Space Invaders

As the world’s top seafood consumer, it’s no surprise the island nation of Japan is home to a busy commercial fishing industry. In their quest to stay on top of some of the world’s most pressured fisheries, innovative anglers from Japan developed a unique jigging system that’s quickly gaining popularity with local bottom fishing enthusiasts looking for the latest edge.


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Photo: Shimano

Known as kabura jigs, at first glimpse these unusual lures look like creatures from another planet. Although the unfamiliar jighead design with large eyes and trailing rubber tentacles appears out of the ordinary, these revolutionary lures are extremely effective when fished with the appropriate tackle and technique. I am not certain if it is the foreign look of the lure or if the fake’s tantalizing movement triggers some sort of reactionary strike, but in any case they are proving to be extremely effective against a wide array of highly prized and heavily pressured bottom fish.

Williamson, Braid and Shimano manufacture deadly effective vertical jigs, and are also at the forefront of this unique presentation. Their kabura-style jigs in various size and color combinations put the hottest offerings in the hands of enthusiastic bottom fishermen looking not only to connect with more snapper, grouper, tilefish and amberjack, but elevate the fun factor while doing so.

Long gone are the days of topping off every fish box with a boatload of bottom fish. Today, Florida anglers must abide by strict size and bag limits for snapper, grouper and more. So why not make each catch as enjoyable as possible. This is where the latest jigging technology enters the equation. Requiring no natural bait, the technique is all about finesse and best approached with relatively lightweight gear, making battles with even juvenile fish quite rewarding.

Like speed jigging, kabura jigs require the use of braided fishing line for maximum sensitivity, but budget conscious anglers will be happy to learn that unlike vertical jigs that are best rigged with costly fluorocarbon leader, a 20-foot top shot of monofilament is ideal for this application. The inherent properties associated with monofilament help facilitate solid hooksets and provide the perfect balance of stretch and abrasion resistance.

It is also important to note that unlike traditional vertical jigs that are most effective when worked at a rapid rate of speed, kabura jigs are best fished with a slower finesse-style presentation. A lightweight rod with an ultra soft tip is essential for detecting subtle strikes and for solid hooksets, as most fish grab these jigs by the tentacles and bite their way up the bait. Experiments with stiffer rods have proven wary fish tend to let go of the lure when they feel the added resistance. Once a strike is detected the most effective technique simply involves turning the reel handle and allowing the rod to fully load before reacting with a smooth, sweeping hookset. And don’t be surprised with the small hook size on these lures. They were engineered, tested and perfected in this fashion for a number of reasons.

Spinning or conventional outfits can be equally effective when reef fishing with the kabura jigging system, with spinning reels offering the benefit of a slightly faster sink rate and conventional reels holding greater line capacity. With either option a reel with an ultra fast retrieval rate is not a necessity, with a 5:1 ratio perfectly matched to the approach.

Once contact with the bottom is made, the lure can be slowly crawled along the seafloor where the bait’s small assist hooks provide a minimal terminal tackle profile and greatly lessen the chance of hanging bottom. Kabura jigs can also be fished directly off the bottom with a patient lift and flutter action very similar to drop shot fishing. Another option is to slowly retrieve the lure through the lower third of the water column before allowing the bait to flutter back to the seafloor.

In any scenario, the lure’s glowing aura and slow moving squid-like tentacles are irresistible to bottom dwelling species looking for an easy meal that requires minimal energy to catch and consume. This is especially true in cold, deep water environments where fish are less active, but the approach fools fish in all venues.

Truthfully, kabura jigging is easy fishing and requires substantially less effort than the strenuous task of working a slender vertical jig. Kabura jigs are also extremely versatile with interchangeable skirts, tails and hook assemblies, which makes it easy to replace parts or create custom color combinations. It is important to remember that kabura jigging is a complete system. While you can test the approach using existing tackle, if you’re serious about increasing your bottom fishing score you may want to invest in an outfit specifically designed for this exciting application.

Two is Better than One

Unique to many kabura style jigs is the addition of a second eyelet on the bottom of the lure. When fishing deep water, a second, heavier kabura jig can be dangled 3- to 5-feet below the first. Anglers can opt to attach additional weight in the same manner when fishing fast currents or extreme depths, much like drop shot fishing but on a much larger scale.