The Straight Story on Fishing Straight Up and Down
Vertical jigging can be very effective on a variety of fresh and saltwater gamefish, particularly when they are schooled up on forage or water conditions are concentrating fish where temperature and oxygen levels are optimal. In fact, fall months can be the most deadly time to use this tactic, as changing conditions cause water temperatures to stratify. Use your boat’s fishfinder to find “baitballs” or fish suspended in the water column. And drop down heavy metal lures to hit them where they live.
Use the right metal. The best vertical jigs are typically heavy and slender in profile. This helps them sink quickly down to the proper depth while exhibiting a fluttering action when quickly lifted and dropped using the rod tip. It’s this “wounded baitfish” dance that makes a lure look like an easy meal as it flutters below a school of small fish under attack.
Match the hatch. Today’s modern jigs come in a wide variety of finishes and colors, including lifelike 3D fish prints that mimic anything from shad to sardines. Fishing with lures that match the size, profile and coloration of local forage is a great way to boost your confidence, as well as your catch rate. There are exceptions to this rule, however, such as using bright colors in cloudy or stained waters.
Work the right depth. Keep your lure in the zone where you’re marking fish. One technique is to bounce the lure up and down with the rod, making sure to maintain contact with the line as the lure falls and flutters downwards. Another is to fish “yo-yo” style, dropping the lure below the school of fish and then retrieving it quickly towards the surface. Don’t waste time reeling all the way to the surface if the fish are feeding deep — drop down again to stay in the strike zone.
Use No-Stretch Braid. This fishing style is ideal for using braided line. The thinner diameter will help the lure sink more quickly, giving you better depth control and keeping the lure in the strike zone longer. Perhaps more importantly, the bites you get when fishing this way are often subtle, maybe no more than a sudden pause or “tick” in the line. The no-stretch qualities of braided line will help you feel even the lightest bites and drive the hook home.
Count on It. Anglers who do this style of fishing a lot might consider a line counter reel. Rather than estimating the depth of the lure, these reels give you a digital readout of how much line is off the reel. If you see fish at 100 feet on your sonar, for example, you can instruct your crew exactly how deep to sink their offerings to get in the game.