In recent years, the term “twitching jigs” has become synonymous with fishing for coho in rivers. In this article I will discuss twitching jigs for those silver-sided coho, but I want to go much deeper into techniques and gear selection, as well as look at the many other game fish that fall for the correctly presented jig.
At the end of this article, I hope you enjoy my video.
Tackle For Twitching Jigs
The tackle needed to twitch jigs is very simple, which is one of the main attractions to this technique. All you really need is a good-quality spinning reel and a 7- to 9-ft rod with fast action. Keep in mind, if you are fishing for Chinook or chum, you will need a beefier setup. We catch many Chinook in our local rivers while twitching jigs for coho, and without my boat to chase them, most would be lost.
My set up for virtually all jig twitching situations is a 7-ft, 6-in custom built rod. It is rated as mod-fast, 10- to 20-lb, and 3/8- to 1-oz lures. I loved this rod so much that I made up a large batch, and I sell them locally to the hardcore twitch- ing crowd. Shorter rods are more responsive to the twitching action. Twitching jigs can be very tiring and can sometimes cause pain in your hands and arms. This is considerably reduced by using a stiffer, shorter rod.
Line selection is a personal choice, but most die-hard jig twitchers use braided line. Monofilament line is very stretchy, and a lot of your imparted action is lost in the stretch. I typically use 20-lb braided line when twitching jigs. I find it has ample strength for most species, and being very thin, it cuts through water very well.
Quite often, I run straight braid right to the jig. This allows me to get my jigs back when they get snagged on branches or rocks, as the hook will typically bend out. You can often bend it back and sharpen the hook and get back to fishing quickly. Running the braided line straight to the jig also has the added advantage of giving you a direct connection to the jig with no stretch involved. I will add that you must keep your drag slightly loose to allow fish to run easily. Otherwise, you will lose fish, as the hook will rip from their mouth. I use my finger to aid drag rather than keeping the drag too tight.
In cases where you are fishing in clear water or finding fish to be line-shy, you can add a 4-ft piece of fluorocarbon line to your braided line, then tie the jig to this fluoro line. This doesn’t happen often, as a fish interested in chasing a large, erratically moving jig is seldom line shy.
Spinning Reels for Twitching Jigs
When it comes to spinning reels to use for twitching jigs, I typically use high- quality Shimano reels, such as the Stradic 3000 series. With just enough line capacity to land good-sized fish, the smaller reel fits well in my hands and greatly reduces fatigue. For larger species like Chinook and chum, I would suggest bumping up to a 4000 series reel. Any brand of spinning reel will work; just remember that typically, quality comes at a price.
One of the big questions I get from anglers is, “What style or colour jigs do you use?” Truthfully, many types of jigs can be used for twitching. I know many fishermen who have their own patterns that they feel are superior. When it comes to twitching jigs, I feel Marabou is king. The undulating movement with ability to cut water makes it the best material I have found. Some other great materials you may want to use are rabbit fur (zonker strips), all the various types of flash and tinsel, long fiber chenille like polar UV, and all manner of rubber legs. Tying up your own crazy creations is a whole other aspect of fishing, and it can provide hours of fun. When tying jigs, I make sure the size and bulk of the jig matches the species I’m after.
For coho fishing, it’s important to have a variety of sizes and colours. These moody fish will be picky one day and crush the largest jigs the next, so come prepared. Dark colours such as purple, black, and blue are in many of my coho jigs, while I use pink, orange, olive, and white when I want a brighter colour. Tie your own or have a variety of patterns to try. Many times, I have seen coho very keen on just one pattern over all others.
Targeting Pink Salmon
For pink salmon, I only use 3/8- and 1⁄2-oz jigs with a pink curly tail slid onto the hook. Pinks require nothing else, and I have never witnessed anything outperform these jigs.
Targeting Bull Trout
For bull trout fishing I am typically on a river, so the 1⁄2-oz jig is my favourite size. The jigs I tie for bulls are large and bushy, and they draw out the ambush predator instincts of these fish. Colours can vary, but typically I use white, black, orange, and olive in different combinations.
Trout In Lakes
For catching trout in lakes, the natural food will determine your jig pattern. For rainbows eating insects, it’s hard to beat black, olive, or tan. For lake fishing Trout, the 1/4 oz jig is exceptional. It is small enough to not spook them, yet heavy enough to get down to the bottom quickly. Anything smaller risks being too light.
Twitching For Chinook
When Chinook fishing with twitching jigs, it’s most common to use 1⁄2-oz or even 3⁄4-oz jigs. My clients will hook quite a few Chinooks with 3/8-oz jigs when they are resting in slower water, but typically they prefer heavier water, which requires a heavier jig. Bright colours are usually the best for Chinook twitching jigs. Chartreuse, pink, orange, peach, and red are my favourites. On the rare days that they are looking for darker colours, black, purple, and blue jigs can be good to have on hand.
Twitching For Sockeye
While they are not a fish we often target, sockeye can be great biters of twitching jigs. If I were to target them with jigs, I would concentrate on the colour cerise. I have found cerise jigs to be deadly any time sockeye are present.
Twitching For Chum
When it comes to chum, I almost always target them with jigs presented under a float. This is by far the best method to catch chum. Chum are typically present in great numbers, and twitching jigs for them can result in many foul-hooked fish. This is neither fun nor ethical, and should be avoided. If I were to target chums with twitching jigs, I would carry a good supply of purple and cerise jigs in 3/8 oz.
Species Related Techniques
In the title of this article I used the words twitching, hopping, and jerking. I did this to put emphasis on the varying ways you can move your jigs to elicit strikes. Once considered a technique primarily for slow water, anglers are now recognizing how effective it can be in any water type. This style has great success in rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Now let’s cover some scenarios that you may encounter, as well as some specific species related techniques.
Often when targeting coho and pinks, you will find them in slower sections of river or in ocean estuaries. The jigs of choice here would be 3/8 or 1⁄2 oz. When the fish are in this slower water, the preferred method is to cast past the area where you think they are holding, and perform a simple lift, drop, and pick up slack. This is the way most people twitch jigs. However, on many occasions I have found a very sharp snap of the rod upwards to get the jig to pop hard grabs their attention. Another method to try is double-popping the rod and then letting it drop. These techniques will work on any species you find in this scenario, but make sure to try different movements of the jig often.
For casting to salmon on beaches or at river mouths in tidal waters, a 3/8- and 1⁄2- oz jig is best. Again, try to cast past where you believe fish are holding, and employ various jigging movements. Ocean fish are very aggressive, and often a sharp, jerking jig presentation is the winner. In these scenarios, salmon will most often show themselves by rolling. Avoid direct casts that land right amongst the rolling fish. Instead, cast past the fish or ahead of the direction they are moving.
The bull trout is a very underrated sport fish. These ambush predators are good fighters, great biters, and loads of fun to fish for! When targeting bull trout, expect an aggressive attack on the jig. It is common to see a bull trout chasing your jig across a river and making several attacks before finally getting hooked. I usually look for areas in a river where the fish can hide to wait for smaller fish and large insects. Overhanging trees, log jams, and boulder-filled runs are my favourite spots.
My technique is almost always a hard jerk of the jig, with emphasis on letting it drop after the jerk. The dropping jig is always when fish bite, so pay special attention to letting the jig drop after any type of jigging action you employ. I carry an assortment of 1⁄2- and 3/8-oz jigs for bull trout fishing.
When twitching jigs in lakes for trout, it helps to have good electronics. Locating the drop-offs is key to this method. Trout are often feeding 6 to 15 ft deep. You want to cast parallel to the bank so that you can find bottom and stay close to it throughout your jigging action. Try various jigging styles in lakes, but most often a smooth lift and drop is what trout respond best to. Some anglers will anchor in deeper waters and use electronics to find the trout. Like playing a video game, they will have their jig sitting just off bot- tom. When a fish enters the screen, they start a gentle twitching movement to the jig. This has resulted in some huge trout falling to the jig in still waters.
Any time you are presented with salmon or any trout in flowing rivers, never be afraid to try twitching jigs for them. Just remember that a heavier jig is often better, as you are dealing with current. I like to cast slightly upriver, timing my twitches and drops to keep the jig travelling down- stream without hitting bottom, yet not drawing it back towards me too quickly.
There is a learning curve for twitching jigs in faster currents, but once you have mastered it, you may find yourself using no other method to fish rivers. The best way to become a skilled jig twitcher is to leave all other tackle at home and just take the very few items you need for this technique and spend enough time on the water to make it pay off.
Rod Toth is Owner/Operator of Bent Rods Guiding & Fishing Co.
This article appeared in Island Fisherman magazine. Never miss an issue, subscribe today!