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Jig Fishing For Stripers with Diamond or Butterfly Jigs.

Fishing with Diamond or butterfly jigs can be quite an art and knowing some of the basics can save you a lot of headaches when trying to fish this way.  We will go over some of the important points in this article.

What is Diamond Jigging.
Diamond jigging is a general term used to describe a technique for fishing deep water with solid metal jigs.  This can be from 2-6 ounces or more in weight and are normally only used in water that is 40 feet or more in depth.   I usually don't try deeper than 100 feet for stripers and bluefish. You normally drop the jig to the bottom and reel it up to the surface.   There are other techniques also, such as reeling a number of cranks and stopping, then repeating until it reaches the surface.  Sometimes you reel, stop and jig, then reel again.  Other times you drop to the bottom, crank three times, then just jig the rod, without reeling it.  Depends on what method the fish are into on the day, or at that stage of the tide.  In general, the faster the tide the slower the retrieve.   Pay attention to what action gives the best results, and use it repeatedly.

Keeping the Line Tight.
You must keep the line tight at all times.  If you're jigging, go down slowly enough that the line stays tight as you go down.  Don't flick the rod at the top, this will make the jig keep going and fool you into thinking it was a hit, and can also lead to a tangled jig that can fool you into thinking a small fish is on the line.

Responding to the Hit.
This depends on whether the fish is hooked or not.  If you have hooked the fish,  then fight the fish to the surface.  If a bluefish is hooked, get him moving and pull the fish away from the pack, as the jig is hanging out of his mouth and if you don't get him away the rest of the pack will come in and try to get a piece of the action, potentially cutting the line off and losing the jig. If you missed the fish, then either make the jig fall right away as if injured or reel it fast three cranks and stop, then repeat.  Look at it this way: a bait fish that gets hits is either wounded and will flop, or it will be uninjured and run for it's life.   Mimicking these natural behaviors will lead to more successful fishing.  Think like a fish.  If there are a lot of Bluefish around, it is possible to get frustrated by the number of hits where it seems like you have the fish hooked for a few seconds and then he gets off.  This is typical of bluefish, as anything of 6" or more in length they like to hit in the middle, and since they have teeth, they can hold on to the jig and pull for bit, then let go and have the hook miss them.  Reel faster to get them to hit it in the back.  The most important thing to note is what type of retrieve is being used and where is your jig in the water column when the fish hit.   Is it only at the beginning of the retrieve? Only when moving the jig slow or fast? Paying attention to these things will allow for repeated success.
   When using a conventional reel, keep your thumb on the spool and feel with the rod and line as the jig drops, as it may be hit many times as the jig drops to the bottom, and with the conventional the jig can be stopped with your thumb on the spool, then and lift the rod to hook the fish, and lock the spool to fight the fish.

How to Fish the Water Column.
When fishing very deep water, you may find that the fish are very close to the bottom or only in the middle.  It is important to pay attention to your fish finder and note these conditions, as it makes no sense to reel all the way to the surface if the fish are holding on the bottom.  In that case, reel it up only a small part of the way then drop the jig back down to the bottom.  If you see the fish feeding near the surface, then cast toward them and let the jig sink only a small part of the way before retrieving it.  Keep your eye on the water and your jig as it reaches the surface, a fish may be following the jig and this will tell you if fish are there.  Often they follow and do not strike because they are waiting for some specific behavior from the lure or they are getting too good a look at it.  Try a varying the retrieve more.

Type of Fishing Rods to Use.
I personally prefer to use graphite or graphite-core rods with light tips and somewhat softer actions, at about 7' in length.  The flexibility in the rod tip helps soften the effect of most people’s jigging to make it look more natural, and less jerky.  It is also easy to feel a hit with this type of rod.  The extra length also makes it easier to keep the line tight.  

Which Jigs to Use.
Most of the time this doesn't matter.  We use diamond jigs with single salmon hooks, or with limerick hooks with the bend and a piece of tubing, or butterfly jigs.  It's best to have a couple of options and try them until you find if there is s specific preference shown for one of the jig types you're using.  If the others are not producing much, then switch everyone to the jig that is working.  Some companies make Butterfly jigs under different names, like Cabela's, which produces a freestyle jig.

Rigging your Jigs.
Braided line should be on the reels, in 30 or 50lb test with a 6 or 8 foot mono leader at the end and tied directly to the jig without a snap swivel.   We use Trilene Big Game mono in green, it is soft and easier to tie knots with, and much less expensive compared to flourocarbon, which is rarely needed.  A uni-knot to uni-knot connection should be used between the braid and the mono, as this can be wound right through the rod's tip without damaging the guide as a swivel would.  Braided line will allow you to feel hits more readily and give more action to the jig in deep water since it has significantly less stretch than monofilament line.

Where to Fish.
You need to be where the fish are.  Diamond jigging normally occurs when the fish are plentiful in an area and that area is normally one where there is a strong current running over structure such as large boulders or a sandbar.  The North Rip at Block Island and the Race at Fisher's Island are two examples of this type of structure with strong currents.  Use your sonar to locate the fish, then move up drift of their location and drift through, jigging until the boat has passed by and no more fish are being marked or caught.  Then reposition the boat for another drift.  This is very important! When moving back up drift, do not go at high speed, don't exceed 10-12 knots.  You may think the fish are deep enough that the boat's noise and presence would not effect them, but I have fished many years and noticed that when I'm fishing an area and other boats show up and add their motor noise and presence with no thought of being stealthy the fishing drops off dramatically every time.

When Diamond Jigging Stops Working.
The speed of your drift can affect the fishing in a positive or negative way.  When the tide slows down diamond jigging can become less productive.    Often it gets to the point where you need to use an extremely fast retrieve to get fish to strike it, this is when you might as well start trolling, otherwise everyone will be worn out in short order trying to reel fast enough to catch fish.    Conversely, too fast can also be an issue, this typically occurs during a "spring" tide.  This is when the sun and the moon are on the same side of the earth, creating the highest and lowest possible tides.  The fast current makes it difficult to get the jig down where the fish are and keep it there.   In this situation, your only option is to cast the jig up drift and let it fall, so it gets to the bottom before you reach it.  It is then necessary to continue letting line out in order to keep the jig near the bottom.  After the line reaches an angle of 45 degrees it's necessary to bring it in and start over, probably also time to go around for another drift.  If you can't get any fish in this situation, you may need to troll very slowly against the tide in order to be successful.

So pay attention to what happens and the techniques that work.  Use your depth finder, don't think that stopping next to a boat that has fish on is going to work for you, or watching all the other boats, use the tools that you've got and the other boats will be following you around.


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