OPEN WATER DRIFT JIGGING TECHNIQUES
Drift jigging in open water is a fishing technique being used by an ever increasing number of anglers as they discover its effectiveness and ease of application. It's a technique tailor-made for open water, fresh or salt, where fish are oriented either to bottom structure or temperature layers. With the aid of a depth sounder, drift jigging allows pinpoint presentation of a spoon or jig within inches of a fish, providing you with a distinct advantage not easily obtainable with other fishing methods.
By using wind or current to change your boat position, in open water drift jigging you will be prospecting different areas until a concentration of fish is located. Then, either by using a motor or oars to hold your position, or by motoring back and repeating the drift, you will be able to stay over them.
Once fish are located, free-spool the jig or spoon to the desired depth and then begin a series of varied jigging motions which impart erratic actions to the lure.
The jigging technique consists of raising your rod anywhere from six inches to six feet, throwing some slack in the line as the rod tip is lowered toward the water, pausing and then raising the rod upward again. A two second pause is recommended after the lure has been allowed to fall. It's best to vary the distance of the upward rod motion with each sweep so the spoon or jig produces the most erratic and varied actions possible.
Strikes which come when working a jig or jigging spoon almost always occur as the lure is falling. Hesitation in the descent of a lure, a twitch of the line, a "tap" or any other unusual motion or happening as the lure is falling should be immediate reason for setting the hook. Many times you will not be able to detect the "strike" but will feel resistance as you begin to raise the rod. This too signals "set the hook".
An aid in detecting strikes when a lure is falling is the use of a premium-quality high-visibility line such as Trilene XT, which also has high knot strength and thin diameter in relation to pound test. By carefully watching the line as the jig or spoon is falling, you will be able to detect slight twitches in the line as the strike occurs.
If you have developed any strikes in a particular column of water, change the location of your boat slightly, either by drifting or motoring so you will constantly be covering new water. It is important to keep moving until fish are located.
A paper chart recorder such as Lowrance's X-15 will provide you with all of the above advantages plus give you a permanent record that you can refer back to. You will be able to chart specific areas, bottom contours and the like, and actually see your lure and fish that are closeby. Schools of baitfish (and sometimes the thermocline layer of water) which are only momentary blips on a flasher unit can be charted.
The beauty of a depth sounder in drift jigging lies in its ability to tell you exactly at what depth the fish are, how many of them there are, whether they are near structure on the bottom or suspended and, above all, it allows you to move with them once they're found and keep your lures within inches of them.
Regardless of whether you're fishing salt or fresh water, you should try to match the size of the jig or jigging spoon as closely as you can to the prevalent baitfish in the area as well as to your tackle.
If using lightweight lures, you'll need lighter tackle -- heavier tackle for jigs and spoons from three to seven ounces. The desired depth also has a great deal to do with your selection of a spoon or jig. For example, you will need a heavier lure for fishing in 100 feet of water than needed for fishing 20-foot depths.
It is advisable to carry several sizes of Krocodiles®, Crippled Herring®, and Cast Champs® so you can match any water and depth condition.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COLOR
The special glo finishes produced by Luhr Jensen are designed specifically for deep water jigging. They contain phosphor pigments that absorb light on the surface and then give it off down deep. Note: Phosphorescent finishes contain light-sensitive pigments which can be burned and turn gray if exposed to strong, direct sunlight.
KROCODILE® -- Versatility best describes this lure which has the reputation for catching all kinds of fish in all kinds of conditions. It can be cast or trolled, and the thicker models make excellent jigging spoons as many bass anglers will attest. The "Kroc" comes in a wide variety of finishes to suit every fishing situation and weighs from 1/6-oz. to 7 ounces for heavy-tackle, deep-water fishing. The Chrome model is available with a white bucktail and also a Red, Green or White Tube Tail for extra jigging appeal.
CRIPPLED HERRING® -- This is the hottest new jigging lure out today. It is natural both in appearance and action and can be used worldwide, every day of the year, for all baitfish-eating gamefish, in fresh and salt water. It is programmed to take advantage of the strong, natural predator instinct common to all game fish, with every movement of any type of distressed baitfish (stunned, struggling or dying) engineered into it. Available in 17 sizes from 1/6-oz. to a whopping 20-oz. model perfect for deep or heavy current conditions. See Luhr-Jensen Tech Bulletin #24 for a complete guide on how to most effectively fish with this lure.
MR. CHAMP® -- Long a favorite casting wobbler, this is an excellent jigging spoon, having an erratic, fluttering action when allowed to free-fall. It comes in nine sizes from 1/10-oz. to 3-oz. and is available in 14 finish variations on Brass, Chrome and even Genuine 24K Gold Plate. Prism-Lite® accents are available on many models. As with the Krocodile®, the Mr. Champ® is also available in Bucktail and Tube Tail models.
PROSPECTING OPEN WATER Fresh and salt water gamefish all relate, in one form or another, to either structure (bottom contours) currents or temperature zones. Here are some tips to make your search pay off in the shortest amount of time when coupled with the use of a depth sounder.
TEMPERATURE / OXYGEN (Fresh Water) -- In large fresh water
lakes and reservoirs, the critical factor in finding fish is the location of the
preferred temperature level, as it relates to different species, and the
thermocline. With the onset of warm spring weather, lakes stratify into three
distinct layers and remain that way until fall. The middle layer of water, where
there is a large concentration of dissolved oxygen, baitfish and therefore
predator fish is called the thermocline and can generally be found from 10 to 80
feet down. This not only is an oxygen-rich layer but also a temperature layer as
well and fish relate to it, both as a comfort zone and an area where their body
metabolism functions efficiently.
TIDE/CURRENTS (Salt Water) — Just as knowledge of
temperature layers is critical for fresh water fishing, a knowledge of tides and
currents is essential for salt water drift jigging success. Feeding activity of
salmon and other salt water gamefish is at its maximum during the period from
one hour before, through and one hour after a tide change. A tide cycle has two
highs and two lows so there are at least two daylight tide change periods to
fish each day which provide optimum conditions. Charting one tide period, we
would have low slack (the time of change), ebb (run out) and back to low slack.
If the tide fluctuation is minimal between high and low, say 3 to 8 feet, fish
will be active throughout the tide cycle along rips, in eddies and many times in
open water. But the period before slack tide, during the slack and just after
will still provide you with top angling as salmon and bottomfish will feed most
actively when they don't have to battle currents. You'll have about three hours
of prime fishing time around each tide change and it's extremely important to
fish these periods intensely. Purchase a tide book for your area and become
familiar with it and schedule your trips, if possible, to coincide with the
SHARP HOOKS PAY OFF
Copyright, 2001 - Brent Gagermeier