To Spiral or not to Spiral?
The two main rod setups used in Slow Jigging are the conventional (overhead - guides are on top of the rod) and spin (guides under the rod) formats. The spin format is very popular as it is very easy to fish. Spin setups are more balanced and easier to hold, especially when under extreme loads. The big disadvantage to spin is that when under a lot of pressure from a fish you have to use the pump and wind method. This increases the chances of loosing fish as it can be easy to give the fish a little slack when at the top of your pump or at the end of the wind. It can also mean that it's very difficult to bring a fish of the bottom quickly, resulting in an increased chance of being snapped off or bricked on gnarly ground.
Probably the biggest disadvantage when slow jigging is the reduced contact with the jig itself. As the line travels through the bail roller then onto the reel, you lose touch with what the jig is doing. This can be the difference between catching and not when it is very slow going.
A conventional setup can be uncomfortable to hold and unbalanced if using a reel on the larger size. The reel generally wants to roll to one side when hooked up to a good fish meaning not only do you need to fight the fish but also the rod. Trigger reel seats reduce this effect slightly but when under the gun you are more likely to be holding the fore grip not the reel seat. People persist with this imbalance as when hooked up, you are able to continue retrieving line with an overhead reel. It acts just like a winch, no matter how big the fish is or how locked up the rod is you will still be able to hold the rod tightly and wind.
Overheads give you that direct contact with the jig and ultimately it's action that a spin setup can not match (until recently. More on that soon). Enter the spiral wrap, also known as acid wrap, this setup has the stripper guide (one closest to the reel) sitting on top of the rod then the rest of the guides transitioning around the rod until the last four or five guides are positioned under the rod (like a spin rod). This has two clear benefits, firstly it takes away the need for the rod to spin and become unbalanced. Secondly, probably the bigger benefit for jigging, is that you don't get any tangle of the line on the top or first couple of guides when imparting the jigging action. Clearly, the spiral setup with one of the small high overhead reels makes the perfect jigging combo or does it?
Recently, Jigging Master released the Underhead reel, an overhead reel mounted under the rod in a spin like setup. No unbalanced rod, direct contact with the jig, ability to keep winding when locked up (no pump and wind required), Win Win Win. They do look very odd, a few people i have shown have looked at an Underhead and not known how to react. Having a level wind has been a negative that has put people off (due to how easily they broke on older style offshore reels) but Jigging Master has put a lot of time and effort into building a design that is not only strong but has the ability to be realigned if the line has gotten out of sync with the line guide. These reels were put through punishing testing around the globe on some of the biggest and toughest fighting fish before they were released to market. Jigging Master is well known for bullet proof reels, the smoothest of drags, small size body with big line capacity and masses of grunt. An underhead combo is the ultimate jigging setup.
I would love to hear what your preference is and your thoughts on the Underhead reels.