Expert Insights on Slow Pitch Jigging: The Art of Falling

“Slow pitch jigging,” often described as the art of falling, is a fishing technique that replicates the motion of wounded bait, relying on enticing descending actions to attract predatory fish. If you’ve experienced slow pitch jigging (SPJ) firsthand, you understand the thrill of creating the perfect fall and the exhilaration of a strike.

SPJ has gained prominence in the fishing community, sparking discussions, participation, and successful catches. Its popularity in New Zealand can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, SPJ offers versatility in targeting a wide variety of species including snapper, kingfish, kahawai, gurnard, blue cod, trevally, john dory, gold snapper, hapuka, bass, blue nose, and even tuna. Secondly, its leisurely pace makes it accessible to anglers of all skill levels, ensuring prolonged fishing enjoyment. Thirdly, the diverse range of actions achievable with SPJ keeps anglers engaged, continuously experimenting to discover the most effective techniques. Lastly, SPJ equipment is versatile; SPJ rods can accommodate other lure types such as kabura and inchiku, and SPJ jigs can be mechanically jigged, making it a multifunctional investment.

Understanding the method is essential for maximizing success and enjoyment in SPJ. In this article, I’ll cover the basics of SPJ, including its concept, gear, techniques, and optimal fishing locations.

Concept: SPJ originated in Japan over decades ago when anglers sought ways to target demersal species using metal jigs. By observing fish behaviour, they discovered that slow falling actions were more enticing than the rapid movements associated with conventional speed jigging. Mimicking the motion of wounded or dying bait, SPJ lures effectively attract predatory species.

Gear: For targeting bottom-dwelling and reef fish, as well as kingfish in depths of 30m-60m, a typical setup includes a small to medium-sized overhead reel (e.g., Daiwa 10/15, Shimano 1000/1500) paired with a 6’2” to 6’4” specialized SPJ rod featuring a responsive tip. Utilizing PE1.5-2.0 braid and a 30-40lb fluorocarbon leader, anglers employ 100g-250g SPJ jigs fitted with two sets of twin assist hooks. Adjustments can be made for heavier tackle when targeting kingfish or fishing in reef areas. Traditional SPJ rods offer exceptional sensitivity and superior jig actions, yet their lightweight construction requires anglers to adopt a unique fighting style to prevent rod breakage. Alternatively, “power” SPJ rods like the Elementus Slow Pitch Game or Slow Element cater to Kiwi anglers preferring a conventional fighting technique. Various SPJ rods and jigs are available to suit individual preferences and fishing conditions, including specialized options for deepwater jigging.

Techniques: Slow pitch jigging involves mastering a range of techniques to create lifelike movements that entice fish to strike. Understanding these techniques and when to employ them can significantly improve your success rate in SPJ.

Lift, Wind, and Follow: This sequence exemplifies the core technique of SPJ. Begin by steadily raising the rod while half-winding the reel. As you lift and wind, the jig ascends through the water column. Subsequently, gradually follow the slack line by lowering the rod tip down until you feel the weight of the jig. When raising the rod, the jig ascends and moves horizontally as intended, then descends in a fluttering motion as you lower the rod, simulating the erratic movements of injured prey. Diligently observe the slack line while lowering the rod and promptly strike upon feeling a bite or unexpected absence of jig weight.

Lift and Follow: In contrast to the previous technique, “lift and follow” focuses solely on rod movement without reel retrieval. Lift the rod upwards in a controlled motion, creating a gradual ascent for the jig. By following the slack line with the rod tip, allow the jig to flutter down, targeting a specific depth range. This technique is effective for targeting fish in a particular water column.

Wind and Pause: This technique emphasizes reel action over rod movement. Keep the rod horizontal to the sea surface and engage the reel to retrieve line steadily. After each rotation of the reel handle, pause briefly to allow the jig to flutter and descend in short, enticing movements. The intermittent pauses mimic the behaviour of hovering and wounded bait. Experiment with varying the duration of pauses to find the rhythm that yields the best results.

Combination Techniques: Experienced SPJ anglers often blend elements of the above techniques to create customized jigging actions tailored to prevailing conditions and fish preferences. For instance, alternating between “lift, wind, and follow” and “wind and pause” can produce erratic movements that mimic distressed baitfish behaviour, enticing strikes from nearby predators.

Speed Jigging Variation: While traditional slow pitch jigging focuses on falling actions, anglers can incorporate elements of speed jigging for added versatility. By employing faster retrieval speeds interspersed with brief pauses, anglers can provoke reflex strikes from aggressive predators. This variation in jigging speed and cadence can be particularly effective in stimulating feeding responses from species such as kingfish and tuna, known for their voracious feeding habits.

Experimentation and adaptation are key to mastering SPJ techniques. By understanding the behaviour of targeted species and adjusting your jigging style accordingly, you can increase your chances of success and fully appreciate the artistry of slow pitch jigging.

Where to Fish: SPJ is effective in waters at least 30 meters deep, particularly around reef areas, pins (seamounts), and other bottom structures where baitfish tend to gather. These locations provide natural cover and habitat for various fish species that SPJ targets.

Additionally, SPJ can also be successful in open areas without significant underwater structures. In such environments, the technique relies on attracting fish from a distance using the jig’s fluttering actions. This method can be particularly effective for pelagic species that roam open waters.

In summary, whether near reef structures or in open waters, SPJ offers versatility in attracting and enticing fish, making it a favoured technique for anglers targeting a wide range of species in varying marine environments.

Author: Kaz Otsubo, Owner/Operator at Ocean’s Legacy New Zealand – Saltwater Lure Fishing & Slow Pitch Jigging Specialist

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