angler with dogtooth tuna on lap

Overhead Jigging Reels: The Best for Jigging?

Are overhead jigging reels better for chasing monster fish? Let’s take a closer look and find out if they fit your fishing needs.

Which is better? Overhead or spinning reels for speed jigging? This has been discussed countless times since the early 2000s’ ‘fishing forum’ days, and the debate continues to this day.

But almost two decades of back and forth, we’ve all come to realize that this has never been a contest to see which type of reel can catch the most or the biggest fish. It all boils down to personal preference.

Both reels have their pros and cons, and in the hands of a capable and experienced angler, will catch fish effectively.

As a matter of fact, we’ve reviewed amazing spinning reels that are great for jigging, like the Shimano Stella SW, the Saragosa SW, and the Penn Slammer 3 among others we’ve tried and tested ourselves.

We would just like to share our positive experiences while using overhead jigging reels for big game in deep water. Positive experiences that you may enjoy and utilize to achieve fishing success.

A matter of personal preference

Although I am a bit biased towards overheads in this matter, my colleagues and myself use both in almost equal the amount when out on the water, witnessed our guests use them, allowing us to gain sufficient experience in this matter.

We will specifically discuss conventional reels specially designed for speed jigging.

This article was not written to sway your preference over to the dark side, but to share our own personal opinions on why using overhead or conventional jigging reels may help you enjoy jigging even more.

At the latter part of the article, we have listed down 3 of the most popular overhead jigging reels available in the market today. They aren’t the top 3 or the best 3 reels available, only the most popular and most desired.

Let’s start off with features that you should be present in a good overhead jigging reel.

Build Quality

Our rods and reels go through serious amounts of stress when jigging, thus the need for the best materials available, without making them too expensive to produce.

A full metal construction is or at least a frame is required, to prevent the body from flexing or bending while in use. Any presence of flexing while jigging or fighting a fish will cause the gears to misalign and eventually a broken reel or worse, a lost fish.

Modern jigging reel bodies and frames are made from aircraft grade machined aluminum. This type of aluminum is extremely durable, corrosion resistant, lightweight, and stiff, allowing the reels to take the abuse they are exposed to on the regular without being cumbersome.

A bulletproof exterior is only part of a bigger picture. The internals are also expected to perform under extreme physical strain.  The shafts, gears, screws, plates, springs, bearings, clips among the rest are machined out of the same aluminum or sometimes brass to achieve the same level of durability and corrosion resistance.

There is no hiding the fact that the long-term durability of your reels is directly related to its production costs. The more expensive the materials and reel, the better the overall build quality is, in most cases.

Key point to remember:

  • Fully machined metal construction is most preferred.

Drag Performance

Smooth and even drag pressure, produced by twin drag systems to be specific. Most manufacturers won’t have twin drag systems available for their reels, but this is worth discussing.

Having pressure evenly applied on both ends of the spool allows a reel to achieve double the amount of stopping power for half the amount of mechanical pressure.

Have a look at Accurate’s Patented Twin Drag System below.

Accurate TwinDrag Lever Drag System

This allows your reel to impart the stopping power needed to win a battle against a fish, without applying lopsided pressure on only one side of the reel.

That being said, a twin drag system is not a “must-have” in a solid overhead jigging reel. Single drag conventional reels can still get the job done with equal aplomb.

Moving forward, the direct laying mechanism of the PE line around the spool means less contact points for the braid, placing all the pressure only onto the drag mechanism. Unlike spinning reels where the line comes off the spool at an almost 90-degree angle towards the bail and roller bearing.

Less angles, means less unnecessary strain to the line and other parts of the reel. Allowing the reel’s drag to fully apply even pressure efficiently.

I promised myself not to get too technical, so let’s move on.

Key points to remember:

  • If you can afford a twin or dual drag reel, go for it!
  • Single drag systems are great! Don’t discount them for twin drags.
  • Twin drag doesn’t necessarily mean double the drag power.
  • Set your drags at home for practice. Find out how much pressure your body can handle, and remember it! Only set your drags to what your body can handle.

Ergonomics and Feel

This I consider as a ‘developed taste’ as not everyone loves the overhead, top-heavy feeling of a conventional jigging outfit.

But once used to it, the desired mechanical jigging motion becomes more easier on the wrist and arms, as their movement becomes more efficient.

The wrist ‘cupping’ the reel won’t be cocked at an angle but will be at a natural palm-up orientation, causing little to no strain on the wrist. This makes for better overall jigging comfort.

Correlated to the top-mounted orientation of the setup, your jigging arm will be utilizing both the triceps and bicep muscles to jig or ‘push’ during the upward stroke. Opposed to putting all the pressure on the biceps when pulling up on the stroke when using a spinning setup.

Engaging both biceps and triceps when jigging will allow you to fish for longer stretches.

When you get tired, your winding arm can provide ‘some’ assistance. This is done by pulling up the handle in time with the upward stroke of the other arm. Reel up – winding arm up.

However, do not place too much pressure on the reel’s handle during the upward jigging motion. The handles and crank arms are not designed to withstand too much linear pressure, and may damage the reel if not careful.

overhead jigging posture

Having the reel and line on top of the rod has another advantage too. You won’t need to fuss over line rubbing on the rails or gunwales when battling a fish of a lifetime.

This allows you to keep your arm locked, and your body steady and ready during the battle, instead of wasting much needed energy and focus on trying to keep your line away from obstacles.

Key points to remember:

  • Cup the reel from underneath. Don’t try to fit the reel into your palm like a regular baitcasting reel.
  • Practice engaging both triceps and biceps for the upward stroke of the jigging motion. Push the reel up.
  • Use the winding arm for some reprieve, but not too much pressure!
  • Practice the jigging motion at home to get used to it.

Torque – Gear Ratio

Think of your overhead jigging reels as a winch of sorts. The same principle of a geared system, wherein you are able to pull in a heavy object with less effort than you think is required.

Let’s not get too geeky about the mechanisms of winches, but simply put, you get lots of torque from the combination of the drum (spool), shaft, and handle crank.

The lower the gear ratio, the less effort you need to place on the handle crank to lift a heavy object.

When jigging, you want a low gear ratio that will allow you to crank up heavy metal jigs with manageable effort. Fast gear ratios are designed for slow-pitch or high-pitch jigging, which is a totally different topic in itself.

You want a low gear ratio, in between the 4:1 and 5.8: 1 ratio. This reduces the amount of work for the cranking arm, while retrieving enough line to successfully impart the desired jigging action.

There are 2-speed reels made for jigging which gives you the best of both worlds. High speed setting for when the fish is swimming up and you need to quickly retrieve line. Punch it into low-gear for when a long drawn out battle ensues and every centimeter of line retrieved can turn the tides of the battle.

Key points to remember:

  • A low gear ratio is key. 4:1 – 5.8: 1 are recommended gear ratios.
  • 2-speed reels are great, but only if you can find the right High and Low gear combination

Now done with the important factors to consider when looking for an overhead jigging reel, let’s proceed with the potential challenges you may face when you just start using them for jigging, and how to face them.

Getting used to the rhythm

As mentioned above, it may be a bit challenging to get used to the rhythm at the beginning. But once you get it, it’s just like learning how to ride a bike. You won’t soon forget it.

The key is to master the motion of both arms. Both arms should jig up and then drop, at the same time. Left arm pushes up, cranking arm cranks up, then drop. Repeat through the targeted depth range, then drop your jig again to repeat the process.

Back when I just bought my first overhead jigging reel, I practiced doing the motions until it became natural. Practice while at home. Rhythm is key.

No rotor, no line guide? No problem.

Conventional reels specially designed for jigging will have narrower spools than normal. This negates the need for a line guide to evenly lay the line on the spool while jigging.

I suggest to not fill up the reel to the brim with braid. I’ll leave a few meters worth of line off, to allow for “humps”, when the braid wants to sit on one side of the spool. This won’t negatively affect the fishing but will need to be sorted out after the fishing session.

Now that we’ve got the challenges out of the way, let’s top off today’s article with 3 of the most popular options for conventional jigging reels in the market today. We won’t go into too much detail for each reel, as all the information is readily available in their websites. But rest assured that these 3 reels are trusted worldwide by the most demanding anglers.

Listed in no specific order, let’s start with…

Accurate Boss Extreme

Accurate Boss Extreme Reel

One of the members of the “old guard” of conventional jigging reels, Accurate have remained at the top of the rankings for over a decade.

With their patented twin drag system, fully machined aluminum construction, and stainless-steel internal components, it’s got everything we need and more.

Ocean Blue Operations Manager and guide Jed Hokins has personally guided a 100KG class dogtooth tuna caught on an Accurate BX jigging reel. Long story short, it can take the heat, easily.

Check out the full spec sheet here.

In the hands of a capable and experienced angler, any kind of jigging reel will catch fish effectively.

Jigging Master Power Spell

Jigging Master Power Spell reel

Who hasn’t seen Jigging Master’s videos from the early 2000’s? Pony Liu and the Jigging Master crew popularized jigging with overhead reels and basically started the overhead jigging movement.

CNC machined aircraft grade aluminum, a fail safe anti-reverse system, cool anodized colors and the famous jigging master click. This is definitely one of my favorite jigging reels.

If you haven’t seen their videos, you must head over to YouTube and watch them by clicking here.

Take a closer look at the Power Spell reels here.

Shimano Ocea Jigger 4000

Ocea Jigger 4000

We can’t make a list without Shimano in it right? The international standard of quality fishing equipment, Shimano also produced a big game worthy conventional jigging reel fit for deep water monster hunting.

The Ocea Jigger 4000 released in January this year has finally made a bigger sized version of their popular Ocea Jigger series of reels.

Shimano’s jigging machine is quite different from what we are used to though. Instead of a conventional lever drag system, a star drag is utilized for finer adjustability.

Check out the full specifications on their website here.

There you have it folks. This was a long one but I hope you now understand the hype surrounding overhead or conventional jigging reels.

Yes there are pros and cons, and spinning reels may do a better job at some aspects of jigging. But it all boils down to personal preference. And budget of course.

Is it worth trying? I truly believe so.

Are conventional reels better suited for jigging than spinning reels? In my opinion, the jigging-specific reels are.

As I mentioned above, in the hands of a capable and experienced angler, any kind of jigging reel will catch fish effectively.

I just choose to use an overhead reel for my monster hunting.

What about you? What’s your jigging reel of choice?

If you are looking for a true sport fishing company that offers you more than just a Vanuatu fishing adventure, look no further than Ocean Blue Fishing.

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Call us now at (AU) 1300 564 616 or at (INTL) +61 436 020322 or you may also contact us through our website at https://oceanbluefishing.com/enquire

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Overhead Jigging Reels: The Best for Jigging?

John is originally from the Philippines. John has extensive guiding experience throughout Asia and...Learn more

One thought on “Overhead Jigging Reels: The Best for Jigging?

  1. Thanks for the informative on Jigging reels. I
    Have been using a BIG PENN and a Daiwa overhead got the last 35 years and both reels are showing their age but still perform well with regular maintenance.
    They have dragged up everything from 25 Kilo Kingfish at Lord Howe to 55 kilo cod in Fiji. Nowadays they are mainly used for deep water “ Meat fishing” for Snapper and Flathead due to my age (76). Keep up the articles they are great!

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