The keenest anglers often spend an inordinate amount of time catching live bait before heading out on a serious mission. That’s because they know predatory fish find something that’s wriggling and appears injured very hard to resist.

However, as a now reasonably dedicated lure fisherman, I can’t help smiling to myself and feeling a little superior when my friends and I charge past guys milling around inshore trying to catch live bait, all the while cursing those uncooperative mackerel. It feels as if I’m cheating!

But, for lure fishers knowing just how to bring different lures to life is key to fishing success – and it’s quite an ask when you consider how many different lures and lure fishing techniques there are these days.

So here’s how to get the best from the more popular lure types, to ensure you present the most wriggly, erratic moving and injured looking offerings possible!

Slow jigs encompass a wide variety of lure types and colours, but they each rely on the subtle movements of their various appendages to attract bites. A pair of small, sticky-sharp assist hooks do the catching.

METAL JIGS

While there are thousands of different metal lures, the most important fall into either the ‘flutter’ or ‘knife’ families, with many more in various forms fitting somewhere in between.

FLUTTER JIGS

Flutter jigs have broader, flatter sides that make them weave when lifted or retrieved and flutter and flash erratically when dropped. The speed at which they’re drawn through the water, their descent angle and how far they drop determine how effectively these jigs work.

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Yo-yoing basics: If planning to ‘yo-yo’ your lure near the bottom, lift and drop the lure repeatedly next to the boat where you can see it to determine which movements – speed, lift and drop amplitude – work best. The longer the drop distance, the more chance the lure has to flutter like an injured fish. However, some of the lighter, broader jigs move so erratically they are hard for predators to catch, especially in low light or turbid water conditions. It pays to experiment with yo-yo movements as fish temperament and preferences can change dramatically day to day.

The angle of the lure’s lift and drop is very important, too. When the lure is worked in a (reasonably) vertical plane, the slack line provided by the dropped rod allows the lure maximum freedom, so it can behave as it’s designed to do: falling erratically and flashing nicely.

However, pull and drop that same lure from a 40-degree angle and you’ll have a very different result, since the lure is now being pulled along by the drifting boat, keeping the line relatively taut through the rod drop and compromising that allimportant freefall and flutter.

On the move: If the lure is cast and retrieved (or trolled), try first dragging it from the rod tip through the water next to the boat to see how it behaves at different speeds. You want it weaving seductively, not waggling sluggishly or, at the other end of the spectrum, spinning like a propeller!

Pete Francis with a snapper taken on a Lucanus slow jig.

KNIFE JIGS

Long and streamlined, these lures are often (but not always) used to target kingfish, their slim form ensuring they drop easily through the water to quickly reach bottom – or wherever activity is showing on the fish-finder.

Their speedy descent means they are only rarely taken on the way down (but it does happen, sometimes by exceptional specimens!). Instead, knife jigs rely on a retrieve technique called mechanical jigging.

This involves reasonably fast, repeated lift-and-drop rod motions accompanied by simultaneous single rotations of the reel’s handle. This keeps the lure in a state of constant rise-andfall motion, but cleverly allows it to stay in the prime bite zone – usually the water column’s lower third or half – for longer.

An alternative knife-jig technique, called speed jigging, races these streamlined jigs up through the water, with just the occasional stab of the rod to add some erratic motion to the lure.

A heavy metal flutter jig took this snapper from under a workup. Photo: Josh Darby.

SLOW JIGS

Slow-jigs epitomise movement, albeit in a very leisurely way!

The slow-jig family comprises three main types: inchiku, madai and tai rubber (more commonly known as kaburas or sliders). Inchiku-type lures tend to be long and slim with an assist-rigged plastic octopus/squid dangling somewhere mid-body. Tai rubbers are chunkier with the ‘head’ designed to separate from its rubber tendril-adorned assist rig during its descent. Madai lures are similar in form to tai rubbers but their tentacled assist rigs are fixed to the lure.

Although the slow-jig’s lure body can entice bites, especially with inchikus, it is usually the dangly bits that draw the bites, especially when they’re brought to life by the appropriate rodand-reel movements.

Interestingly, this is one of the few times in the world of fishing techniques when slightly too much weight is much better than too little, especially when fishing in depths over 30m. For slow-jigs to work well they must get down to the bottom quickly and then stay there – where most snapper tend to be!

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Next, the assist-rigged ‘goodies’ are brought to life, in one of two ways…

Most slow-jiggers steadily wind up for around 3-6m, with the flow of water imparting life to the tendrils, making them wriggle enticingly.

Light-tipped rods smooth out the lure’s action and provide some insurance against small assist hooks ripping out or bending under pressure. Photo: NZ Fishing News.

Or do what I do: a very slow mechanical-jigging action (one turn of the reel handle for every gentle lift and drop of the rod) for around the same distance off the bottom. These rise-and-fall movements get the lures’ assist rig undulating seductively and prove hard for fish to resist.

In both cases, resist the urge to strike at every nibble, as this generally results in lost tendrils. Instead, either wind slightly faster or lift the rod a bit to add speed, forcing the chasing predator into making up its mind.

Either it will grab harder and hook up, or it will bail out. If it’s the latter, no worries, as it (or one of its mates) will most likely have another go.

Before we move on, a recommendation: it really pays to have an extremely soft-tipped rod when using slow jigs. Their bendiness smoothes further the movements you make making the languid movements of the tendrils/tentacles especially enticing.

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Finally, an overall recommendation: don’t overdo the strength of your trace: the thinner the trace diameter, the better your lures’ natural action. Go too thick and the lure becomes less attractive.

However, you don’t want to constantly break off either, so be sensible. Try: 20-40lb fluorocarbon for jigging lures of 30-140g; 20-25lb for soft-baiting; and 80-120lb for kingfish knife jigs weighing 200-400g. BNZ