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Tips for vertical jigging

By Staff | Jun 6, 2019

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 1990s 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, which 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 3-12 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.

Mounted to the rod is a lightweight but beefy reel, either spinning or conventional. Because you hold the outfit and actively fish it, small reels light enough to be fished all day are essential. On the other hand, because the line and the quarry are anything but ultra-light, powerful, high-ratio gears and substantial drags are equally essential.

Spinning reels need to be able to handle a great deal of torque and pressure to effectively work the jig. You must be able to retrieve line powerfully and quickly. The same goes for conventional reels. A reel that is light enough to jig with and has a high retrieval rate, but still can take heavy drag, is a must.

Both spinning and conventional reels should be filled with braided line. Braid will cast further, sink in a current better, and let you feel the action of the jig and the immediate strike from a fish. Line sizes from 40-to 80-pound test are standard for tuna.

Fluorocarbon leader material has ultra low visibility, tensile and knot strength, sinks better and is more abrasion-resistant than monofilament. Use a 60- to 80-pound wind-on leader, tied or crimped to a single-hook rig for tuna.

Butterfly jigs can be used with a single- or double-hook rig, attached to the top of the jig, directly to the line. It is a straight pull between the line and the hook. The jig is just swinging free.