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Blackfish (Tautog) on Jigs – Fish Like a Pro

By Capt Andy LoCascio - 10/31/2019 - Short URL: https://neangling.com/?p=8186

Using jigs and light spinning tackle has become the first choice of serious anglers targeting blackfish (tautog). If you have never done this before, or just want to improve your game, just keep reading. If you think you know everything you need to, just remember this; good fishermen know how to catch fish, great fishermen know when to shut-up and watch what the other guys are doing.

Captain John Marino (American Sportfishing Charters) introduced me to jigs many years ago when the technique was in its infancy. I was very skeptical, but he totally outfished me (not the first time and certainly not the last time).  After watching him embarrass me, I was forced to admit it was not only more effective, but a lot more fun than the traditional deep water blackfish technique s.  John is the very best blackfish jig fishermen I know. He takes boat set up and anchoring to the next level. He could anchor his boat on top of a single rock in any depth of water.

If you are not familiar with the light tackle blackfish technique, here is what you need to know. A small jig ranging from half-ounce up to 2 ounces (sometimes more) is baited with either a small whole crab or a chunk of crab. The jig is typically cast on a light spinning rod a few yards from the boat and worked slowly along the bottom. The presentation nicely imitates a crab moving across the bottom. Even the most cautious fish will chase it. This is fishing is always done at anchor and can be as shallow as 5-6ft or well over 60ft (current permitting).

Rods for Blackfish Jig Fishing

I prefer a 6-7ft spinning rod with a fast to extra-fast action. The rod should be rated to handle 20lb or 30lb test braid. The fast action means that most of the rod bend will be in the upper third of the rod. This is important because you need the muscle to move a bigger off the bottom and away from the structure. A slow or medium action rod may allow a bigger fish to put their head down and dive in the structure. The rod tip needs to be sensitive enough to show even the slightest pick-up. Pro tip: Learn to identify an extra-fast rod before buying it. Manufacturer ratings are inconsistent.

Line for Blackfish Jig Fishing

It is critical to use braided or fused line because you need to sensitivity to feel the pickup. The lack of stretch is going to ensure a good hook set. The thin diameter will reduce the effect of current and also allow the light jig to sink quickly. Monofilament line is not appropriate! I only use 20# test when fishing over more open bottom where there is little chance of the fish diving in to structure. Most of the time I use 30# line because the diameter is not much larger and gives me enough muscle to pull even the largest fish away from structure. Pro tip: Use a dark colored line, stay away from white or anything fluorescent!

Leader for Blackfish Jig Fishing

My preferred leader is 3-foot length of 30# fluorocarbon from either Yo-Zuri or Berkley. The 30# rating is tough enough to resist most structure. However, for certain wrecks, 50# fluorocarbon may be a better choice. To connect the braided/fused line to the leader tie a one-man Bimini and then use an Albright or the No-Name knot. If you are not comfortable doing that, use a very small swivel to make the connection. However, that swivel may become an issue when passing through the guides. Pro tip: Remember to replace your leader if it gets scuffed. Learn to tie the Bimini and No-name Knots!

Selecting the Right Blackfish Jig

The very best jigs are made by Capt John Knight at Tidal Tails. Like all things for this technique, he has continued to refine the jig to what is offered today. The Tidal Tail jig finish is tough and amazing, and the hooks are ridiculously sharp. There is only a single color pattern and it includes both orange and green along with a bit of iridescence. The jig shape and hook position ensures the best presentation and chance for a successful hookup. In any product review, the Tidal Tail jig would get 10 out of 10. It is critical to select the LIGHTEST jig possible for the depth and conditions. You know you have the right jig when you can barely feel the bottom. If there is current (preferred), the current should be able to do most of the work moving the jig across the bottom. Pro tip: Try to get comfortable when using a jig that is barely in contact with the bottom. This provides the best possible presentation.

Working a Blackfish Jig

Cast the jig up into the current and let the current bring it back to you and even past you. That is the most realistic presentation. Once the jig hits the bottom, get the line tight and visual a jigging motion that lifts the crab a few inches off the bottom and allows it to move forward. There are times when a very slow motion is best and other times when a quicker motion is more effective. Be prepared to set the hook if you suddenly feel extra weight when lifting the jig. Be prepared to set the hook if you suddenly lose contact with the jig because it has probably been lifted off the bottom by a fish. Pro tip: Cover all the water around the boat and try to find a “fish-funnel” where you can pull one fish after another out of the exact same spot. Vary your jigging speed often until you come up with something they cannot resist.

More Light Tackle Blackfish Resources
Light Tackle Blackfish Gear Recommendations
Anchoring Tips and Techniques
Tie a One-Man Bimini to Albright Knot
Fall Blackfish Tips


By Capt Andy LoCascio - Host of Northeast Angling TV
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