Wind and CurrentOf course, there are days when the wind and current are too strong, particularly if the wind is in one direction and the current is in another. On these days, it seems that even 5 pounds of weight won't get you to the bottom! But on those perfect days, when the wind is enough for seas to run over two feet and under five feet, and the current is in the same direction, you can load the boat on a good location.
The idea is to drift over bottom, across the wreck, or parallel along the ledge and give the jig some good up and down motion. Sharp upward jerks produce a less erratic movement of the bait because of line stretch, so jerk as hard as you can. Allow the jig to drop back, but keep in touch with it - "feel" the jig going back down. If you loose the feel of the jig on the drop back, it is likely to be a fish. If you allow the jig to drop back with slack line, the leader will often wrap around and foul the jig. Trust me, very many times of cranking an 8 ounce jig 180 feet to the surface will cure you of slack lining in a hurry!
I like to jig with tackle big enough for a big fish, but light enough that I don't wear myself out. My personal preference is a Penn Super 4/0 (113H) or a Penn 500L Jigmaster. Both have a 4 to 1 gear ratio which gives me some fast retrieve but still has a lot of winding power. Faster retrieves than this often prevent you from "winching" a big fish. My rods are also Penn (I simply favor Penn because I have fished with them over the years - there are many other fine rod makers!), seven feet long with a medium heavy action designed for 30 pound line.
When you drift over and beyond the area, reel up and move back up current. Drop down to the bottom, crank up about three or four turns, and drift it again. Unless you have dropped a good marker over the spot or have a good GPS mapping unit, it is virtually impossible to take the same drift every time. Every drift will cover a different part of the structure, so don't be alarmed if you don't pick a fish up on every drift.
Sensing a Bite
"And how do you know when you have a bite", someone just asked. Well, let me just say this. Make sure you are holding that rod with a good grip! These bottom fish don't mess around nibbling. Strikes are strong, sudden and vicious. You may be on the upswing of your "jig" and find your rod suddenly pinned to the rail of the boat. I have actually had a partner loose his footing and almost go overboard (the rod DID go overboard!).
Tighten that Drag
And because you are over structure, these fish head right for the nearest hole or ledge when they strike. For that reason, we fish with drags almost completely shut down and it becomes a matter of who is stronger - you or the fish! Once we have "winched" the fish away from the structure, we can carefully adjust the drag and fight him to the surface. About half way up, the fight is over, though, because from that depth, the fish's air bladder can not compensate fast enough and it's expansion pops the fish to the surface like a balloon.
Deep jigging is an art, the biggest part of which is locating the right bottom, and then jigging it the right way. It is also "meat" fishing. This is not catch and release territory, and on a 8/0 jig hook, you won't catch any little fish. So my advice is to practice some conservation. Fish the day inshore or offshore trolling and catch and release all you want. Then come back to the ledge or good bottom and catch one or two for dinner. Leave the rest for later trips!