How to catch saltwater fish with jigs
This article will teach anglers how to catch saltwater fish with jigs. Jigs are a very simple yet incredible effective artificial lure.
Saltwater fishing with jigs is productive and fairly easy to do. There is evidence to suggest that jigs were the first artificial lures used to catch fish. A jig is simply a hook with a shaped, weighted head at the front. It then has some type of body made of plastic or hair. The weight at the eye of the hook gives the lure an erratic jigging motion. Thus the name “jig”. The body of the jig can resemble crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp along with bait fish. While normally fished on the bottom, jigs can also be used throughout the entire water column.
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Jig fishing rods and reels
There really is no one best outfit for jig fishing. The conditions and applications vary too much. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot spinning outfit is a great choice for fishing with fairly light jigs in relatively shallow water. Anglers can spool this up with 10 pound monofilament or braided line. This rig is light enough to be cast all day yet has enough beef to handle a decent fish.
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Light conventional tackle is used quite often when vertically jigging. Often times heavy jigs will be required in strong current. Light conventional outfits give anglers the power they need to work the jig and fight a decent flounder or striped bass. These same outfits work very well for trolling. A 7′ medium heavy rod spooled up with 20 pound braided line is a great combo.
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There are primarily two different types of jigs; buck tail jigs and soft plastic jigs. Soft plastic jigs are by far the most popular these days. They are economical and versatile. Jig head weights can be matched with plastic body shapes, colors, and sizes to mimic just about any forage that fish feed on. Buck tail jigs are still very effective on a variety of fish species and many anglers still prefer them. However, they are not as durable as soft plastic baits and are more expensive to use in the long run.
Soft plastic bodies come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. However, there really are only two different styles. Grub bodies with a flat tail are meant to mimic shrimp and other crustaceans. Shad tail and curly tail jigs mimic bait fish. It really is that simple! Anglers should purchase grub bodies in sizes and colors that resemble the locally available forage.
Buck tail jigs actually do a very good job of imitating both crustaceans and bait fish. White is by far the most popular color, though pink and chartreuse are sought by anglers in some areas. A 1/2 ounce white buck tail jig has caught a lot of fish over the years and remains an extremely effective bait to this day. Anglers can even add a soft plastic trailer to the buck tail jig, such as a curly tail worm. This is very effective on striped bass.
The jig and grub is a very versatile fishing lure
One great thing about the jig and grub combo is how quickly and easily baits can be changed. Anglers can switch from a grub body that imitates a shrimp to one that mimics a bait fish in just a few seconds. Jig heads are available in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. The same is true for the soft plastic grub bodies. Anglers can put together combinations that are effective in their area. I personally prefer the Bass Assassin line of baits. They have fantastic action and come in many different colors. The 4 inch Sea Shad on a 1/4 ounce jig head is my favorite combination.
Anglers can certainly get confused by the vast selection of jig heads and tails that are available. Local tackle shops are usually a good source of information as to productive lures in that area. Anglers starting out will do well with jig heads in one quarter ounce, 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce heads along with 3 inch to 4 inch shad tail grubs. Pearl, chartreuse, hot pink, root beer, and olive are good all-around colors.
Jig head weights, shapes, and sizes
In most fishing applications, anglers work jigs on or very close to the bottom. As the jig is bounced up and down, the weight it had will often kick up a puff of sand as it lands. This looks very realistic to game fish as it mimics a fleeing shrimp or crab.the weight of the jig required will vary depending on fishing conditions. Water depth and current speed are the two primary factors to consider. Ideally, anglers will use just enough weight to reach the bottom.
Jig heads come in a variety of shapes as well. Round or oblong heads are the most popular shapes. These have the eye of the hook 90 degrees to the shank. This results in a more horizontal presentation. Triangular shaped heads cut through the water and are a better choice for anglers choosing to troll with jigs. Jigs that are designed to be fished shallow have a tapered head with the eye at the front. This allows it to go through weeds more easily.
One quarter ounce jig heads are very popular in Florida where I run my Sarasota fishing charters. Most of the water I fish is 10 feet deep or less and currents are not very strong. however, anglers fishing in areas where water is deeper and currents are stronger will need to use heavier jigs. Jigs of several ounces will be required at times, especially when fishing inlets and passes on a swift tide.
How to catch saltwater fish with jigs, jig Fishing Techniques
Vertically jigging in saltwater fishing
Jigs are very versatile lures that can be fished in a variety of ways. One of the easiest and most productive methods is to fish a jig vertically while drifting. Anglers motor the boat upwind and up current of the area to be fished. Then, the jig is lowered straight down to the bottom. Once it hits the bottom, the line is reeled taught and then the jig is jerked sharply up off the bottom and then allowed to fall on a slack line. This motion is continued as the boat drifts along. This is a fantastic way to cover a lot of water and keep the lure in the productive strike zone the entire time.
This is a proven method to catch a variety of fish species. Anglers fishing in the Northeast will catch flounder, fluke, striped bass, bluefish, and other species. Vertically jigging will produce fish in the southern states as well, including speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and more. Anglers fishing offshore will use special jigs that are quite heavy. They get down to the bottom in deep water and are jerked sharply, imitating a wounded bait fish. These are called “flutter jigs” and are extremely effective on a variety of species. Heavy buck tail and soft plastic jigs can be used as well.
In some circumstances, anglers will combine live or cut bait with a jig. This combination can be extremely effective! Flounder and fluke in particular are prone to take a white buck tail jig with a squid strip trailer. The same goes for a soft plastic jig tipped with a piece of shrimp in the south. The extra scent of the bait along with the action of the jig can prove irresistible. This can be particularly effective when the water is stained.
Jigs can be cast out and retrieved back in as well. This is a very common Lee used method by anglers when drifting the flats. The term flats means a broad area of fairly uniform depth, usually between five and 15 feet deep. The jig is cast out and allowed to settle. It is then retrieved back to the boat using a series of hops. With the rod tip at 10 o’clock, the angler jerks the rod tip up sharply to about 12 o’clock. The jig is then allowed to fall on a tight line. This is important as it will allow anglers to feel the strike, which most often occurs on the fall.
As with all artificial lure fishing, anglers will do best to vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. Some days the fish will want the jig crawled along the bottom while on other days they will want a faster more erratic retrieve. The same premise applies to jig body sizes and colors. Anglers should experiment until they achieve success. Generally speaking, light colors work best in clear water, dark colors work best in stained water, and bright colors work best in muddy water.
In the southeastern part of the United States along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coast, this is the most popular technique when using artificial lures. The jig and grub combo is a very effective bait for redfish and speckled trout. These are the most plentiful and sought after fish species, along with flounder, that are found on the open flats. Casting lures while drifting in a boat allows anglers to cover a lot of water. It is also a productive method for anglers fishing from shore and wading.
Vary the retrieve when fishing with jigs
There will be times when fish will respond to a much faster retrieve. This is particularly true when fish are seen feeding on the surface. Often times when this occurs, a fast, steady retrieve works best. If that does not produce, add in some hard jerks and pauses. When fish are feeding high in the water column, this will generally produces strike. Bluefish, striped bass, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, and ladyfish are species that are commonly found feeding on the surface
Jigs are also very effective when cast towards shoreline cover. Jetties, docks, oyster bars, and shoreline timber will all hold fish. This type of fishing is very much like freshwater fishing for largemouth bass. The angler casts the lure toward some likely fish holding structure, allows it to sink a few seconds, then retrieves it back in an erratic manner. Since many saltwater fish species relate to cover and structure, this type of fishing will produce a wide variety of fish.
Trolling with jigs
Trolling is another extremely effective technique that anglers can use with jigs. This can be done as simply as putting a few lines out behind the boat and slowly driving around at just above idle speed. It is important when trolling with jigs to keep the speed down. Unlike spoons and plugs, jigs will tend to twist and roll if trolled too quickly. Serious anglers often times use special trolling weights and even wire line to get the jigs down to the preferred depth.
Umbrella rigs are quite popular with anglers who like trolling with jigs. These are clever devices that allow anglers to use multiple baits at one time. The theory is that it resembles a small school of bait fish that are swimming by. Whatever the intent, umbrella rigs work. Striped bass in particular fall prey to these ingenious devices.
Fishing for pompano with jigs
Pompano and jig fishing go together. They feed primarily on crustaceans right on the bottom. Many anglers enjoy fishing for pompano. They are found along the Gulf of Mexico coast and up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. They fight very hard for their size and are fantastic eating!
Pompano average a couple of pounds. However, they put up a terrific fight for their size. These smaller cousins to the permit use their broad sides and forked tails to pull very hard. Pompano feed on the bottom, normally on crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. They range from Texas along the US coast as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Pompano are prized as table fare by anglers. Jigs, live shrimp and sand fleas are the top baits. Jigs that bounce along the bottom do an excellent job of mimicking this forage.
One look at a pompano will clue anglers as to their feeding habits. The mouth is small and “inferior”, meaning it is behind the nose. It feeds by using that hard nose to root in the bottom in search of crabs and shrimp. It then vacuums up the prey. Pompano will be found over sandy bottoms, grassy bottoms and around rocky structure. All of these areas hold the forage that they feed on. They will be found where the food is.
Pompano fishing tackle
As in most inshore saltwater applications, the same rod and reel used to target speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species will work fine when targeting pompano. As these fish do not grow too large, a light spinning outfit is perfect. A 6 1/2 foot medium action rod with a 2500-3000 series reel and 10 pound monofilament or 20 pound braided line is perfect.
Jig fishing for pompano
The top artificial lure by far is the jig. A jig is a hook with a piece of lead molded near the eye. The hook is then dressed with either natural or synthetic hair or a plastic grub body of some sort. Anglers fishing for pompano work the jig right on the bottom. Each time it hits the bottom it kicks up a tiny puff of sand. This mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is a very effective presentation.
Pompano have fairly small mouths. Anglers drifting the flats and inlets and passes will catch pompano on the larger jigs meant for speckled trout and other species. Therefore, anglers fishing for pompano specifically generally scale down the size of the lure.
There are several types of jigs on the market specifically designed for pompano. There are two types, the ball head jig and the banana jig. Ball head jigs are basically smaller versions of a buck tail jig. It will have a round head with a smaller hook, around a size #4. The dressing will normally be synthetic and will be trimmed close, just beyond the bend of the hook. These jig sink very quickly and are great choice when fishing passes and inlets. They can also be cast out by anglers fishing for pompano on the flats.
Banana jigs are odd looking little lures. As the name implies, they are long and slender with a bend in them, looking a bit like a banana. Some also have a little fly attached to add some flash. They have a very erratic action when falling. Anglers can work them either vertically or casting out by jerking the rod tip up and letting the jig falls sharply to the bottom.
Pompano locations and seasons
Pompano are found along the beaches, in passes and inlets, and on the flats. Generally speaking, the flats closest to the open waters of the Gulf and Atlantic are best. Inlets on the East Coast and passes on the West Coast are also prime spots for anglers fishing for pompano. Many fish are caught by anglers surf fishing as well.
Pompano are found in Florida all year long. The cooler months are best, but the occasional fish can be caught at any time. As it warms up, the fish will move north along the east coast. Summer is the best time to catch them off of the Carolina beaches. Pompano are landed along the Gulf Coast with the exception of really cold weather in the northern portion of the Florida panhandle area.
Passes and inlets
Inlets are veritable fish highways that pompano and other species use to travel from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean into the back bays. The current is always stronger in these areas due to the natural constricting of the land masses. The result is a natural spot for fish to congregate and feed, especially when structure is present.
Inlets and passes are virtually the same thing. In the Gulf of Mexico, they are called “passes”. And Atlantic Ocean, they are called “inlets”. While they are similar in most cases, they are actually fished a bit differently. This is mainly due to the fact that on the East Coast tides are stronger and boat traffic can be significantly heavier.
Pompano fishing in passes
The best technique to use when fishing for pompano and passes is to drift using a vertical presentation. Jigs work really well in this application and can be tipped with a small piece of shrimp to increase the chances of success. The jig is simply lower to the bottom and twitched sharply using short 1 foot movements. The jig stays in the strikes on the entire time and as the boat drifts a lot of water can be covered in a short amount of time. Once a school is located, anglers will re-drift that area until the bite slows.
Pompano will often times get up into very shallow water on the sandbars in the passes. As the drifting boat will spook them in this skinny water, it is best to make long casts and work the lure back to the boat. Jigs are effective in this situation as well, though anglers can certainly catch fish using live shrimp or sand fleas.
Inlets on the Atlantic Ocean side can be a bit tricky. Tides are often times quite swift, resulting in a potentially dangerous boating situation. It also requires a lot of weight to get down to the bottom. Finally, boat traffic, especially on weekends, can be quite heavy. Often times, the best way to fish for Pompano in inlets is from the jetty. Anglers can cast out live bait or jigs and thoroughly work the rocks.
Often times, the best spots in the inlets are little eddies or edges where the rocks transition to sand. These are prime spots for pompano to hold in and feet. The Eddie on the backside of the jetty on the Atlantic Ocean side is a prime spot for anglers fishing for pompano and the inlets.
Surf fishing for pompano
One of the great things about fishing for pompano is that anglers do not need a boat to catch them. All things considered, more Pompano are probably landed by anglers surf fishing than they are by anglers in boats. The entire coastline from South Texas around the tip of Florida and up to Cape Hatteras can produce pompano at one time or another.
Using jigs for pompano in the surf
While most anglers target pompano in the surf using natural bait, they can certainly be caught on artificial lures as well. This is particularly true when the tide is high in the seas are flat. Pompano will cruise the first trough, quite close to shore, in search of sand fleas and other forage. Anglers casting jigs and working at through this area will catch fish under these conditions.
How to catch saltwater fish with jig, fishing for pompano on the flats
Pompano are also caught on the flats in the inshore bays. Often times, there are an incidental catch for anglers fishing for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. They are a most welcome intrusion! Pompano generally swim around in small bunches, so once one is landed anglers can be fairly certain that others are nearby.
Flats close to the inlets and passes are generally the most productive ones for anglers fishing for pompano. They tend to be a bit deeper and have good current flow. The best flats are generally those that have a nice mix of grass and sand. Pompano will often times hold in the transition area where it changes from grass to sand.
Drifting is the best technique to use when targeting pompano on the flats. As with the passes, it allows anglers to cover a large amount of water fairly quickly. The best approach is to set up a drift where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. This will result in a nice efficient drift.
Jigs produce on the flats
Both jigs and live bait work well in this situation. Generally speaking, anglers will cast jigs out in front of the drifting boat and work it back in. As with fishing in the passes, the jig will work best when presented right on the bottom. The lure is worked back using short, sharp twitches of the rod tip and then allowing the jig to fall to the bottom.
Live shrimp can also work well when drifting the flats. It will also catch a variety of other species as well. Free lining the shrimp works well on flats with water deeper than 6 feet. Anglers simply hook the shrimp through the horn and allow it to drift out behind the boat. A small split shot may be required when it is breezy or the current is strong. In shallower water, shrimp can be fished under a popping cork to keep it up out of the grass.
Pompano are excellent table fare
One of the best aspects of fishing for pompano is the opportunity for a fresh dinner. Some of the best chefs in the world consider Pompano to be the best eating fish of all species that swim! Pompano have a very fine, moist, buttery flavor. However, they really do not freeze all that well and angler should only keep enough for a fresh meal or two. There are several different ways to prepare them. Anglers can see current Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.
Pompano are excellent when sautéed in a pan. A 50-50 mixture of butter and olive oil is heated in a pan. Pompano is covered in a tire breadcrumbs on both sides then placed into the hot skillet. The fishes allowed to cook for two minutes on each side and then is finished off in a 400° oven for five minutes or so depending on the thickness of the fillets.
Marinades work very well with Pompano as they absorb the flavor. However, it is best not to use one that is too strong that will mass the delicate flavor of the pompano. An easy marinade is one that is 1/4 cup light soy sauce, three-quarter cup olive oil, with some honey, ginger, and parsley mixed in. The fillets are allowed to set for 1 to 2 hours they can be baked, broiled, or grilled.
In conclusion, this article on how to catch saltwater fish with jigs will add another tool for anglers to use to be successful!