Slow Pitch Jigging Rods – The Ultimate Guide

10/31/23

Slow pitch jigging is a deep water finesse technique that has been increasingly popular with anglers looking to present the fish with something different than what they’re used to seeing. In this article, we’re catching up with Mastering Rod Building podcast host Bill Falconer, to learn how slow pitch jigging rods can improve your fishing

 

Slow Pitch Jigging Explained

Slow pitch jigging originated in Japan in the 1990s, and was soon adapted by American anglers fishing offshore. The technique is intended to mimic the flutter of a falling bait fish, triggering an instinctive predatory strike in fish. The technique combines the effectiveness of live or cut bait fishing with the active, hands-on element of other forms of lure fishing.

According to Bill, “Slow pitch jigging was developed in Japan by a gentleman named Sensei Norihiro Sato. And for those of you who are familiar with the Japanese fishery, you know it’s full of volcanic islands and very deep water, and has received absolutely crushing fishing pressure for hundreds of years. And so, it tends to be a fertile ground for innovation, because it’s so overfished. So Norihiro sought to develop this technique to target inactive fish, reluctant fish, and heavily pressured fish.” 

snapper

 

Slow Pitch Jigging Technique

Slow pitch jigging involves lifting and dropping a slow pitch jig in a slow, rhythmic manner. The jig is dropped to the desired depth and then retrieved upward with a slow and controlled motion, mimicking the movement of a wounded or struggling prey. During the upward retrieve, the angler can impart slight twitches or jerks to the rod, creating a fluttering or wobbling action of the jig. The jig is then allowed to fall naturally, fluttering on the descent. The idea is to mimic a dying baitfish that would be easy pickings for a predatory fish. With this technique, fish commonly take the lure on the fall, meaning that the angler must use a sensitive rig and pay attention to any change in the feel of the lure during the fall.

The way that I kind of describe it to people is basically, “Forget everything you know about jigging.” says Bill. “Because most people are used to active jigging, where you’re actively pulling on and working a jig. Slow pitch is really more about an entire tackle system designed around presenting a jig attractively on a fall. It’s similar to fishing a senko worm for bass, or something like that, where it’s fishing best when you’re doing nothing to it but letting it fall.”

 

Why Slow Pitch Jig Fishing Is Effective

American anglers have often turned to Japan for new and innovative techniques that work in pressured waters. Slow pitch jigging, like most Japanese techniques, is a “finesse” tactic. The slow, deliberate jigging motion of the lure closely resembles the erratic and vulnerable actions of injured baitfish, making it highly enticing to predatory fish who aren’t in the mood to aggressively chase bait. Traditional vertical jigging is often fast and violent, and intended to trigger a chase instinct or just downright annoy an aggressive fish into biting it. It can be effective, but it can also spook fish who aren’t in the mood. A slow pitch jig is a much less “in-your-face” presentation that mimics a low risk, low effort meal. 

slow pitch jigging

 

Building A Slow Pitch Jigging Setup

Anglers looking to get into slow pitch jigging should seriously consider investing in a designated setup for the technique. Once upon a time, this was a difficult proposition. But that has changed in recent years. 

“When you first started slow pitch jigging, guys were having to send a mail order or certified check for a thousand dollars overseas for a rod they’d never touched,” says Bill. “And then you were hoping that you were dealing with a credible dealer that was actually going to ship in a way that it would clear customs and not get broken en route. But now, you can walk into a real-deal, local bait and tackle shop or go to Johnny Jigs or Jyg Pro Dealer, and they’re on the shelf. And there’s more rods available than there have ever been.”

 

Choosing The Best Slow Pitch Jigging Rod

According to BIll, the key factors to consider include the rod’s length, action, power, and material, as well as your own fishing needs and style. For slow pitch jigging, you’ll generally want a rod that is between 6 to 7 feet in length. A shorter rod is less tiring when fishing big jigs in deep water.

Slow pitch jigging rod actions are often surprisingly light. Anglers rely more on the reel than the rod to fight the fish. “If you’re doing it right,” says Bill, “You’ll be pointing the rod at the fish once you get a bite and using a very light and powerful reel to winch the fish in.”

As far as power, you want to match the rod to the jig you will be throwing. Slow pitch jigs rods are often rated in grams instead of the traditional ounces (Japan, like most of the world, has long since embraced the metric system), so anglers will need to do a little math when comparing their jig to a rod’s rating.

“An ounce is just a little bit more than 28 grams,” Bill advises. “So if you’re fishing a 10oz jig, you’d need a rod rated for about 280 grams.”

 

Slow Pitch Jigging Reel

One of the things that may surprise anglers new to slow pitch jigging is that most practitioners of the technique rely on baitcaster reels. Non level wind, narrow-spool, open water baitcasters are the reel of choice due to their superior drag systems, which are important since the reel is what you’re fighting the fish with. 

slow pitch jigging

“You’ll find a lot of personal preference in reels,” Bill says. “But there are several really good purpose-built reels out there, like the Shimano Ocea Jigger, Okuma Tesoro 5NS, and the Saltiga 35JH. All of these reels are suitable.”

 

Choosing the Best Slow Pitch Jigging Lures

The most important question for new slow pitch jiggers to ask themselves is, “What depth am I fishing at?”

“Roughly speaking, says Bill, “you want to match your jig weight in grams to your depth. A gram per foot or gram per meter of depth is roughly a good place to start.”

“The other thing to consider is the shape of the jig,” Bill continues. “There are jigs which fall very slowly, that flutter and dance a lot, but also catch a lot of current. And there are jigs that sink very, very quickly and that resist current better even though they’re the same weight as another jig. If you’ve never pitched a slow pitch jig, one of the things that I would liken it to is kind of like a crank bait. Some of them have a really tight wiggle. Some of them have really wide wobbles. Some of them are designed to go fast. Some of them; they’re great unless you go too fast. Similarly, a broad flat jig may fall like a leaf from a tree, you know? Big swings back and forth. Some that aren’t as aerodynamic just fall straight down. And the design of the jig heavily informs what it does on that fall as well as how it falls. A lot of them are designed so that if you just thumb the spool a little bit and add some tension, they sink like a bullet. Then, once you get them to depth and give them some slack, they start dancing around.” 

 

Best Braid For Slow Pitch Jigging

In order to maintain feel at the depths slow pitch jigs are fished, anglers use what may seem like shockingly light braided line.

“Regardless of depth or jig weight, as a rule of thumb, you’re going to have the best success with 20lb or lighter braid,” says Bill. 

 

Components of Slow Pitch Jigging Rods

Slow pitch jigging rods are more commonly available today than they have historically been, but due to their relative rarity and the specialized nature of the rods, it’s not uncommon for dedicated slow pitch jig fishermen to build their own rods. If you decide to go that route, Bill has a few pointers for you.

 

Reel Seats

Since slow pitch jigging rods often flex throughout the rod, all the way from the tip to the butt, Bill recommends against metal reel seats if you’re building your own rod.

grouper

“Anytime you put a very flexible tube inside of a rigid object, you create a shear point,” he says. “You can shear a rod and cause it to explode with a rigid metal seat.” Since the rod isn’t meant to fight fish, the reel seat should never see the stress that it does on other deep sea rods. Slow pitch jigging also involves long periods of holding a rod and moving it, so any weight saved, no matter how small, also adds up after a day of fishing.

 

Guides

Bill is a big fan of spiral wrap guides on his slow pitch jigging rods. “You know, I have heard the argument that spiral wraps breed bad technique, because they’re so tangle free and don’t tip wrap. Some people claim that you should really be using straight guides and paying more attention to what you’re doing. I would say, “Hey, come fish with me four days and four nights straight on the Yankee caps in 110 degree heat in August and tell me you’re absolutely lucid and paying attention to every moment of every pitch in all conditions.”

 

Handles

Another unconventional feature of slow pitch jigging rods is their long, split handle. According to Bill, “Whereas a “normal” 6-7ft rod may have the reel seat 9” from the butt, on these rods you’re looking at more like 15” to 18”. It may seem like a long, long handle if you’ve never seen a rod like this before, but it’s just due to the nature of the technique and how you’re fighting fish with the rod. 

 

Final Thoughts On Slow Pitch Jigging

Whether you’re a beginner in the world of slow pitch jigging or an experienced angler looking to up your game, understanding these key elements can make a world of difference. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from experts or seasoned fishermen like Bill, and whenever possible, get a feel for different rods in-person. With the right slow pitch jigging rod in hand, you’re not just fishing; you’re creating an experience that combines skill, patience, and the thrill of the catch. Happy fishing!