Twitching Jigs: Salmon & Steelhead Basics
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
Part 1 of a ongoing series. This article is a basic overview and introduces the tips, technique, and gear required to effectively twitch jigs for salmon and steelhead. Twitching jigs for salmon and steelhead is no new technique to the angling world however, it is not yet considered mainstream.
As with any method of fishing comes practice but with little effort twitching jigs can arguably be one of the most effective methods to entice strikes from salmon and steelhead in this century. Twitching jigs is one of many tools we use when guiding with great success and feedback. Although jigs can be used under a float this series focuses on casting them.
Why Twitch Jigs?
Twitching Jigs is extremely effective for Coho, Pink, Chum, Chinook Salmon, and Steelhead. It's also a very fun and active form of fishing. Expect aggressive hook-ups, you will know right away if your "on" as it will feel like you just hooked a moving truck! Plus tying your own jigs can be fun and very cost affective ($1-2 each) compared to chucking $10 spoons
Once perfected this is great way to test the potential of new waters as Coho, Pinks, Chum, Chinook and Steelhead eagerly take to the jig when twitched. My favourite way to fish is not a "method," but rather the concept of exploring remote waters and finding out if fish are present, what time of year, and how does the run stack up to my other favourite honey holes. Armed with a handful of jigs you can cover ground quickly and effectively fish any water type or condition. I love exploring new waters but days are only so long and I want to feel confident in a runs potential before looking around the next corner. BC's northern waters have plenty of hidden gems to find for those willing to venture off the beaten path.
The action the jig displaces caused by the violent twitching action is what entices salmon and steelhead to strike. Although extremely effective, it DOES NOT REPLACE the importance of understanding your target species behaviour or reading water properly. The later fundamentals are far more important to have under your belt.
Jig sizes in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 oz will suit the majority of water conditions. Jigs come in a variety of head sizes but "round" or "bullet" heads are most common for twitching. The size of the jig is dependent on the type, depth, and flow of the water you are fishing.
1/4 oz: Water depth of 4 feet or less with minimal or no flow
3/8-1/2 oz: Water depth of 5-10 feet
3/4-1 oz: Deep water and holes and/or strong flows
Figure: 1/4 oz pic, left. 3/8oz pic, middle. 1/2oz pic, right
Jig Colour & Styles
Colour matters the most when the water is either very dirty or very clear. Generally, use bright colours like hot pink and chartreuse in dirty water. In very clear water I suggest darker colours like, blacks, olive green, purples, and blues. Always have a variety of of colours with you. There are some exceptions to these rules as fish see colors differently then the human eye which I will explain in more detail in Part 2.
Jigs tied with marabou or rabbit fur are two common materials. If tying your own, think about creating a jig that has good action. Get those marabou feathers to pop by spinning your feathers or ensure that rabbit zonker strip is able to flop around. You can also buy jigs in most tackle shops these days or email us at Jerry@reelnorthadventures.com to order.
Figure: Pic Left Marabou with Rabbit Zonker Strips. Pick Right Marabou Spun Feathers.
A low profile bait caster or spinning outfit is ideal. This largely comes down to preference however there are some specific advantages of a low profile bait caster which I will cover in Part 4 of this series.
Rods in lengths 6'6 - 7' feet w/ 10-20lb rating are ideal. Beef it up a bit for Chinook. The key is keeping your outfit light enough to perform the jigging action all day. Heavy reels and rods will wear your arm out fast and can make for a miserable introduction to the method.
I suggest braided line vs. monofilament as braid has no stretch allowing more direct contact with the jig and the smaller line diameter allows you to spool more line onto your reel. Tie directly to the jig, no need for snaps. Adding a fluorocarbon leader to your braid mainline is helpful in clear water conditions or when the fish are easily spooked.
How to Jig
Cast and start the jigging process as soon as you see your jig make contact with the water. By selecting an appropriate jig size for the water you are fishing there is no need to let your jig sink and you should be within the strike zone within seconds of your jig hitting the water. Be ready and don't be surprised if yours jig falls into a fish's mouth before your first twitch up.
Reel down on your slack and once your rod tip is close to the water violently twitch your rod straight up, exploding your jig through the resistance of the water, stopping when your rod tip is roughly at a 45-60 degree angle. Then immediately reel down on your slack while you simultaneously lower your rod tip back down to where you started the twitch. Repeat this process .... twitch-up, reel down, twitch-up, reel down ....
The goal is to have your jig move in a "w" type motion slightly above the fish, as this is their best window of vision. Most fish species have poor depth perception and a blind spot directly in-front of them. You can alter your twitch and retrieve speed; however, *the key* is that the overall movement is fluid and does not stop or pause.
Fishing the jig above the fish will also mitigate the risk of foul hooking. Thus, the importance of knowing the water you are fishing and selecting the right size of jig for the occasion. Always a good idea to a have a mix of sizes with you.
Part 2: Jigs