Setting up the Slow-Pitch Jigging
Let’s talk about how you set up your slow pitch tackle.
Overhead reels, or conventional reels, are best for Slow Pitch Jigging. Shimano’s Ocea Jigger 2000NR-HG has always been the favorite for Slow Pitch Jiggers. But the reel doesn’t have to be a specific one to get slow pitch going. Any overhead reel would do if it holds about 400m of line. And the maximum speed of 90cm retrieve per crank or more would be desirable. (About 75cm speed at the depth you are fishing.)
Why overhead reel?
- Because the overhead provides more information to anglers. The spinning reel generates greater momentum in the reeling rotation. The momentum makes it easy to retrieve fast and strong, but on the other hand, the centrifugal rotation is too loud for anglers to pick up subtle information from the line. The overhead has the axis of the rotation perpendicular to the line, getting anglers linked more directly with the line.
- Because the overhead tells you right when you touch the bottom. One of the main reasons you get snagged is to let the jig sit on the bottom. At the moment the jig touches the ground, the hook is still hanging in the water. if you can get it up right away you are less likely to get snagged.
- Because you can control the drop-down. A lot of times you get bites right when you touch the bottom with this kind of jigs. A lot of bottom fish is watching your jig falling from above. By thumbing on the overhead reel, you can control the speed and play some tricks on the drop-down, and you don’t miss those bites. This is a great advantage.
When you are set up right with the overhead, you can gather so much information from the line. You can feel the layers of currents, a fish chasing your jig, your split-ring clicking, and you can tell if it’s sand or rock when the jig touches the bottom. You can’t hear those things with spinning reels. Gathering information is the heart of Slow-Pitch Jigging.
The pioneering Poseidon series by Ever Green is the most popular rod for slow-pitch jigging.
Sato Sensei, the slow pitch jigging creator, spent 2 years to develop this rod with Evergreen. And it changed the whole concept of jigging and the rod.
The characteristics of Slow-Pitch Jigging rod are:
- Thin in diameter
- Highly resilient blanks
- Guides and reel seat settings for maximum sensitivity
- Slow tapered parabolic action
Slow pitch rods easily bend deep with the whole length at jerking and reeling. Then when you hold it up, it springs back slowly and strongly, accelerating and releasing the jig to swim on its side. Being horizontal and falling actions that follow are the feed to your targets. Slow pitch continues this dance repeatedly on 1 pitch per second tempo.
These rods are designed so that even when you give a small pitch like 1/2 1/4 or 1/8 turn, only 20cm to 30cm in length, the rod responds to spring up nicely, slow and long.
The maximum sensitivity is also the main requirement. The rod picks up a lot of information from the line and deliver it to your hands. It also means that your little actions and different tones do change the behaviors of the jig.
Slow pitch is a game of listening. In hi-speed jigging you do a lot of talking, meaning that you are influencing the jig movements most of the time. In slow pitch jigging, you talk just a little. You only pitch the jig. And then while you let it swim and fall on its own, you do all the listening.
We don’t worry about the rod strength to fight with a big fish. It’s not our rod’s job. The rod’s job is to dance the jig, invite fish bites, and hook them. As soon as you hook a fish, that’s when your rod finishes its job. Now it’s your reel’s job with its power and the tight, smooth drag to bring the fish home. We don’t pump the rod. Just keep your rod straight down and reel in steady and calm. Like Sato Sensei says, “Don’t piss off the fish.”
As discussed before (What is “Slow-Pitch” Jigging? →), the PE line is essential for Slow-Pitch Jigging. Nylon monofilament or Fluorocarbons would not do. They are too thick in diameter and stretch too much.
The line is so important to deliver angler’s subtle actions to the jig, and also to deliver all the information back to the angler. Any PE line will do. Switching from monofilament or fluorocarbon, you’d be amazed how much communicative your jig can be.
The characteristics of PE line are;
- Very strong to the weight, so it can be so thin in diameter, cutting off influences of the currents.
- Doesn’t stretch, so you have direct control to what’s on the other end.
- Very week to friction.
- More expensive.
- Easy to lose or break off the fish because the line doesn’t stretch.
What size PE to use?
PE2.0is the standard with this jigging.
The number is the Japanese measure by the diameter. #2.0 is 0.235mm. But when it comes to measuring PE, a knitted line, it depends on how much pressure you put on the line when you measure it. Sometimes I see a PE2.0 line that looks so fat. And when I look close, the line is so loosely knitted. Well, probably this line should be so thin if you put on pressure to measure it. You just need to trust the manufacturer. I would recommend the products that are competing in Japanese market.
The strength to weight is different by the brands. Mostly PE2.0 is from 30lb to 40lb. It seems like US manufacturers measure in a different way. They measure more like the knot strength, while Japanese measure the weight strength.
PE1.5 is also popular.
Thinner line has its advantages. It catches less water influence. Being vertical in a straight line is the key factor to get slow pitch going. Because if you have line slack in the water, it cancels all your small actions. A thin, tightly knitted, some coated PE line helps you have the direct control of the jig’s movement and the keen sensitivity.
Use a thin line if you want more contacts.
You can catch 10kg+ fish with PE1.5, no problem.
But of course, it’s always a dilemma… Either the finesse for picking up more bites, or the strength for catching big fish. It’s your bet. If you have 2 reels, you can load PE2.0 on one and PE1.5 on the other. But it’s still a bet which to put in and when.
Well, my advise is to have your priority on getting more contacts to start with. Then you get used to this game, maybe have bad experiences of breaking off some big fish, then you reflect back and examine what went wrong or what you could have done or set up differently. I think this process is very important. I think it’s thoughtless to jump on a thick line just because you happen to have a line break to a fish or because you worry just in case that you hook your dream fish.
When you go after your dream fish, you should mean to do it and go heavy. You gear up your priority to the strength over the finesse. And you should know when to do it because the water influence (the depth, currents, and waves) sometimes does not allow you to go heavy.
When we happen to hook a big fish on a thin line, we should do our best with what we got and learn from the experience to improve our skills and capacity, not the line.
How much PE to load?
Sato Sensei and the slow pitch jigging experts say “Load 600m PE.” Because you never know what you hook. And you need to let out your line to catch big fish. Well, these guys sometimes catch sailfish on PE2.0! (With the support of the boat of course.)
But honestly, it’s sometimes a pain to maintain 600m line properly.
So I cheat. What I do is to load twice as long a line as your depth. My main depth is about 100m to 130m, rarely down to 200m. So I load 300m PE. And I tie PE with PR knot to mono #16 all the way down to the base of the spool.
This way, I can do all the dancing on PE, and when a big fish takes the jig and runs, I still have couple hundreds of meters of mono to follow. Mono actually is good for fighting because it stretches and catches water to slow down the fish. And I can switch 300m line easily.
It’s common to have 5 to 8 meters of leader of Fluorocarbon. The leader is knotted to a solid ring, which is connected to a split ring which holds the jig and another solid ring with assist hooks. We don’t use swivels. They create unnecessary water resistance. Like Sato Sensei says, “The less metal parts in your system, the more contacts you get.
The leader is there to prevent PE from touching the bottom edges, to keep strong knot to the ring, and to absorb shocks from the fish fight by stretching.
We’ll talk about the knots on another page.
What size leader to use?
We usually FC #8 (32lb), #10 (40lb), #12 (48lb). I use #10 usually. #12 when you expect big ones. #8 when you don’t get contacts with #10. Again, the thinner the line is, the more contacts you can get.
40lb line may sound so unreliable when you expect 10kg+ fish.
The power of the fish of that size is phenomenal, but when it’s on the end of 100m long line, the impacts will be dispersed through out the length. Plus, all the water resistance that the line catches also helps to wear down the fish. If you are a fish, it should be so hard to break the line. The hook and the knot is likely the first to break, not the line.
Most of the time you have the line break, you can’t stop the fish and the leader or the line touches the bottom edges. There are techniques to fight. I’ll talk about it in another post.
They come in all shapes and colors but one thing in common is that they are center-balanced. The key factor of Slow-Pitch Jigging is to get the jig in horizontal position. Usually a leafy shape, and non-symmetry, one side is flat and one side is fat and shaped.
There are roughly 3 categories they can be divided into.
They specialize in falling. They are usually “fat” in shape. They are designed to be used by Long-Fall Jerk. They do all kinds of performance and falling patterns so that the strategy is to give the jig as much time to fall as possible. They usually do not slide or swim at the pitch. Some of them go too wild on a lift up. So soft lift upward, and using the whole length of your rod, give a long fall. They do work in a lot of occasions. Very dependable in a deep water or in a strong current, in situations where Slow-Pitch Jigging doesn’t work well.
These specialize in responding to subtle actions. They have pointy heads, and the tails come in different shapes because they are each designed to perform special movements in falling as well. They are great in Slow-Pitch Jerk, or combination with Long-Fall Jerk. They react well both to subtle actions and to energetic actions, and swim to slide and fall on its side.
They specialize in sliding to the sides. They work well with High Pitch Jerk mainly. High Pitch is different from hi-speed jigging. High Pitch utilizes the strong impacts at the pitch and let the jig swim to the side. It’s still based on 1 pitch per second tempo basically. Some jigs generate such great forward momentum and brilliant hydrodynamics that they swim for so long and it can be 1 pitch for 2 or 3 seconds. Unlike hi-speed jigging, you give good intervals between pitches so that the jig swims on its own to the side.
Does the color make a difference?
I don’t know… But I think the colors make much more difference to us anglers than to the fish. When the new color comes out I just want to make a bait right away. And it feels like it catches more fish but maybe that’s because I use it more often than others.
Does fish see colors? Anglers can talk about it for hours. But we are not talking about the surface fishing. In most areas it’s pretty dark at 100m deep.
If we Humans hunt in the wild, we must use full potentials of our sensors. But vision is what we heavily rely on. That is how we evolved according to our environment and our strategies to survive in it. So the colors are pretty important for us.
How about fish? They have 2 eyes like us. But what’s very different is their hearing. Their ears are all along their body. This tells something, I think. They should see things. But probably they rely a lot more on their hearing.
Dolphins and whales used to be land mammals and evolved into the ocean. What they developed is the auditory sensing system called echo-location. Sounds travel much faster and further in water than in the air. That confirms me that the in-water environment is a world of sounds.
There is a pattern of the color which is very popular recently. It is luminous paint in a zebra pattern. Luminous paint is considered effective around 100m deep or deeper.
But I do catch with or without.
And I don’t get fish with or without.
These days I find myself more and more not worry about colors. But the zebra pattern makes sense in a way because a lot of juvenile fish has this pattern on their body. They must be familiar to the pattern.
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