Twitching marabou and zonker strip jigs for fall coho has proven to be a deadly technique on the rivers of Western Washington for fickle, lock-jawed silvers. 1/8 to 3/8 ounce jigs in sizes 1/0 and 2/0 are optimal and effective colors span the spectrum. When most other techniques fail to get the attention of silver salmon the jig twitching method will usually grab the eye of wary coho. In addition to the success of my own customers, I’ve watched Washington guides Pat Graham and John Koenig put on clinics using this technique when every other method has failed.
The beauty of twitching jigs is its simplicity. Unlike fishing jigs under a float where the current imparts all the action to the jig, in “twitching” the motion of the rod gives the jig its action. There’s no float, either, just you, your rod, and a small jig. A simple flick of the wrist is all that’s necessary to make the jig dance and drive fish into striking. After each twitch of the wrist a small amount of line is reeled in to remove slack and the action is repeated over again all the way back to the boat or shore. The twitch itself is perhaps the most important aspect of this method and too long a stroke on the rod will usually produce less strikes than a short, compact twitch. Moving the jig vertically anywhere from 6″ to 18″ is the range that typically draws the most strikes.
A medium to fast action spinning rod with plenty of backbone is ideal, matched with the appropriate spinning reel and 8 to 12 lb mainline. For twitching jigs in deeper water with some current it’s best to run a leader of lighter test to a small barrel swivel and then apply however many split shot are necessary to get the jig to the desired depth. The barrel swivel will keep the split shot from sliding down the line.
Though color isn’t as important as presentation, some colors that have been super effective for us in recent years are black, purple, cerise, pink, and orange. They’ve been known to hit just about any color, however, and mixing colors can often produce strikes. Another deadly addition to the jig is an 18 count sand shrimp tail. If tying your own jigs or buying them at the store it’s important that they’re tied with enough marabou or rabbit strip to give them sufficient action. Jigs with more material and a tail that hangs well past the hook take on a life of their own in the water and impart much more action than a short jig with less material.
Jigs for fall salmon are best fished in areas with very low current or what us river-folk refer to as “frog water”. Side channels or low gradient, deep pools where salmon congregate are great places to start. Current seams and drop offs with heavier current can be fished by using the split shot rig mentioned above. Once you’ve mastered this technique I can assure you it will remain in your bag of tricks for taking fall salmon.