Tips for Fishing on a Free-Drifting Boat



Even though staying vertical with the jig is an essential factor for slow pitch jigging, I understand it’s hardly available in many places around the world. Especially when you don’t have a boat and charter a free-drifting fishing boat. Even if you have a boat with sea-anchor, sometimes the combination of wind and current makes it very hard to stay vertical.

Here are some tips for fishing on a free-drifting boat.

Use heavier jig

The jig weight can pull down the line and reduce the line slack. Something from 180g to 300g would probably make it possible to fish at 50m deep. You should pay attention and choose the jig weight according to the amount of water influence which is constantly changing.

Use appropriate jigs

fact3Some jigs are fast to fall and some are slow. Basically all the slow pitch jigs are slow to fall as slow fall does attract fish bites. But under a lot of water influence, the line is constantly trying to pull up the jig. You’d want the fast-falling slow pitch jigs.
In Seafloor Control jigs, Spunky and Cranky are the first choice. If you want over 300g range, Gawky has it. But not Rector, which is so versatile and effective, but is too slow to fall.

Use light line

The heavier the line is, the more water it catches.
I would recommend PE1.0 or 1.2, at least PE1.5 for normal slow pitch approach from a free-drifting. If you want to use heavier line, you should be ready to switch to fast retrieve tactic. Hi-speed jigging does take out the line slack and move the jig at least.

Rod actions

free-driftingIt depends on the wind and the current, but free-drifting usually doesn’t stay vertical with the jig. The line catches a lot of current, and the boat catches a lot of wind. The line goes diagonally into the water as shown in the picture.

There is a lot of line slack in the water. You don’t have direct control of the jig. All your small actions will be canceled by the water. You want to make big actions, as big as possible, so that you can move the jig somehow down below, and the hydrodynamics makes it perform movements and attract fish.

You want to jerk your rod sideways, like “A” in the picture, in a extension of the straight line of your line in the water. If you jerk your rod upward like “B”, the line you actually move is less. And you want to bring your rod down to point to the line in the water for the maximum fall actions. You can’t expect your slow pitch rod to kick back against all the water pulling down your line, so the falling is your only chance.

Watch closely the movement of the line when you bring down the rod and untension the line. Is your jig falling? Or is it the water pushing away your line? If you see that the line is influenced by the water, not by the jig, you may want to switch to a heavier jig.

You don’t want to retrieve much during this action. Even if you don’t reel at all, with the wind pushing the boat and the current pulling the line, your jig is being hung and pulled upward every second. You don’t have to reel. Maybe 1/4 crank per pitch.

Long fall jigging rod usually doesn’t have advantages in this case. Because it’s long, a lot of times it’s hard to jerk sideways on the boat. Because it’s long, it bends deeper and can’t kick back against the water pulling down the line. You can’t make big actions after all.

I hope you find this article informative and helpful to you!

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  1. Ben W
    Ben W09-22-2014

    Hi Totos,

    On the east coast of Australia here, this is something that we must balance almost everytime we send a jig out. One curious observation I have made is that a little bit of line tension on the initial drop can actually help stay vertical, which goes against the instinct to drop it without tension so it sinks as quick as possible. I imagine that tension helps the line cut through the vertical current, rather than the current happily running away with your line. Without tension (or concentration), it also means that the belly of line is sometimes so long, that your jig will lay flat on the seafloor and by the time you realise its there, the first pitch results in almost horizontal jig movement = snag = tears. Anyway, not an easy one to solve. Thanks for the discussion.

    • Totos

      Hi Ben.
      Thank you very much for pointing out the topic. It’s indeed a discussion.
      Ocea Jigger has a feature called mechanical brake. It controls the speed (the tension) of free spool drop. Sato Sensei and other experts love to have this feature. Because, they say, there’s a lot happening on the drop. There are so much information you can collect. In order to do that, you need to put on a little tension.
      Now I probably know half of what they are talking about. But I do put on a little tension too. If it slows down the drop too much in the current, I would put on a heavier jig or change to thinner line. But I still do put on a little tension. How much tension? Experience counts there. And the balance among jig weight, line size, and the tension do make a difference for experienced jiggers who always catch one fish more than anyone else.

      • Samuel

        Hi Totos,
        In Israel we have mostly a quiet current, so when I am free drifting on a wreck or reef, most of the time, like Ben, I send the jig out. It is efficient at least for one lift (max 50m). Flotting anchor and send the jig out are the best solution here to stay vertical the maximum time. I had the pleasure of jigging in a sea without current and wind, (It can happen here few days per year) I felt like I was really playing slow pitch…but never caught a fish in that condition!

        • Totos

          Hi Samuel.
          I know what you are saying. No wind, no current. Perfect day to fish. For humans, that is. Often it’s too perfect for the fish to chase anything.

  2. Raphael

    Hi Totos,

    I’m often going fishing on my friends boat and sometimes we face this problem.
    What is it exactly to control the drift? How do you do it? I understand how to do it when the drift is mostly due to the wind. But how to control the drift when only the current is pulling your jig away (for example during spring tide)? Should we just follow the jig while it’s falling (anytime we see an angle in the line position the boat in order to have vertical line again? If the current is strong enough this can lead to drift against the wind sometimes, only with the engines)?

    Please let me know as I’ve seen to many of these days and I’d love to find a solution for that.



    • Totos

      Hi Raph.
      That is exactly the problem they tried to solve when Japanese fishermen came up with spanker sail. If you don’t do anything, the wind wants to push the side of the boat. But the boat only can go forward or aft. The spanker sail keeps the boat toward the wind, making it easy for the captain to stay with the current.
      Of course there are more to it. I don’t know exactly but good captains do make a difference in various conditions.

      I don’t know how to advise you Raph. Maybe you should come to Okinawa and fish with me? I will show you how the captain drift with the spanker.

      • Raphael


        I’d love that… I’m definitely planning to visit japan one day… I’ll let you know when.

        • Totos

          Hi Raphael.
          Yes. Looking forward to it!

  3. Jeff Wyman
    Jeff Wyman02-19-2018

    I am located in southeast Florida. The ocean currents at 200 feet depth are very strong. I have just ordered a second setup for up to 450 grams. My question is, when I fish inshore in the Intracoastal waterway at depths of 10 to 20 feet can slow pitch jigging be used?

    • Totos

      Hi Jeff.
      Slow pitch jigging is a vertical game. In the shallow waters less than 30m (100ft) deep, a diagonal game should work better.
      Try micro jigging with a small tungsten jig, it’s fun.

  4. SPJ

    Hi Totos,

    Can you illustrate with photos what is a spankered boat ? I presume there is a small sail raised to capture the wind so that the boat will drift in the same direction as the current ? Is it possible wind and current move in opposite direction ?

    I am really curious about spankering a boat. I have a boat licence but I don’t come across this term.

    Thank you.

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