Slow Pitch Vs. Vertical Jigs: What's The Difference?
Slow pitch and vertical jigs are popular styles of metal lures used to fish deep water quickly and effectively. Although they look very similar, they differ in their shape, size and weight distribution. In this article, we will discuss the proper ways to fish both styles of lure - and what equipment is required to present them effectively.
Vertical Jigs or "Knife Jigs"
Vertical jigs, sometimes known as "Speed Jigs" or "Knife Jigs" are fishing lures primarily made from cast lead - and coated with a reflective foil or paint scheme. Sometimes they are enhanced with glow stripes to improve their visibility in deep water. They are called Knife Jigs due to their streamlined appearance; oftentimes featuring a sharp looking profile, similar to that of a knife.
They are designed to fall and hit bottom as quickly as possible, minimizing drag through the water column. Vertical Jigs are fished erratically, in fast "up down" motions that send the lure darting and flashing throughout the water column until reaching the surface, emulating a baitfish fleeing or in distress. This causes a reactionary strike in predatory fish, such as Amberjack, Tuna, Bonito, Jacks, King Mackerel, and more.
Vertical Jigs are fished with short, stiff rods and fast action. The reels used are usually spinning types from 4000-8000 class sizes and spooled with 30-80lb braided fishing line. As the species caught are oftentimes armed with sharp teeth, 40-100lb fluorocarbon leader may be used to mitigate cutoffs. Vertical jigs are very effective on wrecks, patch reefs and other forms of saltwater structure. Mass of these jigs is measured in mostly grams, but some companies use ounces. We find that in South Florida, 80-200 gram vertical jigs perform well in most conditions from 50-180 feet of water, however very strong current may require more to reach the bottom.
Slow Pitch Jigging or SPJ:
Slow Pitch Jigs, although also utilizing lead and coated with holographic foil, are different in shape and fishing technique to their Vertical Jig counterparts. These lures are usually oval or leaf shaped, and are designed to fall slowly.
Their unique design allows them to flat fall or "butterfly" down a water column, flashing heavily while doing so. It is common to hook a fish on the initial drop as opposed to the retrieve because of this. Once on the bottom, the angler will lightly flick the rod, causing the lure to dart upward and flutter back down. This will be done in succession until either a fish is hooked, or the vessel has drifted from the structure being targeted. Afterward, the slow pitch jig will be reeled up, and casted again. Where vertical jigging is fished throughout a large water column, slow jigging is focused more towards the bottom to middle depths. SPJ targets species that hold to structure on the bottom, such as Grouper, Snapper or Tilefish, but it's also possible to catch Amberjack and Tuna on the drop.
Slow Pitch jigging requires specialized tackle, using rods that are soft and flexible. Reels are usually of the conventional type, spooled with 25-50lb 8-strand braided line. Leader strength is usually decreased to improve sensitivity to the lure, and 30-50lb fluorocarbon is commonly used. Due to the leaf-like shape and falling action of slow pitch jigs, they are often much heavier than vertical jigs being fished in same conditions. In South Florida, it is common to fish 150-400 gram jigs. A jig that is too light will not reach the bottom quickly enough and stay off the "strike zone". Slow jigging is less physically demanding of the angler than speed jigging, as it is not required to aggressively pump the rod to achieve a fast action.
So, although these two styles of jigs appear to look similar, they are used in completely different fishing techniques. We recommend to try both speed jigging and slow jigging, and see which you prefer best. We carry at least one slow jigging rod and one speed jigging rod on each trip, and rotate between the two.