snapper caught using jigging techniques while fishing in panama

Saltwater Jigging

amber jack caught using jigging techniqueThere are many different types of saltwater jigging techniques that we like to use while fishing Panama. This article will provide the El Rio Negro 101 overview on the jigging techniques we use to fish the tuna coast.  When it comes to Fishing Central America, having your jigging arsenal on point can make all the difference. The correct set up of your rod and reel is important. The type of weight, shape of jig, hook, knot and the type of terminal tackle used is critical to ensuring our guests land that trophy fish of a lifetime. As equally important when jigging is the technique used and the position of your drift over the reef.

Types of Jigs

Made from metal typically lead,  most jigs have one or more hooks that swing freely off the top or bottom (or both) of the jig. The four most common types of jigs we use are flutter jigs, slow-pitch jigs, vertical speed jigs and diamond jigs. The arsenal of jigs we carry on our charter boats range from 3 oz to 8 oz and you can choose a center weight or tail weight jig. A center weight jig’s balance is located around its center  for a flutter motion while a tail weight’s jig is toward the tail section to drop fast and efficient. Center weight jigs dive slowly and flutter toward the bottom. They also move horizontally. We recommend that you use a center tail weight jig when you’re fishing for Yellowfin Tuna, Amberjack, broom-tail  grouper and Corvina.

The top 10 jigs we use for saltwater jigging are (in no particular order):

  • Shimano butterfly flat fall jigs
  • Shimano Colt sniper jigs
  • Our home made “ARANYA” lead jigs
  • Williamson speed Jig
  • Ocean Tackle Jumbo Jig
  • Old School Diamond Jig
  • Mega Live bait Jig
  • Offshore Angler Free style jig
  • Deadly Dick long jigs
  • Williamson Vortex Jigs

albacore caught using jigging techniques while charter fishing panamaRigging your Jig and Rod

Probably the most critical part of landing a big fish is your jig rigging. Sometimes we use a trouble hook on the bottom eye of the jig. One or more free-swinging hooks from the top eye “doubling up” helps get a better hook set after a strike. This will also help make the jig look more appetising as it jerks through the water.

Key to the setup are parabolic rods, compact reels with high retrieve rates, heavy drags, and no-stretch braided lines. A good connection is obtained by connecting leader to braid, with the center of connections being loop to loop and a bimini twist knot. A bristol knot can also be used to make this connection, others just use terminal tackle and clips if the leader is short. We keep pre-rigged leaders with a swivel and clip on each end ready to go in the jigging box. This way jigs can be swapped out quickly if we are on the fish. The jig with free swinging hooks when dropped and retrieved with speed, mimics the walk the dog motion vertically. This is why we sometimes call this type of fishing “vertical casting”.

Rod and Reel

The basis of this system starts with using a short parabolic rod with a springy tip. Because of the physical style of this type of fishing, small light reels are important if your going to be saltwater jigging for a large portion of the day. Using a light reel either spinning or conventional with a heavy drag rating, around 40-60 pounds. We like to use a good drag rated reel such as a Stella 10k. Usually we adjust the drag to 30 percent of the rig’s line strength. For instance, if we are using 60-pound braided line, then we set the drag at 20-25 pounds.

Saltwater Jigging Techniques

saltwater jiggingSpeed Jigging

Using a tail weighted jig, drop the jig over the reef. When it hits bottom, in a rhythmic motion, jerk the rod while cranking the reel to retrieve the braid in a rapid fast motion until it reaches the boat. Drop and repeat in a tight compact circular motion, and remember cadence is key. You will be amazed at the different depths you will catch fish. Sometimes they will hit it on the bottom, midway or even sometimes just meters away from the boat. Remember establish a rhythm, focus on the rod tip and keep the cadence going. We have found the Cubera snapper, yellowfin and albacore have love affair with this technique.

Flutter Jigging/slow pitch

Using a center weighted jig, drop the jig over the target and let it flutter back and forth towards the bottom. On the retrieval, crank the jig up 10-15 feet then let it flutter back down 5 feet, then retrieve back up 10-15 more feet in a rhythmic motion and repeat. It takes much longer to get to the boat but,  gives the fish more opportunity to take the fluttering jig on the way down and up. This technique works wonders on the yellowfin tuna and amberjack.

Bottom jigging

Both center weighted jigs and tail weighted jigs work for bottom jigging. If using a trouble hook grab some pliers and bend the barbs inward. This will help prevent snagging on the reef. Drop the jig, bounce on the bottom and retrieve 10-15 feet upwards. Then let drop again on the bottom bouncing it and retrieving up until you pass over the high spot. This technique works fantastic for grouper and corvina.

Boat Handling/Driftinglarge grouper caught using jigging technique at el rio negro

Another important factor to jigging is finding the correct drift over the reef based on the ocean current and wind conditions. Make sure to drop the jig on the side of the boat, so that it is moving away from the boat not under it. Typically we like to go 20-30 meters in front of the hi-spot, shut the engines off and drift over the reef. A helpful tool to find your drift direction is to turn “panning mode” off on your GPS. Keep checking your tracks to confirm your drift direction. Many of the larger fish are located not directly on the hi-spot but on the edges where the drop off takes place. This is where most of the predatory fish are hunting for prey.

Whether you prefer speed jigging, flutter jigging or bottom jigging give these techniques a try. Explore them all to see what you prefer and you may reel in that fish of a lifetime with these saltwater jigging techniques.