Why Fish Jigs?
The ultimate goal in the pursuit of any species is to catch more and bigger fish using the most simple and effective method possible. For steelhead, float fishing is widely considered to be just that. In the previous article, I explained that success in steelhead fishing is about increasing percentages during time spent on the water, as well as having confidence in the strategies and tactics being implemented.
Using the float-fishing method, you can accomplish seemingly endless drifts where your chosen bait is in the targeted zone nearly 100% of the time. It’s a very visual and interactive way of fishing which will keep your interest and add to the enjoyment of the steelheading experience.
To get started with float-fishing jigs, all that’s required is a float, swivel, leader material, split-shot, and jigs. You can catch plenty of fish using just these basics. Getting a little more technical with our tackle choices allows us to increase our percentages while on the water. I like to use a rod with a length from 9 to 11 feet, and a line weight of 8 to 10 pounds. This helps in casting light set-ups and provides good line control. A rod with a little extra length also allows you to play large fish on light leaders, which can prove necessary in some jig-fishing conditions.
The main line that I prefer for float-fishing jigs is 15 to 20 lb. braid, or what it is also called spectra. This type of line has a very thin diameter for its breaking strength and it casts with very little effort. The line will also float, which allows for much easier line manipulation when attempting to achieve a proper drift.
Attached to the main line you can use either a fixed or sliding float. If using a sliding float, a bobber stop will be necessary to adjust the proper depth, but be sure to always place beads on your line just above and below the float to act as bumpers.
Below the float you should have a barrel swivel between the main line and the leader. The leader can be either monofilament or fluorocarbon, 8 to 15 lb. Your leader should, however, always have a smaller breaking strength than your main line. This helps avoid losing your entire set-up when snagged. On the leader, you need to have enough weight to balance the float.
For example, you have a 3/8 oz. float and an 1/8 oz. jig—this would mean you need a 1/4 oz. of weight above your jig to balance the float.
This weight, when spaced evenly along the leader, helps the jig ride directly below the float. Now the rod has been properly set up—you’re ready to fish!
Fishing the Jig
To begin fishing your jig, estimate the depth of the water, and set the float 12 to 36″ above what you estimate the bottom depth to be.
Cast up-stream to the head of the desired pool, run, or riffle, starting with short casts. Reel in the slack as the float drifts down in front of you. Before opening your bail, lift your line to straighten any slack. Now allow the line to peel freely from the spool.
This accomplishes what is called “the dead drift.” The dead drift allows the jig to float with the current at a natural speed.
Each cast made, should be made further and further out, systematically working your drifts further away from the bank. This allows you to cover all the water without spooking fish.
Float-fishing jigs is a quick and effective way to work through fishing spots. You can cover lots of water and feel assured that fish are not being missed. If you haven’t gotten a bite, change the jig to another color and/or size and work through the area again. If your float gets taken under, close the bail, reel down, set the hook, and hold on!
Applying these tactics for float-fishing jigs, you should be able to go out to your favorite steelhead waters and be successful.
Look to future articles in the Jig Fishing Series for more in-depth and detailed information about jig fishing.