River Jig Fishing (Complete Guide)

River Jig Fishing – A dynamic way to fish

River jig fishing is one of the most dynamic fishing methods, requiring you to jig the rod tip up (similar to jerk bait fishing) swiftly to move the lure up and down in the water column, therefore, imitating the action of an injured fish and getting a take from a predator species.

When first learning the art of river jig fishing, you can try either jigging straight up and down or casting the lure out and jig it back towards you horizontally while reeling. 

These jig fishing techniques imitate an injured baitfish that a game fish would want to eat. We will go into more depth on river jig fishing techniques later on.

A huge benefit of Jig fishing and certainly one of the big attractions for me (having a young family and working full time) is that sessions can be kept short and require very little tackle. Wheelbarrows not required! Remember that fishing is extremely good for our mental wellbeing and river jig fishing is a great way to get out for those that are pushed for time.

So If you’re thinking about trying jig fishing but don’t know where to start then this post will have you going in no time.  

The Setup

First of all your going to need the kit to get started. Let’s start with the rod. 

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Jigging Rod

River fishing with jigs requires a good jigging rod. Remember that you are mainly going to be targeting perch so having a rod that allows you to feel the ‘take’ is vital. Learn more about fishing for perch with lures here

The rod is responsible for imparting the jigging up and down motions to give the lure its proper action and lure fish while transmitting any bite to the angler’s hand. Once the fish is hooked the rod needs to be able to handle a fish fighting and haul it from bottom or heavy cover.

A rod with a casting weight of 1 to 12 grams is an ideal all-rounder and will cover most light to medium work. Most jigging rods come with a medium-fast action, which gives you plenty of backbone for playing fish while still providing enough sensitivity to detect the subtlest of bites.

Here is a selection of rods that will do the job perfectly

The Reel

A reel between 1000-2500 size is our recommendation. This will balance the outfit perfectly. Providing a light set up that is comfortable to fish all day with. Be sure to purchase a reel with a smooth drag system, this will help when using lighter breaking strains of line.

We recommend the following for your rod and reel river jig fishing setup.

The Line

We recommend using a braided line between 8 – 10lb breaking strength. Braid has no stretch and allows you to add the action into a lure effortlessly and instantly. Bite detection is massively improved with braid, providing you with the sensitivity to feel bites and to feel what ground you’re fishing over.

Braid provides lower diameter and higher breaking strain line in comparison to monofilament lines which will help aid casting distance. Thinner diameter lines also allow your lure to reach the bottom quicker when fishing with lighter lures and jig heads.

The Lures

Soft plastic lures ranging from 1-3″ are most commonly used for jigging. Lures of all kinds can be used for river jig fishing. Want to see more lures? Check out our favourite perch lures


A shad is an imitation fish and they work insanely well for catching predators. You can fish a shad with a straight retrieve or you can vary it, jig it up and down, lift the lure off the bottom and let it flutter down again.

Curly Tails

Curly Tail lures are excellent fish catchers, the body is that of grub with a curly tail at the back. When retrieved straight and slow the tails rolls creating the illusion that the grub is swimming. Curly tails can be jigged along the bottom.


Crayfish have a superb action as they flutter through the water and they are superb lures, especially for river jig fishing as they are naturally found in UK waters. They can be retrieved straight so the claws flutter or they can be twitched and jigged.

The Jig Head

A Jig Head is essentially a weighted hook, the shank of the hook is angled at 90 degrees and is always facing upwards so you can drag the lure across the bottom when river jig fishing.

Jig heads are measured by hook size and weight. When light lure fishing with lures of 1” to 4” in size, you will be using hooks in sizes 1/0 down to 8. 

Jig heads are measured in grams and for light lure fishing, 1 gram to 5 grams are the most popular sizes. 

If the flow on your chosen river is quite fast you will want to choose a heavier jig head to get through the flow and your lure on the bottom. 

Fish Saftey

Fish safety is important and you must have the equipment to safely land and release the fish that you catch. We are not targeting Pike but there is still a chance of catching one, therefore we would always recommend the use of a wire trace. If you want to learn more about unhooking predators and the best tools check out this article

How to start river jig fishing

A lot of people who start out fishing soft plastic lures are usually way too erratic retrieving the lure. The aim is to mimic prey fish so an understanding of how prey fish move through the water is essential.

The cast and retrieve are really important but the first consideration when river jig fishing is to find where the fish are.

  • Look for features like weeds, overhanging trees, lily pads, submerged trees etc, they all make for perfect ambush points for predators.
  • Cover water methodically in a fan shape. Covering water in a fan shape will not only allow you to cover more water but it will also allow you to discover what other structure may be lying in front of you.

Once you’ve found where the fish are located it is important to consider how you will retrieve your lure. Try to jig the lure by using a short, sharp jerking motion of the wrist to allow the rod tip to move between 6 – 12 inches. Keep the rod at a 45-degree angle while doing so.

Be sure your line is tight at all times by picking up the slackline with the reel when jigging the lure. This will ensure the lure hops along the bottom and allow it to move with a more natural movement. This is also very important for bite detection and hook set.

Mix up your retrieve speed, to see what the fish prefer on that particular day. Don’t forget to throw a few pauses in to allow the lure to remain static on the bottom. Often this is the time you get the takes. If you fancy something different, why not check out our Jika Rig article.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this post. Why not check out our blog? Or subscribe to the newsletter to find out when a new post lands? You could win a free lure in our monthly giveaway!

IF you pick up any of these lures, let us know how you get on. Any other suggestions? Leave a comment below or get in touch Good luck with your river jig fishing.

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