical jigging technique.

Butterfly jigs are heavy, with very radical cuts and very sharp edges that allow the jig to move in a very erratic motion that literally cuts through the water. It doesn’t glide – it cuts on the way up and down.

Vertical and butterfly jigs come in a variety of shapes, sizes from three to 12 inches, and range in weight from two-ounce butterfly jigs to over nine-inch jigs. Colors offered for butterfly jigs are widespread and include an array of solid and blended colored jigs.

For a surface feeding fish – like large schools of yellowfin tuna – a small jig is recommended. Because the fish are in the upper water column, it is not as important to worry about the current’s effect on the jig. Try to mimic what the tuna are currently feeding on when choosing your jig’s size, shape and color.

The heart of the system consists of a short, lightweight parabolic rod six to seven feet in length with a medium-fast tip and a stout backbone. Rods for this type of fishing are rated for the size of the jig that will be used. You need a rod with a long rear grip that allows you to put the rod under your arm, so you can achieve a jigging motion.

Rods with a parabolic bend are preferred for big tuna, as the workload will be better distributed through the rod, causing less stress on the angler. The shorter the rod, the easier it is to gain leverage on a large fish while standing. When choosing a jigging rod, be sure to consider the type of guides it is built with. Cheap guides are not made to withstand the cutting power of the braided lines you will use.