Ask the guys anywhere who dig structures nearshore and they’ll all have different favorite jig dressings. Not long ago, I mean in the past twenty years for us old timers, the variety of highly effective scent-impregnated soft plastics revolutionized jigging.
By revolutionizing, I mean making a break from jigging fish bait strips, live bait, and other stuff like squid, calms, and eels. All the aforementioned natural jig dressings can be a tad messy, take preparation, and need special handling on the boat. Although these options are effective they are inconvenient and tend to attract a batch of unintended dinner guests.
Anglers are always looking for the tidy, hot short cut and the break with traditional jig dressings. Researched by major tackle companies, there are nice selections of very effective, clean, easy handling soft baits that target countless offshore species. You can find an 18-inch eel, an 8-inch shimmy shad, and smalls like a 2- or 3-inch shrimp.
Here in Southwest Florida, we’ll fish the flats and maybe take a ride out to a close reef on our flats and bay skiff. With the mixed bag biters, that can be handled on typical 7-foot medium-action spinning gear, it’s a rewarding crap shoot. Snapper, gator Speckled Sea Trout, Bonito, mega Crevalle Jack, Snook, and my favorite bull or sow, as I like to call ‘em, Redfish. Redfish go by several different names depending on your regional preference. They are known as Channel Bass or Red Drum on the Atlantic coast of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia but in the Gulf states they’re called Redfish.
In the Gulf, we don’t get the Hogs, or at least not many or as big, as in the Atlantic. But if you dig and jig the close reefs you can come up with some fish-of-a-lifetime critters that make for great keepsake photo ops. Pinfish, crabs, handpicked shrimp are all fair game for Gulf-bound Reds. There are seasonal specialists who troll the reefs with count diving plugs for Reds, but that are other story. Our pattern of choice is the easy, light tackle approach of jigging scent soft plastics. Being bay fishers, we’ve got a generous supply of scented “softies” that work in the back bay and on the nearshore. The most versatile of our arsenal seems to be the Gulp “New Penny Shrimp” in the 4-inch size; you can find bigger ones online. Laced on a ½-oz. jig head, they’ll be an effective presentation while drift fishing or anchored up on a number.
Nothing fancy here with the jigging, the search pattern is worked through the water column; we’re only jigging in about 18-36 ft. of water off Naples, Ft. Myers and Sanibel. Once you fine the strike zone sink your jig to the bottom a slow retrieve pumping it up and down and allowing it to flutter down a foot or two seems to be most effective. Recently we acquired a batch of really nice jigheads with circle hooks that suit this pattern and retrieve. Most of the strikes occur on the drop as the jig falls. The circle hooks are a great advantage, they secure the hook set as you take up the slack inherent to the in deep jigging retrieve.
An outfit with 20-30lb braid and a 3-foot 30lb. fluorocarbon leader will challenge the reef Reds. If you get serious, set up a true 20lb. outfit with the 30lb. braid and a stiffer rod; we carry that gear for Snooking the docks.
Here in Florida, the harvest of Reds requires that they fit the state slot sizes, 18” min. to 27” max.; if you’re lucky you won’t find one fish that fits the slot, but that’s what this presentation is all about. Get a good digital camera, carry a big net or, better yet, release your hog boatside in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
Hope to see you in “Hog Heaven”.