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Slow Pitch Jigging

March 2, 2016

how we started

 

Our journey began on August 2014 when RCW and Jeff “AngryAngler ” DeStefano participated in a friendly jig only tournament amongst 360t members in Panama City Beach. RCW was the only one using the slow pitch technique on that tournament and we were “high hook” on our boat and came in at 2nd place overall.

 

 A porgie caught slow pitch jigging on August 14, 2014 Panama City Beach jig only tournament.

 

On September 2014, a month after the Panama City Beach tournament, RCW and a few friends went on a jigging trip out of Miami. The crew included, Doug Nguyen, Jeff DeStefano, and RCW. We were slow pitch jigging the entire trip. It was a slow trip, we caught some fish but we have to work hard for what we got. On the last spot that Capt. Wayne took us, I dropped a slow pitch jig, a maxel dragonfly 250gram. Once I felt bottom, I did 1-2 full cranks of the reel then started to do a “long fall”- a slow pitch variation where you deliberately and slowly lift your rod tip to the 12′ clock position then drop the rod tip quickly pointing towards the bottom letting the jig free fall. On the next crank I thought I got snagged on a wreck, so I started to put more pressure trying to break free and suddenly the snag moved! I then realized I got a fish on. Whatever it was I know for certain it was big. It was on this day that I caught my biggest grouper, a warsaw grouper in 305ft of water. The fish bottomed out a 50lb scale back at the dock, Captain Wayne estimated it to be about 55#.

 

 Warsaw grouper we caught while slow pitch jigging, it bottomed out a 50# scale back at the dock

 

Our last trip of 2014 was on December, we went to South Carolina with Bryan Dietz, Jeff DeStefano and Gabe Nuriel to fish with Courtland Babcock. We started the day in shallow water playing around with BSB (black sea bass). We caught plenty of BSB on slow pitch, sometimes we got double headers. Bryan also caught a Lionfish on SPJ. By mid afternoon we were in deeper water to chase blackfin tuna and AJ. The highlight of our trip was a 60+ lb. cobia RCW caught using slow pitch technique. This catch further convinced me of the effectiveness of slow pitch jigging, its ability to trick large fish and land them on lighter gear.

 

Slow Pitch Jigging has since spread all over the country due to its effectiveness in catching all species of fish in different water columns.

 

 December 2014, South Carolina 60# cobia on SPJ

 

what is slow pitch

 

Slow pitch is a jigging technique that originated in Japan, it is the brainchild of Norihiro Sato. It is the state-of-the-art jigging technique that elevated the jigging game to another level.

 

If you’ve seen the old style jigging which is speed jigging you would think it is tough, it is a work out! However it still is an exciting game and it does work in alot of situations, but a lot of people who have switched to slow pitch jigging have experienced way better success and never switched back.

 

Slow pitch jigging is not slow reeling. It is a continuous sequence of stop and go in every pitch. It is basically 1 pitch per second. This tempo is very slow compared to the old jigging style which was a breakneck pace.

 

Slow pitch jigging works for a wider range of species, from fast swimming tuna to bottom duelers. It works for different fish moods, it works when the fish are active and most importantly when they are inactive.

 

When the fish is active any method will work, but fish are not active all day. In fact there’s only a short window when they are active, 1-2 hours a couple of times a day when they are active and feeding. What happens then when they are not active? How then do we fish for them? That’s when slow pitch jigging came out.

Predators always look for easy targets to feed on; the easier the better. It’s an instinct. In the ocean, injured bait fish makes random and erratic movements, they dash and stop, dart in irregular directions, makes flashing actions and falls to the bottom. This is what slow pitch jigging is trying to imitate.

 

Slow pitch jigging is deadliest when the jig is acting like an injured baitfish; making random movements, free falling on its side, erratically gliding and resembling an injured fish. This is the moment when the jig is free falling on its own, this is what we want to accomplish and maximize in Slow Pitch Jigging.

 

how to mimic an injured fish to elicit strikes

 

The easiest way is to use a jig that is designed to get its action on the fall. These jigs glide and wobble as it falls without any input from the angler; we don’t have to do anything and the jig will lay on its side and fall erratically on its own. The jig’s action during the fall entices the predators to strike. These jigs are shaped like a leaf ; pointed at the ends while wide in the middle, and asymmetrical; shape of one side is different from the other. 

Reals Plate Jerker, Sea Falcon Z Slow, Beats Beeline, Sea Falcon S Impact

 

maximizing the jigs injured-fish-like action

rod

We can further exaggerate the jigs injured fish like movement by using a rod with the right rating and power to impart the proper action to the jig. These types of rods are thin, slow taper with a very elastic and springy tip. This springy tip is able to bounce the jig and impart the proper action so the jig acts like an injured bait fish. The longer the distance we are able to spring the jig up, the more prolonged the falling action will be. It is important to match the jig weight to the rods rating to achieve this. In SPJ, the rods main purpose is to impart the proper action to the jig and not use it as a lever to fight the fish.

 

reel

Another important part is getting the right reel. The best reel to use is a conventional reel. This allows you to have a better feel of the jigs movement. It is also easier to feel a strike on the fall because the line coming out of the spool doesn’t balloon out and then choked by the stripper guide rubbing you off of any sensitivity. It is important for the reel to have a high enough retrieve so that it can load the springy rod tip and be able whip the jig up on the pitch. The higher it flicks the jig, the longer the jig falls, which is what we want to maximize. A longer handle is ideal, it gives you more leverage when fighting a big fish and makes the fight more comfortable when the fight transfers from the rod to the reel.

 

 evergreen poseidon, blackhole slow pitch, synit bay action slow pitch

 

the slow pitch technique

Now that we have talked about the jig, rod and reel, let us make these tackle work in unison using the slow pitch technique. The name “slow pitch” literally means “slow jigging with a rhythm” and according to Toto’s it “is a continuous sequence of stop and go in each pitches. It’s basically 1 pitch per second”. We at RCW defines a pitch as the action of the jig on the way up and on the way down. To achieve a pitch, the reel handle must be turned. We can turn it 1 full rotation, 1/2 or 1/4 and it will still be 1 pitch. While turning the handle, you can also move your forearm up using your elbow as the fulcrum to assist the rod in flicking the jig up.

 

 a pitch consist of  the jig going up and the jig going down

 

When we are fishing using the slow pitch technique, we are doing multiple pitches with a pause in between each pitch. The “pause” after each turn of the handle is to give the jig time to free fall. The next pitch begins when you feel the line tighten or you can wait a few secs before you turn the handle again. It is good to have a rhythm in your pitch, this way the jig keeps on moving.

 

targeting demersal fish using slow pitch

Slow Pitch Jigging is very deadly on fish that dwells and lives in or near the bottom like groupers. These fish rarely go far away from their holes to look for food. But slow pitch jigging gives us an extremely high probability of hooking one and it is by shear luck that the bigger ones are landed on such light tackle. However, we can’t depend on luck alone to help us land these fish. I am not going to leave anything to chance when I get the opportunity to hook one…again.

 

After my first Middle Grounds trip, I have decided to re-think my approach when fishing for bigger groupers especially in the Middle Grounds where holes and crevices are plenty.

 

It is extremely hard to stick to the slow pitch principle when it comes to fishing for big grouper. We need to adapt and change some of the concepts to make it work for us and the environment we fish in. Since the rods we use for slow pitch jigging is so flimsy and is not designed to fight fish, I will focus more on the other equipment and tackle that can be change to stock the odds in our favor.

 

stopping power

 

The Ocea Jigger and Daiwa Saltiga is the perfect reel for slow pitch jigging. It has a smooth, well engineered reel for a price that can’t be beat. There is nothing wrong with the reels mentioned, I love my OJ’s and Saltiga’s, I have used them since I started slow pitch jigging and I have no complains whatsoever. Well, actually I have one complain, they could’ve made the handle longer.  These reels excel fishing in the Tortugas or anywhere where the bottom is sandy and there is no rocks and holes for the grouper to hide.

 

However, we need the stopping power to prevent the fish from pulling too much line. Once they are able to pull line they’ll head straight to their holes, stick their head in and flare up their gill plates. Now we are rocked, our leader will be frayed and cut off or the situation becomes a draw forcing us to just break off.

 

The Accurate DFS Slammer reel is an alternative to the OJ and Saltiga when we need stopping power. These reels are machined out of 6061 T6 aircraft grade aluminum, it has 17-4 heat treated stainless steel gears and gear shaft, larger and stronger gear shaft for increased torque, larger anti reverse bearing and patented twin drag design for solid stopping power. On top of all that, Kane Tapper of DFS New Zealand tweaked the reel to make it into an outstanding jigging reel. He took out the clicker and the cast control, he sealed the AR bearing, employed 95mm handle and removed the detent so the lever can go from sunrise to sunset without messing with the strike button. It is also guaranteed to put out 30+ lbs of drag.

 

 

This reel screams of stopping power. Due to the strength of the larger gears, the stock 85mm handle can also be changed to a longer one for easier cranking.

 

going heavier

 

One of principles of Slow Pitch jigging is to stay vertical, this is the reason we are using light line. Light line equals less water resistance, less water resistance equals less scope than heavier and thicker lines. I have compiled a good amount of list of braids with their actual diameter and breaking strength.

 

I have been using a Daiwa 30# Jbraid on my DFS Slammer 500N and an Ocea EX8 PE2 on my Saltiga 15H. The Ocea EX8 PE2 with a stated breaking strength of 40# is the thinnest 40# I’ve ever encountered based on feel and line capacity on my reels. I was able to put 600m on the OJ2001 with space left for another 100 yards. This is a very strong yet thin line. However, it is quite pricey.

 

Our other option would be to go with a Jerry Brown 40# or Daiwa Jbraid 40# if we don’t want to spend money on the Ocea EX8. By going heavier we will be creating more water resistance and scope and the jig might not work as intended especially if the scope is bad. We can compensate for this by going with a heavier jig. This will get us to the strike zone faster.

 

We can also bump up our leader. I use 40# YoZuri leader 99% of the time. I would be bumping it to 50 or 60#. Going heavier on the leader gives us an advantage on abrasion resistance and shock absorption when the fish darts back down to its hole.

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