What is Jigging? A Beginner’s Guide

More fish have likely been caught by jigging than any other fishing presentation. Jigging has been used for thousands of years, and some of the oldest fishing lures discovered were …

More fish have likely been caught by jigging than any other fishing presentation. Jigging has been used for thousands of years, and some of the oldest fishing lures discovered were primitive jigging spoons.

There is a reason that jigging in fishing is still a viable tactic today, and it’s because it is very effective for nearly all fish species on the planet. So, what is jigging?

How does Jigging in Fishing Work?

In its most simplistic form, fishing jigs is precisely how it sounds; you raise the jig up and down off the bottom or any part of the water column, or “jig” the lure or bait.

You can snap the jig aggressively to give the bait an erratic action in an attempt to get a reaction from any fish investigating the jig, or you can do it slow and methodically; there are no hard rules when it comes to jig fishing.

What are the Most Effective Jigging Techniques?

Smallmouth bass grip thumb jig held
Jigging is one of the most active fishing methods that requires you to snap or pop the rod tip up quickly to move the lure vertically in the water column. 

Cadence Jigging

There are many effective techniques that can be used when fishing jigs, and one of the most prominent techniques for jigging is to use a cadence or rhythm when you jig.

A cadence is simple, and you can mix up the tempo or rhythm however you want. For example, you could do a “jig-pause-jig-jig pattern” or “jig-jig-pause-jig-jig-jig-pause-jig-jig-pause” with your jigging rod and so on.

You will find that the fish will respond to a certain cadence on one day and a different cadence on another day, so when you are jig fishing, it’s important to mix it up.

Bottom Crawling

Bottom crawling is a jigging method where you retrieve the jig slowly along the bottom. In many cases, you don’t even need to pop or jig your fishing rod and can slowly straight retrieve the jig back to the boat.

You can also incorporate a pop on occasion or shiver your jigging rod tip erratically to make your jigging lure or live bait wiggle, or simply add a pause here and there.

Bottom Bouncing

Bottom bouncing is a very effective technique for fish that are hanging tight to the bottom.

Pounding the bottom of the lake or river creates clouds of silt when the jig head hits the lake bed.

When you combine ripping the jig above the silt cloud and continually repeat this process, it will not only draw fish in from a larger area, but the silt will make them aggressive and strike your jig in many instances.

Rip Jigging

Rip jigging can be done near the bottom or suspended in the middle of the water column.

This bass fishing technique is simple, you snap your rod upwards hard to make the jig dart upwards several inches or even feet, and then control the jigs to fall while keeping your line tight.

This is an excellent triggering technique that will cause many fish to react. Active fishing methods like this are also a great way to attract fish from further away.

What are The Best Jigging Fishing Lures?

Standard Jigs

Standard jig heads are the most popular “lure” used for vertically jigging and can also be used when straight retrieving lures like soft plastic paddle tails or other baits.

Live bait is also commonly used with standard jigs and is a very popular tactic for saltwater anglers and freshwater anglers alike.

Standard jigs come in many different shapes and sizes and can be made for specific presentations. Some specialty standard jigs include upright jigs, swim jigs, and weedless jigs.

Specialty jigs have different shapes for heads depending on what their role is, and some may be skirted like a bucktail jig (buy one here) or silicone skirted bass fishing jig.

Jig heads incorporate a jig hook with a lead weight molded to the hook. Weedless version incorporate a weed guard.


Chatterbaits are very versatile lures, and can be used in a wide variety of applications, jigging included.

While technically a type of jig, chatterbaits are often used in a similar manner as spinnerbaits, but can also be used in a jigging capacity.

Chatterbaits make a ton of noise and vibration and can have a nice subtle swimming action on the fall, which means they can be used effectively as a jig.

Working a chatterbait off of the bottom like a normal jig is a good tactic, and every time you rip the chatterbait upwards it will kick and swim hard and then flutter back to the bottom.

If you work a chatterbait fast enough you can also pause and jig it in the middle of the water column with a short fall.

Chatterbaits are very versatile lures, and can be used in a wide variety of applications, jigging included.

Jigging worms/soft plastics

Jigging soft plastic worms is one of the most common tactics used when fishing with modern fishing jigs.

Soft plastic worms come in many sizes and shapes, and can include designs like curly tails, ribbon tails, and normal worm shapes, others don’t resemble the natural shape of the worm at all like a Senko worm.

Other soft plastic imitations can be anything from crayfish imitations, amphibian and lizard imitations, snake imitations, and small baitfish imitations, all of these will work well when jigging, and all have a time and place on the water.

Jigging spoons

Jigging spoons are excellent in a wide range of jigging applications. They are a very popular type of jig with ice fishing anglers, but are also commonly used for jigging in open water, especially for suspended fish in deep water.

Jigging spoons can come in many different shapes and sizes, from wide spoons to slender spoons, and even spoons with rattles.

Spoons will flutter and shimmy on the fall, and this is a great way to trigger fish into biting, as it gives the impression of a wounded or distressed minnow or baitfish.

Like other jigs, a jigging spoon can be used at any depth, and can be worked directly on the bottom and kick up silt, making them a great lure choice for bottom bouncing and rip jigging.

Jigging FAQs

What species can be caught by Jigging?

Jigs will work for almost any predator fish species.
Freshwater anglers love using jigs for species like walleye, bass, panfish, and even pike, and for some species, the jig is used more than any other type of lure.
The types of fish that will bite a jig while saltwater jigging is too numerous to count, and anglers who fish for redfish, grouper, and even sharks can use some form of jigging presentation.
If there is a species that eats insects or fish, chances are you can easily catch them on a jig in the right fishing conditions.

What Is The Best Type of Fishing Rod for Jigging?

For jigging rods, you should choose a rod that is relatively stout and made from graphite for increased sensitivity.
The rod will vary by species, and there is no “one rod fits all” rule.
For smaller fish, a light power blank with a fast rod tip is going to suit you well, and as the size of the fish increases so will the power and length of the rod.
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend using a fast-action rod tip for jigging. Fast action rod tips are great for snap jigging and are very responsive on hook sets.

What Is The Best Type of Fishing Line for Jigging?

This is another factor that can depend on the species, but for most jigging applications anglers tend to use fluorocarbon and at times monofilament.
When jigging in heavy cover, braided lines can be advantageous due to the angler being able to cut through vegetation and maintain a high level of sensitivity.
Many anglers will also take advantage of both braided lines and fluorocarbon or monofilament lines by using braided line as their main line, and then using a leader section of one of the other types of line.
Using the leader method gives anglers the stealth of transparent lines like fluorocarbon, but still having the sensitivity that braided lines offer.

What’s the Best Jigging Technique For Ice Fishing?

All of the jigging techniques mentioned earlier in our techniques section will work well when ice fishing.
Panfish respond very well to cadence presentations when ice fishing, and for species like perch and walleye, bottom bouncing is a great tactic.
Walleyes and pike will also respond well to rip jigging when the fish are in an aggressive feeding mood.
Spoons are very popular for ice fishing and work very well for fish like crappies, walleyes, and pike.

Other Best Jigging Fishing Tips!

Other tactics that can work well for jigging are very slow presentations with long pauses between jigging, this is especially true when using live bait like minnows, leeches, or nightcrawlers.

When jig fishing, you can experiment with all kinds of jig fishing techniques and make them up as you go along, jig fishing has been around for so long for a reason, because it’s the most versatile form of fishing there is.

Once you find out what the fish want, you can repeat the technique and continue to catch fish on your jig.


There you have it, the answers to the question of what is jigging. Jigging can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it, but one thing is for sure, it is great for catching fish.

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Shawn Chapin is an experienced fishing writer and guide based in Wisconsin, where he loves targeting muskie and a range of other species. Shawn's fished extensively for pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth and panfish species. He's developing a passion for chasing trout on the fly rod.
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