Jigging Part 2
Let’s focus on the tackle required
In Part 1 I covered the technique of deep water jigging and its benefits, now in Part 2 I’ll detail the tackle we use.
Unlike most other forms of lure fishing the rod is the most important item in the system, without the correct tool for the job everything else is compromised. We prefer rods that have “very fast” actions by this I mean that the tip recovers its straight position very quickly, that does not mean its stiff. Our rods have a powerful butt section with plenty of backbone in the mid section, we’ll need to move 40-50g jig heads in 50’ plus depths, the top 1/3 flexes, this fine “fast tip” has to be of a very high modulus carbon to get the fast recovery. The tip “must” flex with every head shake of a Zander if you are not to loose your prize. You have to understand that most of the fish will only be hooked on the “stinger hook” which means that the weighted jig head will be outside of the mouth, if the rod tip is too stiff the Zander’s head shakes with lever the hook out. Our rods are between 6’ and 7’ depending on method, Vertical Jigging requires short 6’ to 6’6” rods this gives you the ability to get a “sharp snap” action while for casting we prefer a slightly longer rod 6’6” to 7’ rod with a softer tip to “feel” your lure down through the water column.
We prefer fixed spool reels in the 2500 size, you’ll be using very thin braids so this size is about right, a smooth drag is essential, most anglers choose front drag models which are very efficient. James and I have a preference for Shimano reels with “fighting” drags which is peculiar to our fishing technique, I’ll explain. To prevent line slippage we wind the “fighting drag” lever over to the “tight” setting, again remember we’re trying to set the hook into a bony mouthed fish, in deep water, with a very heavily weighted jig hook, as soon as we hook a fish we immediately reduce the drag setting using the “fighting drag” lever. It’s essential the reel balances with your rod as you will be holding it almost all the time and finally the reel should have a fairly fast retrieve to take up any slack line, quickly, after a hook set.
Braided line image
To remain vertical in very deep water, over 50’, while drifting at 0.4 to 0.8 mph requires skinny lines in the region of 0.10 to 0.15mm. At the moment I’m using Nanofil which is incredibly smooth; it slices down through the water quickly “on the drop” and creates less lift as we drift. Choose the smoothest braids you can afford Power Pro Super 8 Slick or Toray Super Eging PE are very good lines that I also use. I prefer bright coloured lines yellow, orange even pink as these help me assess the angle in the line which guides me to the correct jig weight depending on drift speed, also when casting I’m able to gauge the lures path by watching the line, this is essential. Finally I mark my line at 10’ intervals with a waterproof marker pen this provides the ability to fish accurately “off the bottom” for “up in the water” feeding Zander.
There is no doubt in our minds that the use of Fluorocarbon is essential when “vertical” jigging, however we’re both happy to use wire when casting “horizontal” shading. Experience has shown us that Pike are far less attracted to “vertical” jigging and “dropshotting”, whereas casting shads, “horizontal” retrieves, is much more to their liking, so wire is essential in this case.
Experience has also shown us that shallow water, less than 30’, contains a higher ratio of Pike to Zander, so your chance of a “bite offs” here using Fluorocarbon is quite high. By focusing on deeper water you immediately reduce the chances of these “bite offs”, with Zander now far outnumbering the Pike.
So what’s the difference?
When casting, the trace proceeds the lure, the Zander approaches either from the side or behind, so the trace is not visible being farthest from the fish. I’ve caught plenty of Zander using very thin 19 and 49 strand wires in 10lb and 15lb breaking strains. When Jigging the trace is right in the fish’s face and the use of wire definitely puts Zander off. I’m not convinced that wire is visible in such deep water but there’s something about it that Zander and Perch don’t like. Could there be resonance off the wire as it vibrates, due to water drag, or does it kill some of the baits action?
When fishing 30’ or deeper requires sufficient weight to remain in contact with your lure as well as making contact with the bottom. We regularly use 30 to 50g round or football shaped jig heads for jigging and 20g for casting.
Choose baits between 10 to 13cm with long slim bodies, I prefer shads with a “flanking” action, by this I mean they flick from side to side along their body length, while the paddle tail vibrates “on the drop”. Body texture has an effective on the presentation too; we prefer stiff bodied baits for ‘Vertical’ jigging, their stiffness prevents the bait flipping over the leader. When casting shads for a ‘Horizontal’ approach we use supple shads these give more action and add subtlety to the retrieve.
Paddle Tail - Delalande Buster Shad
Fork Tail - Fox Rage Fort Tail
Grub Tail - Delalande Sandra
Paddle tailed shads are very effective their pulsing tail action puts out loads of vibration and attraction, depending on the size and angle, the pitch of the paddle will determine the amount of “lift” the bait has, by lift I mean the resistance through the water which holds the lure up in the water.
Paddle tails with a 90 degree angle are the most popular baits we use. Big tails put out a real thumping action but can create too much lift when drift speeds increase. Smaller, narrower tails track deeper while tails pitched at 45 degrees create less resistance whilst still producing plenty of vibration “on the drop”. Stiff body baits with very narrow wrists to the tail create faster tail actions while supple baits have a twisting tail action. An awareness of these nuances will help you make subtle changes to your presentation and make you more effective.
‘V’ Split tails have no tail action although some posses a flanking body action. The advantage of using Split tails is their ability to maintain depth as drift speeds increase often allowing you to use lighter jig heads than paddle tailed baits.
One thing I like about Split tails is they “swing” on the drop as opposed to paddles that fall vertically this action can be the difference between success and failure on a tough day. In fact the attention to these small details is the attraction of Zander fishing to me and my friends, understanding the effect these small changes make to the presentation means you really are tuned into the method.
Grub tails are baits we only tend to use on our static “dead” rod or on “drop shot” rigs. I won’t diss these baits as we’ve not used them enough, so far, to have any strong opinions.
A word of caution
Sometimes this happens when a fish comes up too fast.
Prick the swim bladder with the hook point to release gas.
You can clearly see the gas bubbles, once released this fish was seen diving towards the bottom on the sounders screen.
Fish can survive serious injuries and continue feeding.
You now know how to catch Zander from deep water, what I want to discuss here is how you should, play, unhook and release them successfully. We all have a responsibility to take care of these fish if it’s to be sustainable and enjoyed in the future.
Once hooked we’ve found it best to hold the rod horizontally while winding slowly keeping constant pressure on, above all do not “pump and wind” as this process seems to adversely effect the Zander.
Fish that have been in deep water for prolonged periods have adjusted to this environment; the gas in their swim bladder will expand as the pressure lessons, it doubles in volume for every 10’ they come up in the water, so you can see the potential for harm is there. Fortunately this process is not immediate so we have a few vital seconds in which to unhook and release fish successfully.
Once unhooked the vast majority of Zander can be released without any intervention, “spearing” them, head first, into the water triggers a reflex which sees them swimming quickly back towards the bottom. As the Zander returns to deep water the recompression of their swim bladder begins and reduces the gasses by half every 10’ as they dive.
Occasionally even though you’ve taken care playing and unhooking your fish some will have their swim bladder inflated in their throat. Spearing these fish back into the water is pointless; it’s like you trying to dive to the bottom of a swimming pool with “armbands attached to our ankles”. What you need to do now is pierce the swim bladder with a hook point or needle, I know this sounds extreme but once deflated the Zander can now swim back to the bottom. Within a few days they will recover and start feeding again, don’t be alarmed fish are nowhere near as sensitive to injury as we are. Over the years I’ve caught many fish, mainly Trout, with injuries that would kill us, such as trailing their intestines outside their body, having escaped an attack by Cormorants or Pike, yet these are feeding fish.
Lastly on very rare occasions you will have a Zander that has no visible signs of gassing up, i.e. swim bladder inflated, and yet once released they pop up on the surface. On inspection their body is inflated, the solution is to “lance” them through the body wall. It’s best to push the “large bore” needle through the body just in front of the anal vent; this avoids hitting any vital organs. These fish can return to their deep water home once deflated. Over the last two seasons James and I, having caught several hundred Zander, have only experienced three fish in this condition, so you can see it’s a very, very rare situation, but as they say “knowledge is power”.
I hope having read this you will be inspired to try this exciting fishing, if you have half as much fun as my friends and I, “then you’re going to have a ball”.
The sun sets on another perfect day.