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Vertical Jigging: Into The Depths

Author: Reel Smooth Fishing Team

Tips For Catching Fish On Vertical Jigs 

Arguably one of my favorite types of fishing, vertical jigging brings me pure childlike excitement. You drop the jig 200 feet down, jig up, jig up, jig up one more time, except this time it doesn’t come up, but your rod goes straight down and the reel starts screaming. I really hope you were holding on tight or else you just lost your nice setup. Whatever you hook on the jig will not be small, I promise you. You can catch amberjacks, tuna, bonita, kingfish, snapper, grouper, you name it.

For those who are not familiar with vertical jigs, it is typically a long colored piece of metal with one or two hooks on it. That’s it. Hell, some people even use spoons to jig. No not the spoon lure, a spoon you drink soup with. I’ve even seen people even do it with wrenches. That’s how effective this method is. 

Idea Setup For Vertical Jigging

The ideal setup would be a shorter (5-6 ft.), sensitive rod with a lot of backbone, with a high capacity, light, high drag reel. Star Rods and Shimano make nice jigging rods, and preferred reels include the Penn Battle, Shimano Saragosa, Daiwa Saltiga, and Shimano Stella (in increasing order of price & quality) in an 8k or 10k size. Braided line is a must, so go and smack some Bullbuster on there! My go to is 65 lb braid, more or less. The braid eliminates the stretch monofilament would give, giving the jig the correct action in the water. Good brands for jigs include Williamson and Shimano, or you can support the local companies such as Victory Lures who make quality jigs.

Vertical Jigs

Leader Material For Vertical Jigging

Leader is also a must. Preferred leader would be 40 - 60 lb monofilament leader. Here you want the mono to give you the stretch to help you keep the fish on (without it affecting the action), and to give you the extra abrasion resistance. Make it at least 4 feet as the wrecks and bottom can cut your braid real quick. I like to tie the leader to the line with a double uni and the leader to the jig with a regular uni knot.

Where & When To Fish Vertical Jigs

So you have your setup, now what? I hope you have a GPS. Look for structure. Do not jig in a barren wasteland. Find a wreck. If you are in Florida, has a complete list of reefs and wrecks (Note: some coordinates will not be up to date). Find a drop off. Find a rip. Find some parked freighters. Find something, I don’t care, but do not jig blind. The deeper you go, typically the bigger the fish you will find. From personal experience the tuna and big amberjack like the water 200+ feet. I’ve caught kings from 80-180 ft.

How To Set Up On The Spot 

Now that you have your spot, set the boat in a position where you will drift right over it. Once over it, drop down, and hold on. Sometimes you will get hit on the drop, and you should notice by a change in how fast line comes off the reel, or the jig will just never hit the bottom. If so, pull up and fish on. Otherwise, let it sink to the bottom, jig up, reel in the slack, jig up, repeat. Experiment with the jig too. You can take a couple pumps up, drop it back down to the bottom, repeat. You can vary the pace of the jigging. It’s an art, so it’s up to you to decide and see what works best. Typically, the bottom feeders (groupers and snappers) like a slower retrieve, while the pelagics like a faster retrieve, and the amberjacks (reef donkeys) simply don’t care. Once you get too far (keep in mind fish like to cruise around the wreck too, not just on top), reset the drift and try again. After 2 or 3 times without bites, find a new spot, nobody likes wasting their time. If you’re rich and have an automatic positioning system, good for you, this doesn’t apply.

Choosing The Size Of Your Vertical Jig 

Jigs can range anywhere from 40g to 300g. Personally I like the 150g - 200g, as it is enough to get down in deeper water yet it doesn’t take a beating on you too hard. Anything more is too tiring, anything less should be used in shallower water for kings or smaller fish.

Warning: jigging is an expensive sport. You will get cut off multiple times. You will get mad. I’ve lost close to $70 worth of jigs in one day. You will be tempted to use wire. Don’t. It can really ruin the action of the lure. There are some types of cable and flexible wire you can use but results will be diminished. The thrill of the hit from jigging will keep you coming back, and that’s why I love it.

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