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A look at the “magic” mojo rig developed in the Chesapeake Bay but which is now finding success to the north on large striped bass.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
Tags: inshore, special

It’s been close to 20 years since I took my first trip to Block Island to fish for striped bass. Plugs, eels, clams, bunker chunks, they were all pretty familiar to me by then—but for a Jersey guy fishing Block Island Sound for the first time, I must admit I found the whole “parachute jig” process more work than play.

The reverse hair design on the traditional bucktail was certainly fascinating, and the method itself (sitting staring forward and “rowing” the jig back and forth) was highly effective in terms of putting stripers in the box; but for sure, it was indeed work.

It was a few years later, after joining the New Jersey edition of The Fisherman, that I first learned about another rig from the south called the “mojo rig” when an article by Ric Burnley landed on my desk. My own prior experience with Chesapeake stripers had been drifting herring chunks off Tilghman Island, but the mojo rig concept again piqued my interest, perhaps in part because of the familiarity.

As Ric described in print and photos, the “mojo” is just a giant bucktail jig from 8 to 32 and even 48 ounces in weight. The rigs have typically been deployed off three-way swivels in conjunction with a secondary trolling lure like a swim shad, Stretch plug or crippled herring, and they’ve been “go to” trolling spreads around the mouth of the Chesapeake in Virginia on up the DELMARVA coast for years.

Joe Morris at Lewes Harbour Marina in Lewes, Delaware said the rigs are selling like hotcakes, as they always have when big stripers are on the move. “We’ve been selling both the individuals and the prepackaged tandems,” Morris said, adding that folks just getting into the rig for the first time will buy pre-rigged outfits and then add individual pieces later to mix and match.

The “mojo rig" is essentially a giant bucktail jig from 8 to 32 and even 48 ounces in weight typically deployed off three-way swivels in conjunction with a secondary trolling lure.

Morris describes the big mojo itself as the main rig, functioning much like a drail with a hook in it to deploy the other smaller trailer lures. “But when the stripers hit these mojos, they really inhale it,” he said. The 24-ounce mojos in white and chartreuse have been most popular this season, using that rigged in conjunction with a separate trailing lure on the other, longer line in the 6- to 8-ounce range trolled slowly to reach stripers nearer the bottom.

“It’s really just a reverse-flared, parachute lure,” Morris said of the mojo, adding “the Bluewater Rockfish Candy with the round head is the most popular, but the S&S Bucktails style with more of a banana head has been working really well too.” Some of the additions anglers make to the mojo itself outside Delaware Bay include big white shads or white twisters, though he said John Deere green, bubble gum pink and chartreuse work as well.

Whereas the very same parachute style bucktail has been used on wire line in Block Island Sound and throughout New England while drifting and giving the back and arms a workout, the incredible mojo bite that has intensified all along the New Jersey coast this season has been on the slow troll when the marks on the machine show fish.

“As slow as you can go,” Morris advises, “most often they’re fished near the bottom, though some guys have modified the method used on the Chesapeake like with the planer boards.”

To fish these same rigs lighter and higher towards the surface, he said that many fishermen are fishing the spreads off outriggers and flat lines to try different levels of the water column.

The run of striped bass along the Jersey Shore in the fall of 2015 has been described by many in “epic” and “legendary” terms, with fish still taken on the troll into December for those with boats still in the water. The late run of big stripers finally arrived at the mouth of Delaware Bay after Thanksgiving, and the mojo trolling is producing solid catches of 20-, 30- and 40-pound stripers now in the days leading up the New Year.

Reports show the mojo magic is continuing to score farther to the north as these big fish continue on their way south; it will be interesting to see what 2016 will bring tactically-speaking when these fish head north again in the spring!

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