When you don't have a large window of opportunity, jigging shoals and isolated rocks within 10Km of the coast for a few hours can be an excellent way to scratch that fishing itch... and stretch your arms!
The biggest plus about jigging – whether it be with octo jigs, knife jigs or soft plastics – is that it's not yet a mainstream technique. Most anglers who fish inshore shoals or isolated rocks do so by anchoring up and dropping down offerings of thawed squid and pilchard. Such offerings rarely tempt the higher food chain predators which prefer a live, fleeing prey.
Sure, you could excite them with live bait, but gathering livies is time-consuming and, let's face it, jigging is a lot more fun!
The biggest preconceived notion about jigging is that it's hard. It's not. You don't need to spend months in the gym getting fit so that you can crank knife jigs for hours on end and you don't need a super secret spot.
Most spots that we jig are marked clearly on the map and unless we are specifically targeting Spanish mackerel, we rarely work jigs overly fast.
Our most common technique is to find a substantial rise in the sea floor, preferably with some hard bottom, and drift across it while working a selection of large soft plastics.
There are a few keys to success though.
Firstly, you rarely catch fish if you can't see some activity on your depth sounder. Bait balls are like big neon lights screaming 'fish feeding station' and if they are showing on the sounder we are usually assured some action.
Secondly, a precise drift is key. There's no use being where the fish ain't! Take your time and watch your GPS track to see the angle of your drift and then plan your drift to take you over the structure or bait balls.
Thirdly, your jighead is more important than you jig. Getting the right weight so that you have clear contact with the bottom and can feel enquiries through your braid is imperative. If you go too light you'll likely end up with slack and a bow in your line and if you go too heavy your jig will be robbed of its natural flutter and action.
Lastly, work the right sized offering in the right way for the species you're targeting. For example, if you want to catch reef fish like sweetlip and coral trout, a five or six inch softy worked with small twitches along the bottom will achieve the greatest success.
However, if you're after an arm-stretch from a trevally, cobia or mackerel then a seven or eight inch plastic like a jerkshad worked with fast rips to get it up higher into the water column, before pausing to let it shoot back to the bottom, will work much better.
Gear is less important than people think. Two things you do need are braid – preferably 30-50lb – and a reel with strong, quality gearing.
Jigging requires sensitivity and feel, and both of those require a thin, no-stretch line. It is also a technique that often sees brutal hits where one minute you're cranking upwards and the next your reel is screaming as line spools out in the opposite direction!
Rod wise, a serious jig stick should be a fast-tapered graphite rod usually over 10kg, but to start off with any quality glass rod with a bit of flex in the tip and a strong backbone will do. Try to stay under seven foot and avoid broomstick-style rods. You need some flex to set the hook!
Most of all, as mentioned, jigging is as much fun as you can have with your pants on: the strikes are brutal, the fish are of a high quality and there's no middle ground. There're no 'nibbles'; you either missed the fish or you're bent over the side of the boat adding another bruise to your abdomen.
Here is some quick vision of recent jigging capture off Mackay, Queensland. Would you be anywhere else??