How to Vertical Jig for Tunas, Snappers, Groupers, Wahoo, Amberjacks, Golden Tile Fish and Wahoo.
In this podcast I reveal new vertical jigging tips including a secret vertical jigging technique that I have not shared publicly on instagram or facebook. The new “secret technique” is guaranteed to catch you more Blackfin Tuna when you vertical jig the Islamorada Hump. Here are few tips to help you get started or improve upon your vertical jigging game. In future podcasts I will be revealing more vertical jigging secrets. You will have to listen to the podcast to pick up on “tidbits” of information I do not share in the show notes below.
My Jigging Set Up
I use Shimano Twin Power 8000. It is an extremely light weight reel with awesome drag and ultra fast retrieve. Perfect for my style of jigging. I prefer speed jigging. It is easy to do with the right equipment and its great work out.
Have Rods custom built for jigging that match your style. Rods need to be extremely light weight and built to match your style of vertical jigging. I use rods built by Adrenaline Rods. You can visit www.adrenalinecustomfishingrods.com There is so much information out there about jigging ones. To keep it short and simple- Order one for Tuna Fishing and order one capable of handling a big Amberjack/Grouper. Do your home work. If you have questions about my rods just email me.
Terminal Tackle Set Up
I spool my reels used for jigging with 40 lb. braid line. The vertical jigs I use on my fishing charters perform at their best tied to 40 lb. braided line.
I double the braid line using a Spider Hitch knot. I always make a double line line. This doubles the strength of braided line and allows me to target big Amberjacks using lighter line. Using an Improved Bristol Knot, I connect top shot of Fluorocarbon to the braid double line. Connect your fluorocarbon leader to the solid ring on the jig using whatever knot you feel comfortable with. As I said in previous podcasts I do not offer terminal end knot recommendations. Tie the jig to solid steel ring using any knot you feel comfortable with. Also sharpen over the counter manufacture assist hooks before use.
Instructions on How to Tie the Spider Hitch and the Improved Bristol Knots that I mention in this Podcast
How to Tie the Spider Hitch Knot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvAeJxkWics
How to Tie the Improved Bristol Knot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70wSxW5IMxE
Always and I mean always test your knot, especially if you are targeting large fish. Sometimes you get a bad spool of fluorocarbon or you hit a bad spot on the braid. Testing knots will catch this. I always and I mean always test my knots no matter how much confidence I have in them. I always double check my work and the manufactures work. It has saved the day more than once. I guess old habits are hard to break.
Vertical Jigging can provide non-stop action. When I arrive at a vertical jig spot, I like to take some time to figure out the drift. Prior to starting the day. I review my past drift tracks on the the fishing spots by using historical track logs saved by date in my Atlas Track database.
This saves me a lot of time. I check the wind direction in the morning then review a couple possible drift patterns based on what I “think” the current maybe doing. I have to be mentally prepared and having historical drift patterns based on wind and current direction saves me a lot time. I know now which spots are worth fishing and which spots I should avoid based on historical data.
Once I determine which way our drift will carry us across the spot, I calculate our drift speed. After calculating the drift, we start 100 yards ahead of the fishing spot we plan on jigging. Once I hit a point of reference on the GPS that I marked (as a drop point). I then let the angler drop vertical jig. Now with the Seakeeper, I turn the boat broadside so two anglers can safely jig. One guy can safely jig off the bow and one guy can jig off the back near the helm.
For bottom dwelling fish such as snappers and groupers. The angler will let the jig stay on the bottom for a few seconds, bounce it off the bottom 3-4 times that will give the fish a chance to investigate and at times the fish will pick it up and eat the jig.
Think like a spear diver when it comes to jigging the bottom around wrecks. Spear divers brush the bottom of the ocean surface with their hands generating clouds of sediment and religiously use underwater lights and flashers to attract fish such as grouper, wahoo, snapper and cobia into their kill zone. The jig bouncing off the seafloor creates vibratory sounds and “clouds” of sediment/sand. This action draws the attention of big fish from hundreds of yards of way.If the angler does not draw a strike he will then lift the jig 5-10 ft. and repeat the process. African Pompanos are a highly sought after species on the Vertical Jig.
I worked with these young angler from Wisconsin that fishes with me every two years. On this particular Islamorada Fishing Charter I taught him how to vertical jig.
If the bottom dwelling fish do not cooperate, the angler starts working the jig higher up into the water column. Lifting the jig 30-50 ft. then dropping it back down. In this podcast episode I talk more about how I get dialed in on catching Mutton Snappers with vertical jigs. It is a lot of work and not easy by any means to catch a big Mutton Snapper off Key Largo or Islamorada on a vertical jig.
Big Amberjacks roam this area. If the angler does not hook up he must either increase or decrease the jigging speed. Vertical Jigging can be extremely exciting, but it is takes a lot of work and practice to get the technique correct. The angler must be in good shape when it comes to vertical jigging as it requires a lot of stamina and cardio. Once you feel a fish strike a jig from 300ft down, I can almost guarantee that no matter how tired you are, you will be running on pure fishing Adrenaline!
You also have to get a rhythm down…let the reel do the work. The Shimano Twin Power does the trick for me. It is expensive but man can that thing jig up the Tunas with little work. It is ultra light weight and do not tire out.
Fish Get Picky..Truth
I am going to use the Amberjack as an example. Amberjacks do not eat just anything and are not always hungry! The Amberjack will shut down and not eat due to fishing pressure so you have to use your brain to get them to eat. I have done several side by side tests over a two year period when I owned Jimyjigs USA and found Amberjacks to be one “cranky” fish. Anyone can catch them when they are biting, but when they are not biting that is when I challenge you to go to the next level and figure it out. A commercial Amberjack fisherman will tell you the same thing, they get “cranky” at times and you gotta work for them.
Yes, I believe color does matter with Amberjacks and vertical jigs. My secret jig is a chartreuse jig with a blue eye, The Blue around the eye is secret technique used by commercial Amberjack fisherman in Mexico. See picture below with my Bait Strip Secret.
When fishing the Islamorada Hump, the fish tend to really key in on smaller jigs that highly reflective in silver color, on dark days the jigs that have super glow out fish the ones that do not. Purple, Blues, Silver, Pink, Golds and Chartreuse jigs tend to work very well on the Islamorada Hump. Some days color just does not matter, nor the type of jig you use. I have my best luck with Tunas using a silver colored 80-100g jigs on days when the current is light. On days when it is ripping I have to beef up the jig size to 150g-225g jigs and even carry an ample supply of 300gram jigs.
Look around you especially when you are fishing the Islamorada Hump and check out what the Tunas are eating. You can see the bait fish in the water on most days. Try to match the Hatch. Also vertical jigs with super glow in Chartreuse color perform very well on dark days, early and late in the day and when the water has “off color” to it. Superglow colors with Silver Color Holographic paper are excellent Vertical Jigs. If you are planning a trip to the Florida Keys and want to catch Blackfin Tuna and Amberjacks on the Islamorada Hump and you are unsure about which jigs work and which jigs do not, then I would highly recommend ordering Chartreuse Williamson Lures Benthos Speed Jig. You can get these online through Bass Pro for $18.99. Companies like Victory Lures make some good Vertical Jigs that are popular amongst the South Florida Boat and Kayak Vertical Jig fisherman. If you are planning on going to the Islamorada Hump, I would recommend going with no less that 20-30 Vertical Jigs and plan on losing 50% of them to bite offs and sharks.
Bait Strip Secret-Add Some Flair to the Your Vertical Jig
Something new that I have not talked about yet or shared with anyone until now is my secret to catching Blackfins on the hump using Bait Strips. I attach a holographic bait strip to the vertical jig hook and then I tie small cable tie on the hook to keep it in place so it does not tear off the hook. Below are my set-ups. The cable tie keeps bait strip from sliding down and tearing. You got to try them out on your next vertical jigging fishing trip.
As the jig falls this silver holographic artificial jig strips gets crush! Like I said earlier Tunas on the humps, especially if the fleet of boat is tossing out pilchards for live chum, get turned on to silver/white a silver holographic color. In the sunlight this silver holographic color down deep catches light reflection… not to mention the action of the bait strip attached to the jig is crazy! You have to purchase a pack of bait strips and try this out this winter. Its awesome! Check them out at www.baitstrips.com.
Fluorocarbon Leaders Matters when it Comes to Vertical Jigging
I always and I means always use Fluorocarbon for the abrasion resistance and the stealth. Fishing is mental, I have confidence in every jig I put down with a Fluorocarbon Leader.
- Use 30 lb.-40 lb. for Black Fin Tuna and Mutton Snappers
- Use 80 lb. -100 lb. for Amberjack and Big Groupers.
I have caught many wahoo on vertical jigs. When I head offshore to fish in the spring and summer I always bring along vertical jig with short piece of wire. If I find the right “floating debris” I will drop the jig down rigged with wire and catch one or several wahoo stacked up below the debris. When a wahoo smashes a jig doing 60 mph, you will never forget that strike! Check out this wahoo in the picture below. This fish was caught underneath a floating net in 800ft of water of Islamorada.
The best vertical jigging spot in South Florida is the Islamorada Hump.
Bonus Vertical Jig Tackle Tip
Use 2 assist hooks. One is rigged as normal. Then add a rubberband to the second assist hook to keep it in place! Why? A fish will typically strike while your bait is falling back down from the jigging action. During free fall your assist hooks are above the jig so if a fish strikes the jig you may not hook up. This tip will increase your catch rate.