Jig Fishing For Zander - Phil Spinks

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Jig Fishing For Zander - Phil Spinks

Over the last few weeks, I've been fishing the mighty Rutland water for zander. Although I've fished Grafham water several times over the last few winters, Rutland was a new adventure for me. Rutland has a much higher population of zander than its sister water Grafham, although on average the Rutland zander are much smaller, but the thought of a few bites sounded like a good option and it’s a stunning venue too. At around 3000 acres, location can be an issue, especially on your first trip. I was given some kind words of advice from venue regular Stephen Collett and it was definitely very useful information (thanks, Stephen). Having a fish finder/plotter is a huge edge for this style of fishing. I had recently bought myself a Lowrance Hook 9. The advantage of having a decent fish finder is that it helps you notice features that you would otherwise sail straight past, including features such as drop offs, underwater pipes and shoals of bait fish. Once you find a promising looking spot the location can be saved on the GPS. As well as bait fish, the predators can also be clearly seen on the screen and by adjusting the sensitivity the lure can even be seen beneath the boat.


One particular feature I have found productive on both Rutland and Grafham is areas of boiling water, where the reservoir is fed by an inlet. These can clearly be seen without the aid of any fish finder and seem to attract plenty of fish. The tackle used is very important in my opinion; braided mainline is a must and the lower the diameter the better. The fine diameter means the line has a much smaller surface area so it cuts through the water better, keeping your lure down near to the bottom. My chosen braid was a Korum Jig Braid in 0.08mm, which breaks at 8lb.  I like to keep the jig head size as light as possible, although a minimum of 20 grams is as light as I generally use and often I have to use 25-30 grams or, on windy days, even up to 40-50 grams.

A fluorocarbon leader rather than a wire trace will produce more bites too. I used a 10-15lb fluorocarbon. A short stinger attached to the lure is also important in my opinion; this is made from a soft wire and it will get much more abuse than the fluorocarbon leader. I'd say 80% of the zander I catch are hooked on the stringer. As for worrying about getting bitten off, I can say it hasn't been a problem for me and generally the pike don't seem to like the deeper water – the few that I have caught have been safely landed.

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Rod choice is also important; you want a fast action rod that will handle the heavier jigs. If the rod is too soft you won't set the hooks and miss lots of bites. Also a faster action will impart more action into the lure with less effort. I've been testing the new Korum Speed Lures Rods and found them perfect, especially in the 7-28 gram model. Many of the productive areas on Rutland are very deep and most of the zander I’ve caught from there are in around 70 feet of water. This is why the low diameter braid is a must, otherwise you wouldn't keep in contact with your lure and it would constantly be dragged away from the bottom as you drift along.

There are two styles of fishing I have used on Rutland this winter. When I have enough wind, I like to drift along over my pre-chosen areas, usually with the aid of a drogue to keep the boat moving nice and slow. My fish finder will tell me how fast I'm moving and personally I like to keep it around 0.65mph or less – basically as slow as I can but enough to cover a decent area. The drogue is basically an underwater parachute that slows the drift down and also keeps the boat slightly more stable on windy days.

When drifting, the lures are presented vertically directly under the boat. I lower the lure until I feel it tap down on the bottom. Then my favourite action is to lift the lure quite fast off the bottom, around 12-18 inches, pause for a second or two, then slowly lower the lure back down until I feel it tap the bottom again. Nearly all the bites will occur while you’re slowly lowering the lure back down. The bites are brilliant, usually a very positive thump on the rod!


The second method, which I have used very successfully recently, is casting the lure away from the boat. This may sound like I'm telling lots of people how to suck eggs but the retrieve is slightly different to how most anglers would generally work a lure. Once the lure has finally hit the bottom, lift the rod up, lifting the jig up off the lake bed, and then slowly lower the rod back down until you feel the jig tap the bottom again. Controlling the speed that the lure falls is important; balancing the right sized lure with the right size jig head can make a big difference. If the jig head is too heavy the lure will fall too fast. Achieving a nice fluttering drop is what you are trying to achieve. Basically, sink and draw the lure back to the boat. It is also worth vertically working the lure next to the boat for a short while before reeling it back up for a recast, as quite often a zander will follow it in and be persuaded to grab it under the boat. Again, like the vertical jigging, most of your bites will occur while the lure is dropping down.

A very important part of fishing these deep reservoirs is fish care. Once a fish is hooked in the deep water, the worst thing you can do is pump the fish up too fast as the pressure chance will cause the fish to gas up. Once hooked, keep the rod horizontal and retrieve the fish slowly; take your time giving the fish a chance to adjust to the pressure changes. Once the fish is landed, try to return it fairly quickly. I can appreciate why many zander anglers will measure fish rather than weighing them as it means they are out of the water for less time. When you return the zander – it may sound slightly barbaric – torpedo it back in head first. This will mean the zander will dive down deep and adjust to the water pressure much better.

The zander fishing I experienced over three trips this winter on Rutland was brilliant. Due to flat calm conditions, casting lures was the order of the day for most of the time. The average size of the zander was much bigger than I had expected and most of the fish I caught were 5lb and the best fish just over 8lb. The bites are what it’s all about for me, feeling that sudden thump as the lure is falling, and, as I mentioned before, it’s beautiful surrounding to be fishing in.

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