A beginners guide to jigging - PART 5

Assist Hooks

Last updated 11:43 18/03/2010
Jigging part 5

Jigging 101 Part 5

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Anyone who does a fair bit of jigging should make their own assist-hook rigs.

Some factory-made rigs are not the best. Consequently, I tie my own, so I can be confident that the gear is up to the task and won’t let me down. I also like to tie rigs in different lengths to suit different jigs.
Only two things are required to construct assist rigs: Kevlar cord and hooks – so quite simple really. Kevlar cord is sold under the brands JigStar and Sufix in different breaking strains in most tackle stores in NZ. The great thing about tying with Kevlar cord is that it bites into itself, creating great holding power and minimising slippage.
Suitable jig hooks available in New Zealand include: Jigging Master ‘Monster’; Gamakatsu ‘Tuned’; Owner ‘SJ41’; and Decoy ‘Cutlass’.

Hook sizes
When jigging for kingfish, hapuku, bass and bluenose, I like to use BIG hooks – the biggest available in the brands mentioned above. When jigging for snapper with smaller jigs (100gm-200g), I prefer hooks of around 5/0-8/0, depending on the brand.

Tying time
Several different knots can be used to tie assist rigs, and I will show you how to tie two of them; these are probably the two most common and I have never had either fail.

The simple snell
i) Cut the Kevlar cord around 1.25 times the length of the jig it is to attached to.
ii) Fold the cord exactly in half and pass the mid section through the eye of the hook from the back to the front. Pull through until the tag ends are a bit past halfway down the shank of the hook. (Refer photo #1.)
iii) Bring the mid-section of the cord down, then tightly wrap the cord around the shank and over the tag-ends twice, maintaining pressure via the tag-ends throughout. (Refer photo #2.)
iv) Pass back through the eye of the hook again from the back to the front (critical!), pull up tight from the top, then get some pliers and pull the tag-ends up tight, one by one. (Refer photo #3.)

The overhand knot
i) Cut the Kevlar cord around the same length as the jig you will be using.
ii) Fold the cord exactly in half.
iii) Holding the tag-ends with your thumb and index finger, wrap the cord around your finger once. (Refer photo #5.)
iv) Slip the loop off the end of your fingertip and pass the midsection through the loop, creating an overhand knot or granny knot. (Refer photo #6.)
v) Pass the hook through the loop and tighten the knot onto the shank of the hook. (Refer photo #7.)
vi) Pass the midsection through the eye of the hook from back to front and pull up tight. Use pliers and pull tag-ends up firmly. (Refer photo #8.)
Note: The reason why it’s important to go from back to front when passing the assist cord through the eye of the hook is what happens when load goes onto the hook. If the cord is passed from the front through to the back, and the hook pulled down on afterwards, you will see that the hook point wants to drop down. This gives the fish an easy way out, and I have seen many anglers pull hooks mid-fight because of this. (Refer photo #9 to see an example of this problem.)
When tied correctly, with the cord passed from the back to the front through the eye of the hook, when a load is put on the hook you will notice the hook point tilts upwards, providing the maximum amount of hold possible. (Refer photo #8 to see the correct way.)

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Assist length – length matters
In this case longer isn’t better. The ideal length for your assist rig, when jigging for kingfish, is around a third that of your jig. If your rigs are tied too long, you increase the chances of foul-hooking the fish in the face or pulling hooks mid-fight.
And when jigging for bottom dwellers, such as hapuku, bass and bluenose, I like the length to be around a third to half the jig’s length. Bottom dwellers have large mouths and are suction feeders, so generally inhale the hook into their mouths when grabbing your jig.
As for snapper, I like to have a fairly short cord of around a quarter to a third the length of the jig, as snapper don’t have overly large mouths, especially pannies. I find that long assist cords generally result in missed hook-ups or foul-hooking most of the fish. And even though a foul-hooked fish tastes the same as one caught in the mouth, there is a greater risk of the hooks pulling during the fight. Keeping assist cords short increases your chance of hooking snapper in the mouth.

Rubber banding
When mechanical jigging first started taking off in New Zealand, a small percentage of people couldn’t get their heads around this new rigging style with free-swinging assist hooks. Instead of having a free-swinging hook, these guys thought they would have a better hook-up rate if they used a rubber band to hold their hooks down against the body of the jig.
Personally, I don’t worry about it, and have absolutely no problem hooking fish – and nor does anyone else that I fish with. Just ask any seasoned jig fisherman if they use rubber bands to hold their hooks in place; I can tell you now what their answer would be. As long as you have your assist rigs at the right length, you won’t have any problems hooking fish.

Wearing skirts
Placing skirts on your assist rigs – does it increase your hook-up rate? I haven’t found any difference in my hook-up rate when using them while jigging for kingfish – but they do look good! However, I do use them when jigging for bottom dwellers, as this means I can use some lumo tube on the cord and have a lumo skirt. If jigging in areas with a lot of baitfish I remove them though, as you can be plagued by rubyfish, alfonsino, golden snapper, rays bream etc – a bit of a pain when deep jigging for larger prey.

Essential accessories
There are a few things that every jig fisherman should own:
Gimbal belts
There are basically two types of gimbal belts suitable for jigging: high-mounted and low-slung belts. Let’s look at both and see what the differences are.

High-mounted belts: High-mounted belts are best suited to trailerboat jiggers, where we often back the boat up and fight the fish straight up and down. In this instance, having a belt that’s high-mounted allows a flatter and safer rod angle of between 45° or less when fighting fish.
Try fighting a fish straight up and down with a low-slung belt; it almost forces you to high stick the rod, as the butt section sits so low down that – even after extending your arm out as far out as possible – you can’t get the rod down flat enough, so risk point-loading it.
My favourite high-slung belt is the Hooker 1, made by Seven Seas, a renowned Japanese jigging brand. It is very high quality and features the three different butt positions you can use if you prefer to fight slightly to the side or in the middle.
I don’t know of any good quality high-mounted belts available in New Zealand stores, but there are a number of reasonably cheap ones available.

Low-slung belts
Low-slung belts come into their own when fishing on any of the big charter boats such as Pursuit, Enchanter, Oracle, Cascade etc, as when drift fishing from these boats side-on, your line angles straight out in front and away from you. This allows you to safely use your rod at angles of up to 75° at times, depending on where your line is.
There are a couple of good low-slung belts made by Jigging Master that are very good quality.
Split-ring pliers: You will need pliers to change your jigs over. There are quite a few different brands available in our stores now; some are multi-purpose and may feature a line cutter – even a PE (braid) cutter, such as the pair pictured to the right. Whatever you choose, it will need to handle large (50-150kg) split-rings if you use them and – depending if you also jig for snapper – a small pair for opening small (around 24kg) split-rings.
Gloves: Some people think they are for ‘girls’, but trust me they will protect you from nasty braid cuts. You can go from tough guy to ‘Oh, my God – I need to go to hospital to get this gash stitched!’ in seconds if your bare skin comes into contact with braid being hauled out quickly under tension.. There are a few types of jigging gloves available, made by Jigging Master, Smith, AFTCOand Zest. All have reinforced-leather fingertips and palms.

Next month is the final in this series and covers tips on what to do when the hook-up happens, fighting techniques, a few words on conservation, and acknowledgements.

- Fishing News

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