SLOW-PITCH JIGGING: The REEL
NOT NEW BUT NOT KNOWN
SLOW PITCH JIGGING ANGLER AND EXPERT
BREAKS DOWN THE BASICS.
INTRO/ THE REEL
As we look at these different and specific components of slow pitch jigging, keep in mind that these are my go-to’s, but there is always a different to approach a scenario. These are the tackle items and gear that I use specifically, that’s not to say there aren’t other models and brands that can’t do a similar job. I do have to say though, the OCEA Jigger is hard to beat, it’s an amazing piece of machinery, I encourage you to give it a try for this application.
Arguably the most important part of the slow pitch jigging set-up is the reel – but why? The answer is twofold. First, the reel helps propel the jig through the water column. Second, it is the primary tool for fighting the fish. Let’s unpack that a bit.
I rely on Shimano’s Ocea Jigger lineup for my reel choices based upon the conditions of the day and where I am fishing. The Ocea Jigger series is a flagship-level star drag jigging reel, that comes in three sizes, 1500, 2000, and 4000. Each model has a power gear – designated PG – and a high gear – designated with HG. Power gear models have increased torque, but sacrifice speed of retrieve. High gear models have higher retrieve rates but have lower torque, which Shimano compensates for with a longer handle design. The Auto-Clutch easily engages the reel out of free spool to react to quick bites by simply turning the handle from the 12 o’clock position. The bottom line: the Ocea Jigger is packed with features that add up to provide all-day jigging ease and comfort, with unparalleled and uncompromising technology.
As a general rule of thumb,
the 1500 series is a good option if fishing up to 200ft of water, the 2000 series up to about 400ft of water, and the 4000 series up from there.
The ideal reel for slow pitch jigging will generally have between 38 and 46 inches of retrieve per handle turn. Why is the handle turn important? Well, for one, that’s where slow pitch jigging gets its name. One handle turn is known as a pitch. So, by definition, slow pitch jigging is jigging with slow handle turns. By having between 38 and 46 inches per turn of the handle, the angler can play with quarter turns, third turns, half turns – the possibilities are endless – which all cause the jig to make different actions in the water. The gear ratio is not particularly important, but generally, ideal retrieve rates are generally a 5:1 to 6:1 ratio, with some notable exceptions.
Smooth, even drag is critical. Generally, drag is set between 12lbs. and 15lbs. at strike for the vast majority of applications for slow pitch jigging. While this level of drag is in line with the rough “25-30% breaking strength” of the line used, keep in mind that the parabolic action of the rods acts as a shock absorber, which greatly dampens the impact when an angler hooks up with a fish. Keep in mind that the effective drag will increase on the reel as more line is off of the spool.
Narrow or wide spool? Generally, a narrow spool is preferred on the conventional reel used. The reason for a narrow spool is for ease of line lay, and to keep a consistent retrieve rate as more line is let off of the spool. A taller reel with a narrow spool will have a more consistent retrieval rate than a lower profile, wider spool reel. Keep this in mind for deep water, as slack in the line becomes a factor the deeper you fish, and quickly removing that slack helps the angler keep in constant contact with the jig while pitching.
Forget it. A spinning reel lacks the sensitivity and the ability to control the descent of the jig. With such a precise game, where everything down to quarter (and sometimes smaller) handle turns are required, spinning reels just do not have the control over the jig as necessary. Moreover, and this is counterintuitive, but to control the jig on the initial drop, the angler needs to apply pressure to the spool. By applying pressure, this tension keeps the jig in a vertical position as it falls, thereby getting to the bottom faster. When the bail is opened on a spinning reel there is no way to precisely control the fall of the jig on the initial descent, so the jig erratically falls through the water column causing your line to scope outward. This will ruin any attempt at a vertical presentation. Also, when there is a strike on the fall of the jig, as the vast majority are, it’s 1) tough to feel, and 2) tough to get the bail closed quick enough to set the hook.
FIGHTING THE FISH
Another reason why your reel is so important, as mentioned above, is that the reel is the primary tool for fighting the fish. What does this mean? Once you are hooked up, the method of fighting the fish is more of a point and crank rather than lift and pump. The rod is generally angled downward at a 45-degree angle, and the angler just keeps cranking. At first, it is very difficult to break the habit of lifting the rod to keep a stubborn fish from rocking you up on the bottom. But, once the angler learns the limitations of their tackle, the fight becomes substantially more efficient, and they are able to land better quality fish with significantly less effort. A more advanced technique is to actually crank through the drag, so the second that powerful fish stops its run the angler is already gaining line. All of this comes with more experience and time on the water. But, whatever you do, do not high stick the rod. Even with tremendous technology, the tip section of these rods is not designed to take the brunt of fighting a fish.