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By Jason Brooks
Twitching jigs for fall Coho, as well as Chinook and Chums, has been around for a few years. Most of us have either fished this method or have heard about it. I started twitching jigs several years ago after being taught how to do it by guide on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. We landed a dozen Coho by lunchtime, and we were back at the truck well before dinnertime.
Since that first trip I have learned a lot about twitching and it is my “go to” method for fall Coho, as well as tidal and saltwater Pinks, late season Chums and I’ve even landed a few Chinook with this method. I have heard of steelhead being caught on a twitched jig, but I have yet to accomplish this myself.
After years of twitching jigs, I have learned a lot about the jigs themselves. Anglers often make the mistake of trying to use the same jigs that they float-fish with and soon become frustrated or lose confidence in the twitching technique after not catching anything. Unlike the float-fishing jig, the twitching jig has a different purpose. It is the “twitch” that causes an impulse strike from the salmon, so you need a fast-sinking jig.
Most of the jigs we use under a float are at most 1/4 oz. and even down to 1/16 oz. Twitching jigs need to drop quickly, so most are 3/8 oz. for backwaters, sloughs, and deep slow holes. For any holding water with some current, such as along a seam, anglers often bump up to a 1/2 oz. jig.
Twitching is a cadence of dancing the jig in front of the salmon’s face and enticing a strike. The jig is a nuisance to the fish and the impulse to bite occurs while the jig is on the drop.
Cast your line out past the holding fish and let it sink just enough to get it down to where the fish are. If you pause too long, then the jig will fall under the fish, and you are likely to foul hook them. Conversely, if you don’t wait long enough, then the jig never gets in front of the fish.
The Mack’s Lure Rock Dancer Bucktail Jigs were made for this type of fishing. Often used by bass and walleye anglers the same way salmon anglers use them, the bucktail tends to stay together well. The jig was designed to “dance” in rocks where walleye are often found, and it turns out they work great in log jams and deep holes where Coho are found, too. It takes some practice, but once you get it down you will likely make this your “go to” technique for Coho.
The hooks on a twitching jig are usually 2X, which are twice the normal wire strength, and the Rock Dancer features such a hook. This is because a light wire jig will often pull free from a fish as you are fishing cover. Braided lines are a must, starting at 20-pound test, though some guys like 40- or even 50-pound braid. I prefer 40-pound as I also use this same strength for pulling plugs and I buy my spools in bulk. Coho hold in tight cover, such as long jams or near shorelines with grass. A strong hook and stout line is needed to pull the fish free from the cover as quickly as possible.
Twitching rods are also specific to the technique. A twitching rod is usually 7 1/2 feet in length with a medium-action and a fast or “soft” tip. This allows the angler to twitch the jig all day without fatigue, as it can cause some stress on the wrist. The medium-action allows for a solid hookset, while the fast tip means you can feel the subtle resistance of the fish holding the jig in their mouth as you twitch and increases your chances of catching fish.
Colors are often subdued, such as black, purple, blue, or a combination of each. Often a subtle amount of bright colors, like cerise, pink, orange, red, or chartreuse, along with black, are used to draw attention to the holding salmon.
Coho prefer purple and black, but cerise is another top producer. If chums are in the river, then give chartreuse a try, as well as the blue and pink.
Materials for jigs vary from bucktail, marabou, and rubber hoochie skirts. Later in the fall, when I am chasing after Coho and Chums, I rarely use marabou as it seems to fall apart after catching a fish.
Instead, I prefer to use the Mack’s Lure Rock Dancer jig. The head is pre-painted with a UV eye, and it is made of bucktail, which is tough, even after several fish. You will notice a chenille collar just behind the head of the jig — this is a scent collar, which is where you apply any bait oils or scents. If you want to add even more contrast, then slide on a small rubber worm onto the 2X hook.