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Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, March 23, 2014
Jig fishing for rockfish off of our coast shouldn't be such a difficult thing to do. After all, aren't rockfish the dumb blonds of the fishing world?
Aren't these fish so stupid and unrefined that anybody at any time can catch a limit without even trying? Aren't these fish so easy to catch that they are relegated to beginner's and first timer's status?
Well, to a point all of these assertions may be true, but if you have taken enough trips on rockfish boats, you may notice that the same few "lucky" anglers are seemingly always in contention for big fish bragging rights. Can this simply be a matter of luck? Or is something else going on here?
Every once in a while, rockfish will be on a shrimp fly bite and you couldn't catch a fish on anything else if your life depended on it.
Then again, if you have access to live sardines or anchovies you have a great shot at some big fish. Bring along some fresh caught sand dabs or jack smelt and a jackpot bottom dweller is almost guaranteed. Most of the time, however, big fish bragging rights (and the jackpot) will go to an angler fishing a jig.
Jigs can be divided into two general categories; those you fish on the drift in side of the boat, and the ones you fish on the drift out side of the boat.
The drift in side of the boat is the side of the boat that is facing the direction the boat is drifting. This side of the boat is best fished with a bar style jig. Examples of this style of jig include; diamond bars, hex bars, and P-Line's "Chovie Jig". These bars, when fished properly, will imitate the last gasp flutter of a dying bait fish.
To properly fish one of these lures, cast it as far as you can ahead of the boat, and when the lure hits the water, feed it line so it will sink as vertically as possible. It is important to feed the line carefully when the lure is sinking; don't feed it enough line and the lure will pendulum towards you on the sink, give it too much line and you may miss those strikes as the lure is sinking.
When the lure finally hits the bottom, quickly jerk the line to snatch the lure off the bottom, then drop the rod tip to feed it some line so that it will sink back vertically to the bottom. While the jig is sinking, pick up the excess slack line that forms.
Bounce the lure back to the bait, all the time watching and feeling for a bite. The lure is retrieved until it is vertical to the boat, then it is quickly brought back to the surface to be cast again.
The drift out side of the boat is the side of the boat where the water is drifting away from the boat. This side of the boat is best fished with what I call drag baits. Drag baits are those lures that are lowered into the water and are simply dragged behind the boat. Lures in this category include: shrimp flies, swim baits, Shimano's Lucanus jigs, and Daiwa's Bala jigs.
To fish these lures properly, free spool the lures to the bottom while watching for any midwater strikes. When the lure hits the bottom, quickly engage the reel and take a couple of cranks to get the lure off of the bottom. The rod is then slowly and rhythmically raised and lowered so that the lure swims with an easy up and down motion. Occasionally, add line to be sure that you are still near the bottom.
With both styles of lures, the secret is to find out how much up and down motion it takes to provoke a strike. Some days it takes big three to four foot movements to illicit some action, some days something as little as six inch motions will find it more to a rockfish's mood for the day.
It pays to try both styles of jigs and experiment to find out what the day's preference is. Practice this enough and you may find yourself among that group that are serious contenders for the jackpot fish.
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