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Capt. George Landrum
Flyhooker Sportfishing
Email: landrum@caboguide.zzn.com 


While working as a Charter Captain in Guam I often had Japanese anglers who were dedicated jig fishermen as my customers. Often the target was Yellowfin Tuna at the F.A.D.’s and sometimes the Dogtooth Tuna or Amberjack along the 40-fathom ledges. Once in a while we would get special kinds of jig fishermen. It takes a special mindset to want to fish a jig on the bottom in 600 to 900 feet of water! As you can imagine, it also requires good gear, certain water conditions and a few special techniques to be successful.

The fish that are the target of these deep jigging crazies are the prized deep water Queen Snapper (Onaga). Also caught with this technique are the Ehu, a smaller red snapper and the Opaka-paka, a brown snapper. The Onaga and Ehu are the deeper dwelling, with the Onaga growing to over 30lbs and the Ehu to 6lbs. The Opaka-paka are found slightly shallower, and as shallow as 300 feet at times. The Onaga and Ehu prefer steep drop-offs and pinnacles where they can intercept baitfish easily, and the Opaka-paka will work the flats, traveling in large schools.

Understandably, water conditions are extremely important in this type of fishing. The most favorable condition is flat calm, no wind and one hour either side of high slack tide. The most important of these is the surface condition because if the water is too rough the angler is unable to work the jig properly. Of secondary importance is the wind. Too much wind will move the boat so that the angler is not able to maintain the jig in the necessary strike zone, that first 20-30 feet from the bottom. The wind can be combated using a Sea Anchor to slow the drift or using a re-bar Rock Anchor for holding bottom. It's hard to say that the tide phase is third in importance because in many ways it is first.

The best bite is going to happen during the 2 hours covering high slack. All other conditions may be perfect, but if you do not have the correct tidal phase your angler will wear himself out with little expectation of hooking up.

Now to the meat of this article. Let’s assume for the moment that your anglers’ gear is properly set up, a fast action 7 foot rod mounted with his reel of choice loaded with superbraid such as Spectra or Spider Wire. This has a small ball-bearing swivel with welded rings connecting it to 4 feet of 80lb flouro-carbon leader (for abrasion resistance) which in turn is attached to a 4” to 6” white slab jig with a single hook. Now imagine the amount of time it would take, let alone the amount of line that would be out by the time this jig hit the bottom, even in the best of conditions! Without using one of the following techniques, conditions would have to be absolutely perfect in order to succeed.

This first method is very similar to an old Hawaii fishing method known as “dropping stone”. Scrap re-bar is cut into 12” sections and wired together into 2lb, 3lb and 4lb bundles, with a large 3” diameter loop of ridged wire (clothshangers work fine) wrapped onto the other end. The hook of the jig is placed through the loop and the re-bar bundle with jig attached is lowered with light thumb pressure until it strikes the bottom. The rod tip is then lowered a few inches so the hook has a chance to disengage from the wire loop and the jigging is started. While a very simple and relatively inexpensive method, it does have several drawbacks. I know someone out there is going to say “Yeah, you’re littering”, but there is more scrap metal in the ocean from one shipwreck than will ever be put there by anglers using this method. The major drawback is that the re-bar bundles are not reusable. You must take enough to ensure your anglers of being able to reach bottom every time they need to re-drop. Making that number of bundles is time consuming. Taking enough of them along adds weight that many of us would prefer not to carry. Re-bar is rusty and has sharp edges, neither of which get along well with nice clean white gel-coat! You could use lead weights, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford throwaway leads that size!

An alternative I developed is the use of an electric reel as a retriever. The reels I use are Miya-Epoch 100’s loaded with color-coded Spectra. The Spectra is 80lb, strong enough to retrieve a weight even if it gets stuck and narrow enough that it does not add any appreciable drag caused by blocking current flow. The reels are on bent-butt stubby rods with swiveling roller tips and hooked up to a spare battery (dedicated to just this one purpose). The Spectra is joined to one half of a welded stainless steel wire figure 8, with each circle being 6” in diameter. On the same half as the Spectra a 4 to 6 pound lead torpedo sinker is attached using 50lb monofilament leader. This leader must be replaced or retied every 4 or 5 drops or you will lose your lead. The hook of the jig is placed through the other half of the stainless figure 8, the fishing reel is placed in free-spool with very light thumb pressure (use a glove) and the electric reel placed in free-spool with either the clicker on or light thumb pressure. As soon as the weight hits the bottom the jig falls free and the electric reel is engaged, thus removing and retrieving the weight, ring and line. Waiting 5 to 10 seconds for the rig to get clear, the angler then begins to jig in the strike zone.

While this technique was originally developed for deep bottom jigging, I have also used it for dropping small jigs on deep holding tuna when the tuna would not strike larger offerings. Those of you willing to try something new and can spend the time and money will find that this technique is extremely effective and will have others asking you what your secret is! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at my e-mail address.

P.S. You would be amazed at the number of hookups on Tuna, Amberjack and Wahoo we have had while cranking in the “iron” from these depths!

Until next time, Tight Lines!

Good Luck,     Capt. George Landrum