Vertical jigging, also known as butterfly jigging, speed jigging, and jerk/crank jigging, is a traditional Japanese style fishing technique. The fishing style makes the lure or jig flutter (hence butterfly jigging) quickly underwater like an injured fish, creating an action/reaction based bite instead of a feeding bite. This makes vertical jigging extremely lethal and allows you to catch almost any species of fish in all water columns. You can go out and catch an amberjack, a yellow fin tuna, and a barracuda all in the same spot with the same jig!
Vertical jigging is typically used for offshore deep water fishing because it is so good for catching mammoth sized fish and you can hit a huge range of water columns in one cast. However, there are variations of the technique that work well in shallow waters and in fresh waters. I usually have the most success near wrecks or reefs, but hunting with a fish finder works just as well.
The other great thing about vertical jigging is that the rigs are so easy to setup compared to traditional trolling or casting techniques. The technique is also so simple that you could jig in your sleep. The only real hard part is reeling in the monsters that drag you around the boat. If you hate the hassle of setting up trolling rigs and constantly driving around looking for fish, then you have to try vertical jigging.
The Rig Setup
The rig setup is very simple, but also one of the most important parts of vertical jigging. You need to correct tools if you want the best fishing experience. You’re basically looking for power, flexibility, and strength in each part.
When looking for reels the most important thing to look for is the gear speed. You want a lower speed around 4.9:1 to 4.4:1. The lower speed allows you to rip the jig through the deep waters with force and makes it much easier to reel in the massive fish. Many companies make reels specifically for jigging, they will usually be marked. The most well-known vertical jigging companies are Shimano and Quantum.
You also have the choice of a spinning reel or conventional reel. Either style is fine; just choose what is most comfortable to you. The more popular style is the spinning reel. If you do choose to go conventional I would recommend getting a narrow reel to keep your rig light and balanced.
Reels range a great deal in price. Top end is around $600+, middle end $200-$600, and entry level is $100 – $200. If you want a top end reel without the price, look for older models on craigslist or eBay. Top end reels will stay in great condition and a lot of shops can repair or recondition your reel.
There are a couple factors when it comes to getting the perfect vertical jigging rod, they are:
- Balance – You do not want a top or bottom heavy rod; it will make jigging uncomfortable and reeling in fish much more difficult.
- Power – Your rod should have some backbone, but have good flexibility. A flimsy rod will make it hard to reel in fish and a stiff rod will make it tiring to jig. If you’re targeting 50 pounders, I would lean toward the stiffer side.
- Weight – go LIGHT weight or you’ll be tire yourself out just jigging.
- Action – This is the rod’s responsiveness to the bending force and is usually defined as Slow, Medium or Fast. Generally, slow means almost the entire rod will bend; fast means only the top of the rod will bend. For vertical jigging you want to stay with the slow to moderate action rods especially if you are fighting larger fish. Try to stay away from fast action rods.
- Sensitivity – Make sure the tip of the rod is flexibility, otherwise it will be difficult to create the correct jig actions.
- Length – Try to stay between 4’8″ to 5’6″. Shy towards the shorter side if you’re targeting massive fish.
- Gram Rating – The gram rating on a rod is usually the max weight for your jigs. So if a gram rating is 400g, try to stay with jigs between 200g-400g.
- PE rating – This is the recommended PE rated line you should use. The rough conversion is to multiply the PE by 10, so a PE8 rod can handle 80lbs. If you’re hooking bigger fish and using larger jigs staying with PE6-8 rod and lines. If you’re hooking smaller stay around PE3-5. Because this is kind of confusing, some companies have moved away from it and will just tell you the recommended jig weights.
Rods can also get pretty expensive, top tier is $400+, second tier $200-$400, entry level $100-$200. I do not recommend getting entry level rods if you’re targeting larger fish, you’ll snap them very quickly.
The Line and Leader
When vertical jigging you MUST use BRAIDED LINE! Too many people go cheap on the line and end up losing all the big catches. Braided line can handle a ton of capacity and is super flexible; again it is a must for vertical jigging.
There are two types of braided line, colored and regular. The only difference is the colored one will alternate colors every 25 or so feet, it makes it easy to determine how deep your line is. You also want to get braided line with enough test to match your rod.
Prices range from $40-$100. Most brands are pretty similar; I tend to stick with Diawa.
A lot of people forget to use a leader. Tying your jig straight onto your braided line will not give you good results. There are two options for leaders, shock leaders and fluorocarbon leaders. Fluorocarbon leaders are supposed to be invisible to fish, but are not worth the extra money unless you think the target species is very line shy. Make sure you choose leader that is nice and flexible or tying knots will drive you crazy.
Prices range from $20-$50.
There are a huge variety of jigs out there, which is one of the reasons this site was created. There are basically two types of jigs, Bottom or tail weighted and center weighted jigs.
Bottom or tail weighted
jigs will sink faster and move in short up and down movements. These are great for targeting bottom fish.
Center weighted jigs
Drop much slower and will flutter side to side when jigged. Great for hitting more water columns.
Jigs are categorized by gram weight, usually you want to go with heaver weights the deeper the water is. Stick with heavy 250-400g in 150+ feet and 100-300g in inshore areas.
Popular brands are: