Jigging for Coho
By Bob Ried aka Cowlitzfisherman
I have used all types of bait, spinners, dick-nites, flat fish, spoons, plugs, divers and you name it, but nothing has produced more coho for me than my perfected jigging method has.
Ever year, if we get a decent run of coho, I usually knock them dead, and I mean that literally. In fact, when I was guiding, I even ran a special “father & son” “coho special” (i.e. 2 people for the price of one) every fall. When I quite guiding in 1996, I primarily used only spinners for my coho trips, and my clients did pretty darn good using that method. The new method that I have perfected is not totally unknown, nor is it only being used on the Cowlitz . It will work in any river, and it really amazes me just how few fishermen know how effective this technique can be.
The majority of the fishermen that I see attempting to use my method usually don't even have the foggiest idea of what they are doing. Hopefully, this thread will greatly increase both yours and their chances for catching lots of coho this year. For years now, fishermen have watched me from both their boats and the bank, and for the most part, remained totally unaware of why I was catching so darn many coho while they couldn't even touch one!
Are you ready to learn?
I am talking about jig fishing here! Home made jigs that coho just can't resist, especially in our rivers. It's not only the “jig” itself that makes the difference; it's also the way you use it and where you use it.
1) I'll explain what type of water that you need to look for when you jig fishing for coho.
2) I'll explain the “noise factor”.
3) I'll explain the “method”
4) I'll explain the “rhythm factor”
5) I'll show you what the killer jigs look like
6) I'll tell you how the “Jig” is made
7) The “Ben gay factor”
8) Guides hate this style of fishing!
1) For jig fishing coho in our rivers, I always look for , and prefer the slower and deeper holes, or the “breaks” in the “current line” that runs parallel to the slower deeper holes. In rivers, coho also love to stay around structures (just like bass do) i.e. big bolder, rock shelf's, submerged large woody debris and logs that are submerged in the slow “froggy types” of water.
These are the things that you need to look for if you really want to catch coho with jigs in our rivers. It's not the kind of water that one would normally be looking for if he was fishing bait or plugs in, and that's one reason why my the jigging method works so well.
2) Next, if you are fishing from a boat; after locating this type of water, the next thing to remember is the “Noise Factor”. Noise and my jigging method, just don't mix very well together! Coho absolutely hate noise when holding in Froggy types of water; especially the noise from the gas powered jets or kicker motors. I always use my electric motor when I am fishing for coho. Oars will work, but I prefer using the electric motor. Oars have a tendency to “spook” coho back into the heavier waters if they see very much surface movement (again, think like bass fishermen do).
If you decide to “anchor up” (my own preferred method); don't “throw” your anchor into the water that you have just pulled into; instead let your anchor down ever slowly. If possible, always use dark colored rope, like black or green. Don't make a ton of noise in your boat either; that means no slamming the metal boxes or banging around inside the boat, or throwing your net around either. When you jig fish for coho in rivers “think” like a bass fisherman does and always try to be as quiet as possible!
3) The method used in retrieving and fishing the “jig” is the “KEY” to how many fish you will likely be catching. When casting your jig, let your jig sink to almost the bottom of the hole that you are fishing in. It really doesn't matter if that dept of the hole is 6 feet or 25 feet, just let your jig sink! If you already know what the approximate dept of water is and you have made your cast, and all of a sudden your jig stops sinking short of hitting the bottom…you better set the hook, and set it in a hurry, because it's…fish on!
Often, coho will just grab your jig when it is “on the sink” and you will not even feel or know that it has happen; it just stops sinking! Once you have let your jig sink to the bottom (or real near to it), you need to start a “winding-jerk- wind-jerk upward motion”. The jerking should be a quick fast upward jerk like motion, and then again winding on the downward motion to pick up the slack in your line; just winding enough line up to pick up the slacked line after you have lowered your rod tip back down. “Inexperience” jig fishermen often do not understand HOW to “jig fish” this way, and will think that you are just trying to “snag” fish. When that happens to me, I just love to bring my fish in and stick it right into there face so that they can “clearly see” that the fish “bit the jig”, and that the jig didn't “bite” the fish”! After that, they are convinced, and they are begging to buy some of my special coho jigs!
This is by far the hardest part of learning the right “technique” for jigging coho, but it is also by far the most critical part that will give the fishermen the best results! Sometimes a slower wind-jerk upward motion works better than a faster wind-jerk upward motion does, so you just have to experiment a little on your own each time that you go jig fishing. From time to time, you will “foul hook” a fish; it just happens when you're doing this type of jig fishing. You already know what you must do when you foul hook a fish, so just release it and go back to fishing!
No matter what method you are using, fishing in front of the “hatchery” areas significantly increases the odds of you foul hooking a fish. Depending on “where you fish” and the shear numbers of fish that are “stacked up” there; usually determines the frequency and amount of fish that get fouled hooked by jigs. In places like this, it really doesn't much matter what you are using, because any “jerking” motion will likely foul hook fish.
The amount of coho that you legally hook in the “mouth” far outweighs the few fish that may accidentally get fouled hooked. It has been my personal experience of using this method, (almost 10 years now) that you will hook about 90% of your fish in mouth and about 10% in the body if you don't use the raking method. If you're jerking your jigs sideways (we call it; “the raking method”), instead of the up and down motion, the foul hook ratio could be higher (I have seen this done by the “snagging experts”). Many fishermen just don't understand that coho get really “excited” (just like bass do) when they see your jig jumping up and down.
Coho get just as excited as bass do, when you present your jig to them in this fashion. You will not believe how hard they can hit your jig! You will swear that you had just hung up your jig onto a rock or log…but then “rock” begins shaking its head, and it's…fish on!
I always use 12 lb Andy Tournament line when fishing the ¼ and ½ size jigs. I use 12 lb line for two reasons; 1) the fish doesn't care if its 12 or 10 lb test, and they will eat 12 lb line just as good as they will eat the 10 lb line; 2) If you're using the 12 lb line, you won't be breaking off near as many fish, nor will you be loosing near as many jigs. It is not uncommon for coho to bite your jig off when they slam it. If you buy these jigs, they are probably going run some where between $1.40 to $2.00 each, and its not uncommon to loose 8 to 10 jigs a day when you fish jigs this way.
12 lb test line also really makes a big difference when you're trying to land your fish when fishing around areas that have submerged “structures” near by (remember coho love structures). I usually use the ¼ jigs in waters that are less then 15 feet deep with very little current. In waters that are faster or deeper then 15 feet deep or have faster moving currents, I prefer using the bigger sized ½ oz jigs heads to get me down to where the fish are holding.
4) The “rhythm factor” is one of the hardest things that jig fishermen must learn to develop. There is a “rhythm” that you will develop that really pi$$'s off the coho (and few other fishermen too). I have tried to explain to you how to do the “rhythm”, but it's really not that easy to do. The rhythm comes from learning to “feel” the jig as it sinks; it's kind of like when you were a kid and you used to play with that old ping-pong paddle with that rubber ball attached to it. It's kind of like keeping the “ball-a-bouncing” but at a much “slower rhythm”. You can get an idea of what I am saying if you go by counting ….1-2-3 jerk-straight-up, 1-2-3 jerk-straight up. Sometimes it may be a “1-2 jerk” instead of that 1-2-3-4 jerk; it's all in the rhythm that works best, and produces fish for you.
5) Jigs pictures
6) How to make this jig: I use both the round head and the bullet shape heads (see pictures) in the ¼ and ½ oz sizes. I personally don't like using the smaller sizes jigs, such as the 1/8 oz size heads because they just take to long to sink, and if you're fishing in water with “moving current”, they just don't sink down fast enough to get to where the fish are holding. But if you can make them work for you, by all means go ahead and use them too. Most of my jigs are made with sizes 1, 1/0, and 2/0 Eagle Claw O'Shaughnessy #630 hooks. I also make a few up with the lighter Aberdeen #570 in larger sizes like 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0 sizes, but I prefer using the 630 O'Shaughnessy hooks. A 1/0 #570 Aberdeen hook is quiet a bit smaller in size than the 1/0 Eagle Claws is, and are also made of much thinner wire. Sometimes the wire type hooks work better when fishing around big snags. Usually when using 12 lb line, you can pull your jig and straighten out the hook if you're using the Aberdeen hook. There not hard to bend back, and you won't loose as many jigs.
I also like using the Eagle Claw hooks because they have a much larger eye hole then the others do and it really makes a big difference for me when I retie my jig (like I don't need to put my glasses on every time I retie my jig!) The body of the jig is made from chenille with about ¾ inch of wrap. I use marabou feather for the tails. 95% of the time, I use “1 odd color” with “2 even colors” on most of my jigs; you can use whatever combination of colors you like. Colors may, and do vary each year, so you need to have several different combination of colors. The colors that I personally prefer using are blue & white, pink & white, Fl chartreuse & Fl orange, Brown & red, and chartreuse & Fl lime green. Also I always add lots of “flashabou” that matches one colors of the marabou or the chenille. Usually I will paint the jig head to mach the chenille bodies color, if possible. You can see what I mean by looking at the picture.
7) Un for tunately, fishermen that choose to do this type of jig fishing already know that they will be paying a price for doing it (including yours truly!)! There is no question in anyone's mind that has done the style of fishing that you will be paying for it the next day! It's a tremendous amount of work and action on both your wrist, elbow and shoulder joints when you do it hour after hour, day after day. You will probably be buying a good supply of “Ben gay” and “Ibuprofen” to ease the pain that usually follows. But isn't fishing worth some pain? Or is that; “no pain-no gain”?
8) Most guides just won't fish this way, especially if they have more then 1 or 2 inexperienced clients in their boat (and I do not blame them either). Here's why I believe that guides don't like to fish coho this way; 1) they don't know how to fish jigs this way! 2) Its a pain in the$$ for them to do! 3) You can only fish 1 or 2 inexperienced fishermen from a boat this way without breaking or banging your rods. 4) Jigs are fairly “expensive” if you buy them and it can really get expensive in very short order; i.e. 8-10 jigs each x 3 @ $1.50 = $45.00 in tackle lost a trip.5) Their clients won't, or can't fish this way because it's a hell of a lot of work for the clients to do; 6) they (the guide) isn't going to put his body parts through hell just to catch a “fish” for his client's this way; 7) There is only so many holes that hold coho in a river, and once they are “filled up” by other fishermen, he is screwed! 8) It really gets “hairy” when you have 2 or 3 people who know nothing about jig fishing “attempting” to cast a ¼ or ½ oz hunk of lead with a 1/0 or 2/0 hook that keeps flashing between his eyes!
Finally a guide must also consider that he just might get a local nick name like; “lead head”, “jig jaw”, “hooker” or “wood eye". This style of fishing just is not what most guides would like to do for 8 hours of fishing…it's just simply way to much work!
When you're jig fishing with this new method, your always going to run into those that are just to damn lazy to use it, or they don't have any of right kind of jigs, or they are just diehards bait or spinner fishermen that will never lean to use a new type of fishing method. Those are the ones that start crying “ you're just snagging ”.
Well for those guys that do think that way; do what you do best…dream on!
I hope that you have enjoyed this read and that I have been able to teach some of you a new and productive method to catch coho.