This week’s guest: ROBBIE NORTHMAN
Savage Gear backed-Robbie Northman is based in Hoveton, Norfolk. Specialising in lure fishing, Robbie uses an array of tactics to target perch, pike, chub, zander and some saltwater species. This week he demonstrates what’s known as the jika rig – a drop shot/jigging hybrid method.
A sensitive and responsive rod is essential for perch fishing, because bites can vary from delicate taps to tip-bouncing ‘slams’, and this isn’t always down to the size of the fish. For weedless rigs potentially fished at range, I use a fairly strong set-up, including a 8 ft 3 in. 3-15 g-rated Savage Gear Finezze Softlure rod and an Okuma Epixor 20-size reel. A longer rod gives me much more control, and allows me to fish with finesse. This rod has plenty of power, and features a fastyet- forgiving tip. Regarding line choice, I tend to opt for 0.08 or 0.10 mm SG Adrenaline Braid. However, on waters where braid is banned, like today at Norfolk’s Cobbleacre Park, I’ll choose a fused line, such as 0.10 mm Berkley Nanofil. On the businesses end I use a 10 lb SG Fluorocarbon leader to a small snap link, unless pike are present, which is when I opt for a 10 lb wire trace. With the jika rig you simply clip your chosen hook and lure and a separate weight to the snap link on the end of your line… and that’s it. It’s a very adaptable set-up, allowing you to swap any of the individual components.
For shallow stillwaters, weights of 2-5 g suit most situations. On deeper venues or rivers I may step up to 8 or 10 g, depending on wind, depth and flow. Small bomb-style weights and pencil leads are often used on the jika rig, but I like to re-use my old bent or blunt jigheads, by removing the hook with cutters. Hooks are offset Gamakatsu patterns, and I choose the hook size to match the lure. For smaller lures of just 5-6 cm, a size 2 offset hook is about right. For 6-8 cm lures, a 1-1/0 hook is best, and for 7-9 cm creature baits, 1/0-2/0 hooks. Be aware that some waters only allow barbless hooks. I like to be mobile, ready to move should I spot feeding fish. I keep my spare lures, rigging kit, unhooking tools and scales in a backpack, with attachments to take a SG folding frame landing net and unhooking mat.
The stillwater that I’m fishing today receives plenty of angling pressure, and the water is very clear. I’m confident that I will get bites using the Savage Gear 3D Bleak Real Tail lures, despite bright sunlight. The perch here have plenty of small silver fish to feed on and, with livebaiting banned, a natural-looking lure may give me an edge, once I find them, or when a feeding spell occurs. I’ve brought along a selection of split tail and paddletail lures, creature baits and stick baits.
They can all be used with the jika presentation. A couple of other favourites are the SG T-Tail minnow, which I find is very visual, with its fat profile. Its large tail helps it fall nose first, before settling on the bottom. I also like the 3D Reaction Crayfish, as it’s very realistic. The claws twist and roll on the retrieve, and the legs add lots of small movements, which will attract a predator’s attention.
1. Searching a feature swim. This is where I start casting, on the left side of the swim.
2. I then fan the casts, working the water between each point.
3. There are fallen trees here to investigate, a perfect ambush point.
4. These tree roots on the inside need searching, many of them being undercut, creating a perfect sanctuary on bright days.
5. A deep gravel spot. Not visible by eye, but when searching the swim correctly you can discover all kinds of underwater features that are worth a look.
Click on picture to enlarge ↓
I like to focus my lure sessions around dawn and dusk, especially on small waters. They are usually quiet at these times in the colder months and, with lure fishing being very active, it doesn’t usually take more than a few hours to get an understanding of the venue. On arrival, I always have a quick walk around, searching for any signs of fish activity and noting visible features, such as overhangs, reedbeds, islands, wind traps… anywhere where my target, perch, could be lying in wait. These areas are a good place to start and to experiment, to find the best tactic on the day. The jika rig has become a favourite of mine for targeting all waters. You can change the hooks and weights quickly to suit the depth and lure. The jika can be retrieved fast and erratic, kicking up a silt trail as it drags the bottom, but also allows you to search small pockets of water.
The free motion of the rig means that you can also rock and twitch it on the spot between pauses and bursts of movement, not unlike the drop shot, but with the benefits of a jigging set-up. When I get to a swim that I like, I quickly assess the depth. With around 4-5 ft of water today, I choose a 2 g sinker and begin working my lure. The lake is clear, carrying a slight clay haze, so I start with dark lure patterns, a T-Tail Minnow followed by a 3D Reaction Cray. No bites come my way, so I swap to a natural imitation – the 3D Bleak – dropping the hook size from a 1/0 to a 2. I work the swim in a clockwise motion, searching from left to right, combing the water for life. I alternate between erratic, fast retrieves and slow twitches, to analyse what the fish might want. In better conditions it’s not so complicated, but when the going is tough, you have to be adaptable.
The natural choice 3D Bleak wins me a bite, but it’s not the specimen that I’m after, but a tiddler perch the same size as my lure. You can’t help but smile at the greed of little perch! After a few more ‘waspy’ taps, I move on, searching each swim and tempting a few more palm-sized samples, before arriving at another swim that I like the look of, with snags and tree roots. After a few casts, I find a clear gravel spot at the entrance to the main bowl of the lake. It’s a small clearing surrounded by weed, no doubt cleaned by the carp, a perfect area for a perch to lie in ambush for the roach shoals. I cast again to the spot, allowing the lure to sink to the bottom, pausing for a few seconds before darting the lure a couple of inches and repeating the process. I try twitching the rod tip, making the lure shake and lift between each pause and movement. On the next bounce, I feel a jolt on the rod tip. I set the hook and feel the thuds of the perch trying to turn back into cover. After a short battle, the fish is in the net, a pristine young perch of 1 lb, hopefully a 3-pounder one day. With dusk drawing in I decide to have a few more minutes before searching the rest of the lake.