Thoughts to consider when heading into tautog jigging season.
We jiggers are a sadistic bunch. We flirt with trying to catch oversized bulldogs on gear that is not designed to have this amount of lifting power. They come tight and we crank ‘em hard! Lines break and leaders pop much more often than hooks straighten out; but the thrill of getting some turns on a nice fish as she peels drag only leaves us cautiously optimistic and ultimately addicted to this light tackle game all at the same time!
But what can we do to tilt the odds in our favor? Even if only slightly?
If I wanted to up my chances of landing larger blackfish on light jigging gear, the first place to look is the line. Thirty-pound braid will allow you to fish an almost locked down drag without popping. A Slim Beauty knot is slender and very strong and easy to re-tie, even with cold fingers. A short length of 40-pound fluorocarbon leader on the business end provides some much needed abrasion resistance and stealth at the same time. A non-slip mono loop knot is perfect to tie on your jig; it’s easy to tie, and its adjustable loop size make this my favorite knot here.
Quality tautog jigs in the 3/4- to 2-ounce range with excellent hooks become necessary when we go with high pressure gear. S&S Bucktails, Magic Tails, Joe Baggs and others make the jigs that will keep us buttoned up. But be very critical here; form your own opinion on the quality of the hook and the jig you like best. Best to learn from your personal experience.
Rods in the 7-foot range are favored. Tsunami slow pitch rods have a great feel, as do their Slim Wave line. The Okuma Reflex is a surprising rod that deserves a look as well. Jigging World makes a Sho Gun that is a great choice, as is The Weapon from Century Rods. The Black Hole Challenger blank has a proven track record. “Crazy” Alberto Knie likes the St. Croix Mojo Jigging Rod, which he says “is light, sensitive and strong.” These rods are all excellent choices and should be on your not so short-short list; they have the feel, power and durability required to last you years of slaying.
High quality smaller sized spinning reels with great quality guts are needed to stand up to this full contact tug of war. The Daiwa BG is an excellent choice. Tsunami Evict has a great feel and should be handled before you make your next purchase. The Okuma Azores Z-40S is another great fit for this type of fishing. The frame and gears in these reels hold up well to the extreme pressure that these fish put on this lighter than normal gear.
So now that you’re rigged-up right and you’re looking for a good sized tog to be knockin’ your crab around, what can you do to stack the odds in your favor? Bait the hook with a nice chunk of crab; say a half of a medium sized white legger, or a quarter of a soup crab. Keep the bait around the size of a silver dollar. Flip up current and let the bait rest on the bottom without moving it. If the current washes it along, then fine. Wait for it to stop, then fish a slightly slack line. Do not come tight, but always be ready for a hit!
When you do get a small tap, get ready. Take up any slack in your line as you point the rod downward. Another good tug and it’s off to the races. But this is where the battle is truly won or lost! Set that rod tip to the sky as high as you can while reeling in all of the line that you can until the fish stops you. This is your one shot to move the fish before he knows what happened, so make it count. When up off the bottom a bit keep the tip at around 10 o’clock. Do not pump the rod, just keep the tip high. Bow when he makes a run, and lift when he stops. This is a great time to loosen that locked up drag just a couple of clicks.
Take your time as a nice fish will always want to make a run on this lighter gear. He may be half way up then start swimming toward the bow. Alert your neighbor of what’s happening and hope for the best. Just keep in mind that breaking off a big fish usually shuts down the bite, so jig fishing may not be ideal in every spot, especially when fishing with a group of people.