Fishing for Trout with Jigs in Lakes

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Video how to jig for trout

Jigging for fish, any fish, is a relatively new technique in New Zealand, yet it has been used overseas for thousands of years. Still, if you told New Zealand fishermen, just 15 or so years ago that bouncing a metal imitation of a fish up and down would catch fish you might have expected some funny looks. Fact is many fishermen still don’t believe it.

As well they might not.

It is my guess that something like 50% of all fishermen who bought jigging lures used them once or twice, and then gave jigging away. To my mind the reason is simple, most fishermen fish where fish are not – it is the prime reason 80% of fishermen catch less than 20% of the fish. Many fishermen buy into a new product or technique in the vain hope that these new things, technology, equipment, and lures, will somehow change their luck – they would be better off investing in lucky charms and rabbits’ feet – and about as effective.

Fishing where fish are not, will result in catching no fish, and so, jigging where fish are not will also result in catching no fish.

So here is the sequence of events that must be followed if you are to successfully catch trout by jigging:

First – Find Trout

Points, drop-offs (steep changes in depth), and reefs are prime holding areas for trout – and this is where you should start your search for trout. A fish-finder or sounder is almost mandatory for jigging. Without it you can spend too much time searching within likely fish-holding areas, before you find them. The fish-finder does not have to be an expensive one. In our lake waters any fish you find that are big enough to ‘make a mark’ on the sounder screen are liable to be trout, so the computing sophistication necessary on saltwater sounders is simply not required. The critical thing to note from the sounder is the depth at which the fish are holding. Trout tend to move up and down very little in the water column over short periods.

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Second – Place Your Jig Where the Fish Are

This is not as difficult as it might appear. There are lines available that have different colours every five metres or so. You can mark off ordinary line every five metres with indelible pen, one mark for the first five metres, two marks for the second five metres and so on. There are reels now available that have line counters on them. You should let your jig down to about a metre below the fish, with the rod tip held just above water level.

Third – Jig Your Jig through the Fish

The jig only needs to be lifted about 15cm (1 foot), then drop the rod tip to just above the water level, allowing the jig to free fall in the water. Repeat. If the jig streams away from the boat at greater than a 45degree angle, because of the drift of the boat, wind in and start again. The more perpendicular the jigs move up and down the better.

And that is pretty much that.

Jigging Tackle

Any light rod of around two metres (7′) will do the trick. The rod should be rated to handle around two-kilo (4lb) to six-kilo (12lb) line, and have a softish tip section. Trout hit jigs quite hard, and without a soft tip to cushion the sudden weight, it is too easy to pull the hook from the soft mouth of a trout, or bust your line.

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You can use spinning reels or bait-casting type reels, but bait-casters are easier to use. To let line out from a spinning reel requires opening the bail-arm, and if a fish hits while the jig is dropping (and jigs mostly get hit on the drop) it is the devil’s own job to close the bail arm and set the hook. But spinning reels do have one advantage, if the drift is quite quick, the jig can be cast downwind and then allowed to sink and given a yo-yo retrieve as the boat drifts down.

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There is now a very large range of jigs available and all of them will work – in the right place. The key to jig selection is to select the right weight to produce a fluttering descent as the jig sinks – and this is relative to the line breaking strain you choose. The heavier the line the heavier the jig required.

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Quick guide to jig weight for line breaking-strain used

Take the line breaking strain in kilos, add a zero, and that is the best jig weight in grams. For example: 4kg line = 40gm jig, 2kg line = 20gm jig.

And getting a bit technical about jig weights, you can fish about 20% above and below the jig weights recommended above. Divide the jig weight recommendation by five and either add it or substract. So a 40 gm jig could be 35 or 45gm, 20gm jig 15 or 25gm. This will allow you to fish in varying conditions and depth.

If the jigs have treble hooks get rid of them. In many places treble or double hooks are banned, and in my view they should be banned everywhere.

If you choose to use treble hooks – where legal, (and I really urge you not to; they do too much damage to fish and fishermen), the first time you get a couple of barbs from a treble hook stuck in a portion of your person will teach you all you need to know about why using them is such a not good idea.

As you sit in the doctors rooms watching him or her slashing and hacking to get the damn thing out, and then charging you the price of a new rod for after-hours attention, say “OK Bish you win, I will never use trebles again.”

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Plastic Fantastic

Jigging with soft-plastic baits on lead-head jigs is very effective.

There are two main techniques to try:

The first is similar to using metal jigs but with one important difference, unlike metal jigs these baits need to be lifted slowly, but like other jigs allowed to free-fall. Put the jig in the water where you can see it and watch how just how slowly you need to lift the rod to get the tail waggling. Then watch how the jig moves as it free-falls.

The second method is to use a short sharp flick of the rod-tip to ‘bounce’ the bait up and down in the water. Give the bait time to free fall, and settle before giving it another bounce. Think along the lines of using a drum-stick to lightly tap a drum. The rod tip does not need to move more than a foot or so. Again, try the technique where you can see the jig and see what works best.

You can use a light spinning rod and reel effectively when using soft plastic baits, very effectively. Cast it out the bait, let it sink then yo-yo it back to the boat, using a lift the rod tip let the jig free-fall, wind the handle a couple of times and repeat.

Regardless of whether you are using a jig or spinning rod, the aim is the mimic the frantic movements of a baitfish attempting to elude a trout.

To repeat, the best way to way to learn how to bring a soft-plastic bait ‘to life’ is to practice with the bait where you can see it.

In New Zealand it is illegal to use any soft-bait, or lure, ‘enhancers’ of any type, either added to, or incorporated into, the lure or bait in freshwater.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>