It’s safe to say that metal jigs have been in existence for longer than most of us have been fishing. As a matter of fact, the good ole’ 4 oz. diamond jig has accounted for countless fish and is likely responsible for the vertical jigging craze. Although modifications and enhancements have been made, the concept remains the same. Vigorously worked through the water column, slender pieces of metal weighing in the neighborhood of 2 to 8 oz. imitate fleeing and wounded forage, resulting in impressive strikes and tough battles from a wide variety of gamesters.
Today, metals come in an array of shapes and sizes and continue to account for many great catches. Irons, as they are known across the West Coast, are a staple among long-range tuna and yellowtail fishermen. Along most of the Eastern Seaboard anglers chasing bluefish, striped bass and even bluefin tuna wouldn’t dare leave the dock without a healthy supply of diamond jigs. Up in New England, heavy Viking jigs fill burlap bags with tasty cod and pollock catches.
More important than color is action and for a metal jig to fool fish it must be on the move.
Here in Florida, amberjack, grouper, snapper, sea bass, African pompano, blackfin tuna and cobia are just a few of the many species that won’t hesitate slamming metal. Yet regardless of the body of water you are fishing or the target species in your crosshairs, the trick to connecting on these jewels is all in the action. It’s important you vary jigging speeds, actions and retrieves until you figure out what the fish are keen on.
From gold spoons in the shallows to high-speed wahoo jets, all of us fish metal lures in some form. However, due to editorial constraints we are exclusively discussing slender metal offerings like vertical jigs and diamond jigs. Many experienced anglers swear metal jigs rival the effectiveness of live bait because they can be cast close or far and worked through the entire water column. They also enable anglers a varied retrieve and universal appeal to roughneck predators—worked toward the surface in hyper-speed or erratically ripped across the surface, metal jigs have proven their effectiveness across the world’s oceans.
Metal jigs are relatively inexpensive and as long as they are not lost to toothy critters or aggressive structure they will typically last a lifetime. As a matter of fact, the more fish a metal jig fools the more appealing the lure becomes due to imperfections that emit increased vibration. This is why hammered metal jigs with dimpled finishes often out produce the same lures with smoother finishes.
When considering tying on a metal jig, factors that must be considered for a proper presentation include depth, velocity of current and target species. If you are looking to bag a few black sea bass on a reef in 90-feet of water and you’re faced with slick calm conditions and little current, a 2 or 3 oz. jig worked through the bottom third of the water column will keep you tight. Conversely, to entice deep-water amberjack on the backside of a full moon with a stiff breeze you’ll need nothing less than an 8 oz. jig.
Regardless of where in the water column you work your magic, before the lure ever touches saltwater you better be sure your hardware is up to the task. This is no place for weak split rings and cheap hooks. Welded rings and 4X trebles or heavy-gauge single assist hooks are the only way to make certain you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.
While metal jigs are available in every color found in a box of crayons, a chrome finish typically out produces the rest. If you want to mix it up a bit you’ll certainly have success with chartreuse, black or blue tones and highlights. More important than color is motion. For a metal jig to fool fish it must be on the move. I don’t believe I have ever persuaded a single fish to slam a piece of metal that was sitting still. Any number of game fish will clobber a vertical jig on the flutter and of course, we know they will chase down a diamond jig and nail it on the retrieve, but rarely will any fish touch a metal lure if it is simply dangling motionless. While big fish can be fooled with a proper presentation, they aren’t flat out dumb.
Perhaps the most exciting time to tie on a metal jig is during a feeding frenzy. Bonito, skipjack, jack crevalle, bluefish and Spanish mackerel will all churn the sea into a turbulent mayhem. This is when a metal jig ripped just below the surface will produce slamming results. If you aren’t already fishing magical metals you are missing out on one of saltwater fishing’s greatest inventions.