Inshore: A Jig Day Or A Rig Day? - The Fisherman

Inshore: A Jig Day Or A Rig Day?

double-digit tautog
The author with a double-digit tautog that he released; when hitting the tautog grounds this fall, best be armed to both jig and rig depending on the trip and the captain.

I like fun fishing, I really do. But do you know what I like more? Double digit blackfish; and my buddies do as well!   Some of us live and breathe for that big hit; that whomp, whomp, whomp!  But you never know what a tautog is thinking.

Often throughout the day, the jig bite will get hot. Fish start inhaling the small baits and it’s suddenly game on for the light tackle boys. But you know what’s going to happen, don’t you? That jigger is going to bust off a decent fish, and then maybe the bite slows. If this happens, sit tight for 10 minutes. If they don’t start chewing again, they won’t. You may have to move to another piece.

When you bust off a nice fish the bite is usually done. If this was the right phase of the tide on this part of this big fish spot, well then, your big fish window for today may be closed. By the time anchors are hauled, and the captain moves to another piece to reset, your big fish opportunity is shot.

So, remember this; no jigging on big fish spots! But when the jig bite is hot, there’s no denying that it’s very productive and a lot of fun!  So, when my buddy in the bow is getting the jig bite going on big time, and I’m not getting much love, I’ll be flipping my jig quicker than you can say Double D!  We’ll have blackfish swinging over quickly, and when that slows a bit, I’ll find a nice soft white crab, bait up traditionally, and commence to fishing for big fish, because that’s how it’s done.

The jig bite can at times, become so hot that it will put the fish off from eating the rigs. I think it may be because the small crab legs being tossed overboard make an excellent chum slick. The constant trickle of small pieces flowing down through the current. Just like a half a green crab on a 3/4-ounce jig; they pick it up and swim away with barely a tick. The jig bait is so small they just suck it right in.  When the fish key in on tiny baits like this, the jig is the best presentation.

The best thing the rig guy can do is drop down to a single 3/0 hook and use a small piece of bait. On head boats there is no modesty, it’s every man for himself.  On my charters, we have a pact. If the captain says this is not a jig spot, then nobody fishes a jig on this spot. We are all there to catch big fish. Little fish are fun, but every little fish is practice for your new personal best.

You must practice your technique. Your rigging, bait presentation, working the bite, setting the hook, and how to fight a bigger fish. Every bite is practice; when a big one hits, it’s an entirely different world! You’re either on autopilot and putting the boots to him, or you panic, make a mistake and it’s over before you know what happened.

So, is it a jig day, or is it a rig day? Well, it’s always both!  For a successful day of togging, make sure you bring an outfit set up for both.  Very few days stay on a hot bite all day without changing.  Besides, catching a 15-pound tog on a jig is like taking a knife to a gun fight; you’re under gunned and you know it; so adapt and play the game! 

Also, hone your skills. Learn from some of the legit big fish guys! They’re a closed lip, tightly knit group of sharpies. Watch them; everyone is an expert, just ask them! They’re often easy to spot, because they have a camera on their head. And they’re quick to share their secrets too.

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