Picking your Jighead Weight - Learn to Fish Soft Plastics Series
Hey Skulldraggers, welcome to another Learn to Fish Soft Plastics article.This weeks blogs inspiration came from Warren Izzard from the Soft Plastics Anonymous page
So often we are perplexed about what size jighead you should use in any one situation. The best way to explain this is, that just as you use more than one tool to build a house, you will use more than one type and weight of jighead to catch fish consistently.
As we know, there are many different applications for soft plastics across countless species. So for the focus of this article we are going to just start with a few examples and some techniques that relate to jighead weight that you can adapt or adopt the next time you hit the water.
Sink rateThe rate at which your plastic sinks in the water is dependnant on how much it weighs, right? So the more weight, the faster the sink, not exactly rocket science.
But think about this. Using the same weight on a 3 inch single tail soft plastic and a 5 inch triple tail soft plastic, well of course the one with more drag through the water sinks slowest.
So what is best?
Well as usual it all depends on your application and what you are targeting. If you are chasing southern NSW offshore blue spot flathead in 40m of water, getting down there with a thin gauge needle point hook might be a lot more important than a slowly sinking finesse type application, therefore a heavier jig head is better.
Chasing snapper on an inshore reef in shallow water might require the smallest jighead weight in your tackle box to lightly float your offering down to mid-water where they hang out, while still retaining a strong hook to avoid them crushing in the gape, or worse, straightening the hook. There are so many variations, but let’s look at the components and environments to consider for your application.
Sand FlatsFor many people starting out, sand flats are a good place to start, flathead take soft plastics readily and there is a good chance to take home a feed. Keeping in mind that these ambush predators fight clean in a mostly obstruction free area, you can fish fairly light, and depending on the tidal run (as you clearly need to get the lure on, or as close to the bottom as you can), can work a light jighead like a 1/8 or 1/16 ounce or less without too much trouble, the limiting factor here is your ability to cast such lightweight offerings reliably with any distance, a fact made difficult by the amount of wind around on the day.
Heavy jighead and puff of sand Vs fishing lightSo there is a theory about using a heavy jighead on you plastic to make it nosedive with force into the sand, creating a bit of a puff of sand to attract predators. So each person would probably have their experiences with this and some long held beliefs, I will share mine. This seems plausible until you think that you are trying to imitate baitfish behavior while an injured baitfish may behave erratically at any time, I have not witnessed any baitfish ever that nosedive into the bottom. Sure, species like mullet or whiting will much there way along the bottom like a grazing cow, but I have yet to see them consistently nosedive into the sand/mud with enough force to create a puff of sand/mud. So why does this seem to work, I would suggest this more stems from the feeding reflex of a turned on and actively hunting fish. In saying this, any fish like that will probably take any bait, artificial or ortherwise presented. But my theory is, if it’s working, stick to it.
The hook size can sometimes be a factor, that can cause missed opportunities to convert a take to a catch. Too small a hook with a soft plastic can mean, way more plastic than getting straight to the point. However, too big a hook and you risk putting off the fish visually. Hook size can also be a factor when fishing weedy or snaggy areas, more hook sticking out, more chance of a tree. However you look at it, the hook size needs to be large enough to stand a good chance of the fish getting the point, yet not particualy oversized to the fact that they will notice them. In highly visual conditions, clear water or slowly fished scenarios, I would suggest a slightly smaller hook may be less visible. This however needs to be balanced up with the strength of the hook as described next.
Having a strong and reliable hook to set into your quarry is important, but so are a number of other factors. Particularly for me, I look for a hook with good penetration, especially for lighter entry species like bream and flathead. When fishing light for these guys, there is a lot less likelihood of straightening the hook as you are not exercising high drag settings. So thin gauge, high penetration is what I look for with these.
Jacks in structure, or snapper in the rubble, whole other story. When dealing with the smash and grab tactics of a jack, you need brute strength and a strong reliable hook to stop the initial and subsequent runs to structure. This will surely test out every tackle system. Snapper and other fish with big crushing plates will simply turn your thin gauge penetrator hook into a wire loop with little or no chance of hooking anything ever again. There is nothing more demoralizing than getting you plastic back after a scorcher of a run with your hook looking like a secondhand earring. So strong 3x hooks if you can for these guys.
Line classThis again is highly subjective, I subscribe to going light, or as light as you dare. With braid lines these days, little or no stretch, they can pack a wallop even in the lighter diameters. Fishing lighter line allows you fish a lighter jighead and still retain a decent cast range. This may give your offering a little more appeal and natural action that it plummeting like a lead balloon.
Tidal runThis would be one of the most under rated and little known factors that many people tend not to take into consideration when picking a jig weight. Tidal or current run is extremely important to understand otherwise your offering ends up either on the bottom, on the top and only rarely somewhere in between if you don’t take this into consideration. Use a jig weight that will get you to where you need to be with your lure. Of course the tidal run and whether you are anchoring or drifting will make all the difference.
SpeciesKnow thy quarry, pick your lead to suit. Bottom lurkers in deep water are a different ball game to pelagic in topwater, so you need to know your target species habits pretty well. A good sounder can also help with that from time to time. Look for the environment that might hold your target species. While it’s all the same water, but using flathead jigheads and weights for tuna may not be all that optimal, but a hell of a lot of fun nonetheless.
Location and bottom structureLike discussed previously, your bottom structure,depth and location will also influence your jig head weight and how you work it.
For instance shallow clear flats might suit a slow roll, burn and kill or the lift and drop.
Deep reefs will require a more vertical jigging style of fishing, with a heavier jig-head and an arm wrenching return.
Rough, shallow reefs areas might go better with a light weight, almost unweighted jighead to float the offering down the karma trail, without hooking Aqua granitas and loosing your best soft plastic.
The Count-down methodOne accurate way of identifying the depth your lure runs at is to count down the seconds as it falls.
Take a known depth of 5m and then just time how long if takes for the plastic to go to bottom. Multiply this across your fishing depth and you will have an approximate time to reach bottom, you can then workout how long you count down for how much depth you need to keep you off the jagged bottom, or in your strikezone.
In conclusionSo the weight of the jig effects so much depending on all the other variables out there in the environment. Your target species and you retrieve method.
So where do you start as a beginner, it’s all too confusing and just a little overwhelming!
Yes, yes it is. But you start by identifying your target species, work out it habits, what it eats and how it hunts and then go fish. Try a set jig weight initially and then scale up or back as required. Experience can be a hard teacher, but treat every dounut ( where you don’t catch anything) you bring home as an experience, you may not have caught anything, but you brought home experience... that is, if you paid attention!
Start on one species, take your small wins and learn from the mistakes and experiences. Hone the craft and think it through. Read more, learn more and realize that every video ever posted to social media is normally there because they catch something. Virtually none exist where they wrap up with a dounut.
However, reframe your experiences out there, by that I mean enjoy the learning journey in soft plastics. Each dounut is just one step closer to cracking the code. Then there will be no stopping you. Then you are ready to apply your new found skills to the next species and then the next.
So consider your jighead weight, it’s effect on the presentation of the SP and look to nature for the behavior of your targets food source. Above all, get out there and fish, do the miles, get the smiles.
Till next time Skulldraggers, have fun, fish responsibly and remember take only what you need and post the rest to social media.
Want to know more? Sign up to our email list and get this and other information delivered straight to your inbox. Click on the tab to the right to sign up to the Skulldrag Clan. Unsubscribe at anytime
Find us and Subscribe on YouTube