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SBF Tips: 6 Main Variables for River Jigging

Sonic BaitFish: 6 Main Variables for River Jigging

By Hall of Fame Angler, Pete Rosko

When done right, river jigging the Sonic BaitFish (SBF) will out fish any other technique over 90 percent of the time.

There are three main river-character variables when fishing out of a boat. They are current, bottom structure and depth.

River Jigging Variable No. 1: Current

Vertical jigging on a slow drift is about as close to the perfect presentation that one can achieve in sport fishing because of absolute control of lure placement and its resultant downward flutter. The downward flutter is the most effective lure action that causes a fish to strike.

However, if I cannot jig my line straight down, because the river current is too fast, I must change my technique in order to feel my Sonic BaitFish being bounced against bottom structure. Here is the perfect, and most times the only, answer to neutralize fast-moving current when river jigging a Sonic BaitFish:

    1. Cast down-stream directly in-line (not sideways) to where your boat is headed.
    2. In order to telegraph the feel of a strike, or lure against any structure, you must eliminate any bow (bend) in your line or else any fish you hook will be pure luck.
    3. Do not fish with loose line! Maintain tension on your line to increase the lure’s darting and vibrating action in addition to increasing your hook-ups and telegraphing structure.

River Jigging No. 2: Bottom Structure

When you acquire the ability to easily feel where your lure is at all times, you are well on your way to becoming an accomplished metal jig angler! You must be especially good at feeling bottom when river jigging your way through rocky structure, which is where most prized fish are located. You will lose lures to snags when feel of structure is lost.

My personal lures-lost-to-snags is almost zero for two main reasons:

  1. Especially in rocky structure, use only the lightest-weight SBF that can still telegraph the feel of the lure against the rocks. This lightweight lure will glide through the structure instead of diving into it like a sinker.
  2. Since you originally cast straight down-current into your drift, any snagged lure can be un-snagged as your boat passes over, and beyond, the point of the snag.

Reserving your drift path, to retrieve a snagged lure, depends on water depth. The deeper the water, the further the distance needed to go up-current, beyond the point of the snag. At times, over several hundred yards are required, but it works!

This technique was especially deadly in snaggy rocky rivers like the Spokane River for rainbows and smallmouth bass, as well as the western basin piles of Lake Erie for smallmouth bass and walleyes.

It’s important to note that you should avoid jigging in submerged trees and other lumber as snagged lures are generally lost in this structure.

River Jigging Variable No. 3: Depth

My minimum desired depth for vertical jigging in clear water is 20-feet, or 10-feet in dirty or stained water. It’s to avoid spooking fish as you fish directly above them. However, if I am casting away from the boat, I have hooked fish in 2-feet of water.

Remember, it is easier to spook fish in shallower water. Eliminate as much noise as possible. That includes casting with the lightest possible lure in order to minimize the sound of its splash upon striking calm water. Basically, the only times I will not follow my rules of casting down-current, versus casting in any direction, are when there is no wind and no snaggy bottom.

River Jigging Variable No. 4: Equipment

Affecting my jigging success is my rod and reel. In order for me to detect structure while jigging with the ultralight Sonic BaitFish, my rod and reel must accommodate my lure. Basically, my rod needs to be lightweight with a stiff butt and a very sensitive tip to feel a small SBF swimming and bouncing against structure. I like my rod tip section not to bend more than ¼ of the entire rod length.

Rod, Reel & Line

My rod is a G. Loomis SJR 720 6-foot Mag-Light IMX, extra-fast action that can handle up to a 1/3 oz. SBF. My spinning reel is a Mitchell Avocet 1000, spooled with 10-lb. Suffix braided line and 2-feet of 12- to 14-lb. Suffix fluorocarbon leader with an attached duo-lock snap for quick lure changes and maintaining lively lure action.

Fishing with a G. Loomis rod is not an absolute necessity, as long as you can find a good substitute. The Mitchell reel is reasonably prices, durable and smooth operating. With this finesse jigging technique, I can get away without spending a lot of money on a reel.

However, please do not sacrifice quality on your rod. It is the key to your success when finesse fishing over structure. Think of your rod as a symphony conductor’s baton. It’s short and firm. A long and flimsy rod is useless when metal jig-fishing. A rod that is not firm cannot feel structure, or a strike, and is poor at setting the hook. A rod that it too long loses control in finessing a jig through structure. Therefore, the shorter the rod, the better the control.

Sonic BaitFish Attachments

Always attach the wide bend snap to the nose of the SBF that is included in its package. Attaching the leader directly to the smaller SBF will kill its action. Always use a single tail hook, not a treble, to minimize snags while jigging through structure.

River Jigging Variable No. 5: Hook Point

Without a sharp hook point, you will miss strikes without realizing it. The complete angler carries a fine-tooth file. One of the very best is the Luhr Jensen file. Keep it lubricated after each outing to prevent rust on its carbon metal surface. A hook file, coasted with rust, is useless.

If the hook does not dig into your thumbnail, as its run over its surface, the hook is dull. Monitor the sharpness of your hook like a world record fish depended on it.

River Jigging Variable No. 6: Don’t Fish Blindly

This is the most important variable! Use your electronic fish finder to locate fish before fishing. Deep holes, ledges and channel edges are consistent holders of fish.

Thank you for subscribing to our monthly issues of the Mack Attack Magazine and for your confidence in the Sonic BaitFish. Merry Christmas to you all. — Capt. Pete Rosko

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