FreshwaterInshore

Beyond the Brine

Florida is known as the Fishing Capital of the World for many reasons. One of those reasons is the sheer variety of game fish species that can be targeted within the state’s inshore, offshore and freshwater venues. Like Florida’s fisheries themselves, one of the draws of slow pitch jigging, among many, is the versatility it provides. Wherever you choose to fish, there’s no telling what the next bite will be with the next drop of your flashy metal. This mysterious allure applies to fresh water as well, with a variety of sought-after species roaming the Sunshine State’s sweetwater realms.

PHOTOGRAPHY: John Arnholt

Florida is home to a great many freshwater venues where a variety of game fish roam. From the iconic largemouth bass to invasive butterfly peacock and much more, there’s plenty to target within state lines. In addition to the many venues and target species anglers have access to, there are even more tactics that are used to fool these fish. Some like to keep things simple with live bait or the venerable soft plastic worm, while others seem to fall for the aisles upon aisles of intricate fakes lining local tackle shops. The beauty of these fisheries is that anglers have the freedom to do whatever floats their boats, so to speak. Unlike other fisheries or species that require specific baits and techniques, freshwater fishing is a bit more laid back.

PHOTOGRAPHY: JYG Pro Fishing

Despite the many options to choose from when it comes to freshwater tactics, it’s safe to say that slow pitch jigging is not traditionally a part of that conversation. While many saltwater anglers are still catching on to the slow pitch jigging trend, it just historically hasn’t had a place in the freshwater world, at least not in Florida. However, what if I told you slow pitch jigging is not only possible in fresh water, but it’s also incredibly effective? Well, it just so happens that is the case.

Now, I’m not telling you to go out and sell your collections of freshwater lures, I’m simply telling you that there’s another technique you should add to your bag of tricks. And, for die hard slow pitch jiggers like me who will opt for jigging over anything else, this presents a new chapter in the evolution of the tactic. I’m also not going to tell you that freshwater slow pitch jigging is the most effective way to target your favorite sweetwater species, but for those who would rather jig than do anything else, it’s certainly a worthwhile pursuit. Additionally, for those freshwater anglers who are faced with extremely pressured and wary fish, throwing something at them they’ve never seen before might be a good idea.

PHOTOGRAPHY: John Arnholt

When the idea of slow pitch jigging in fresh water was first thrown around, I must say, I was skeptical. The venues just didn’t seem like they’d take to the tactic, given the inherent depth requirements. But then I got to thinking a bit more and I realized there are plenty of lakes, rivers, canals and more deep enough for a proper jig presentation. Furthermore, it had never really been tried before, at least not to my knowledge, so why not give it a shot?

Of course, it’s also important to note that there are many different forms of freshwater venues throughout the state. Some are shallow, man-made canals and drainage ditches, while others are larger lakes that can be pretty deep. With jigging, you definitely want to focus your efforts on the deepest parts of whatever body of water you’re fishing. Additionally, like jigging virtually anywhere else, you want to target irregular bottom that features sharp changes in bottom contour. Many of the species we target in Florida’s fresh water associate with this sort of structure. In shallower canals and ponds where traditional jigging isn’t possible, you can even cast your jig and pitch it as you reel, achieving similar action that drives fish wild.

PHOTOGRAPHY: John Arnholt

By the same token, it’s worth noting that many of the same principles of slow pitch jigging that apply in 800 feet of water offshore also apply in 25 feet on a lake, with a few exceptions. First of all, you mostly want to maintain a vertical presentation that allows you to impart the most enticing action on the jig you possibly can. In order to do so, you’ll need to slow down your drift when the wind is blowing. While many anglers trust sea anchors out offshore, a simple 5-gallon bucket tied to a rope will do in these scaled-down scenarios.

The first time I got out to testing this method in fresh water, the results were immediate. This was in southeast Florida, which is known for its many saltwater pursuits, but also boasts many freshwater opportunities with both native and nonnative species to target. While the area’s freshwater fishing is very good, the cold front that had come through the day before made things very challenging. In addition to chilly temperatures that made the peacock and largemouth bass quite lethargic, the stiff 20-knot winds made it difficult to maintain a drift slow enough on our canoe and paddle board.

But even with these adverse conditions, the enticing pitch and flutter of our 25-gram jigs from JYG Pro Fishing caught the attention of these fish and enticed them out of their winter slumbers. On ultra-light spinning gear, the fights with peacock and largemouth up to 3 and 4 pounds were incredibly fun, with 6 lb. braided main line and 15 lb. fluorocarbon leader all you need here. On this trip, we were testing out the Micro Bundle, part of Florida Sport Fishing’s new collaboration with JYG Pro Fishing, available at fsfgear.com. The flash and flutter of these jigs seemed to be the hot ticket that day. In addition to JYG Pro’s micro options, there were a few other tiny metals in the 10- to 20-gram range that also worked well.

Along with their proven success in some of Florida’s freshwater venues, small slow pitch jigs work well out of state on striped bass, too. PHOTOGRAPHY: JYG Pro Fishing

Drifting along, our group noted that the fish seemed to favor a slow and more subtle pitch of the jig. Remember, this is not like jigging offshore. Even the smallest movement of the rod tip will cause the jig to dart in different directions and, with no current or scope, you don’t need as much action from the rod. However, depending on the conditions you’re presented with, you may have to undergo a period of trial and error to figure out a pattern that works.

The small residential lake we were fishing has been a productive peacock bass haunt in recent years, featuring plenty of structure, forage and minimal pressure from anglers. Another feature that made this lake appealing was the depth, reaching more than 30 feet in some areas. These nonnative butterfly peacock, native to the Amazon, head to deeper water during periods of cool weather, so we were hopeful. If there ever was a time and place to try freshwater jigging, this was it.

With much anticipation leading up to the trip, it did not disappoint. Several quality fish, including peacock and largemouth bass, couldn’t resist the very same jig patterns that fool snapper, grouper, tuna and more in salt water. While we were confident the tactic would prove successful, we were still shocked that we could effectively jig in such a venue. This particular lake was even connected to Biscayne Bay and, although it is a freshwater lake, snook and tarpon reside here as well. In fact, the first bite of the day was from a 10-pound juvenile silver king that, unfortunately, threw the hook just out of range of the landing net.

I know the idea of slow pitch jigging in fresh water seems borderline absurd, but the results speak for themselves – it works.