Yellowtail Tackle Recommendations

Yellowtail Tackle Recommendations

The yellowtail bite at the Coronado Islands continues to be the only real game in town and although the bite dropped way off over the weekend, it rebounded early in the week and barring any significant weather, should continue in the coming days.

One of the indicators of this bite lasting for a while is that the fish are settling in on their regular spots at the islands and are starting to eat the surface iron and fly-lined sardines as well as the yo-yo jigs. So if you’re planning a trip sometime soon, you’re going to want to bring tackle that will cover all of the different fishing scenarios that you might encounter.

These are the rod and reel combos that I’m bringing down on Monday when I’m fishing with Seasons Sportfishing.

yellowtail tackle

Combo A: This is the yo-yo jigging set up I described in last week’s column. This combo can also be used for dropper loop fishing when the yellows are biting the sardines near the bottom.

Combo B: This is my light-duty surface iron and live bait rod. It’s an 800M Penn Blue Water Carnage Rod matched with a Penn Fathom 25N Reel that is brim full of 65# Stren Sonic Braid and rigged with a short 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. This rod is best suited for jigs A-F (in the photo below).

Combo C: This is my heavy-duty surface iron and live bait rod. It’s an 800H Calstar Grafighter matched with a Penn Fathom 25N Reel that is brim full of 65# Stren Sonic Braid and rigged with a short 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. This rod is best suited for jigs D-G (in the photo below).

A lot of guys like using a longer rod, like a Seeker Ulua or a Calstar 100J, for fishing with the surface iron on sport boats. While these nine to ten foot rods cast further, I’ve found that the added casting distance they offer isn’t worth the additional effort it takes to fight a fish on the longer rod. And if you’re fishing from a private boat you really don’t need any rods over 8-feet long because you’re not going to need to make giant casts to get your jig in front of the fish.

Along with these rods and reels, I’m going to bring a Plano tray full of surface iron, another full of yo-yo jigs and two bags of Mustad Hooks in 2/0 and 4/0 sizes. When keeping tackle to a minimum (like I’m trying to do on this trip) it’s important to choose your jigs carefully.

These are the different sized surface irons that I will use when yellowtail fishing.

yellowtail tackle

From left to right, they are: A) Tady AA, B) Tady A1, C) Tady C, D) Tady 45, E) Tady Starman 112, F) Salas 7X, G) Salas 5X.

These jigs break down into three basic size groups:

  • Small – A, B & C
  • Medium – D, E & F
  • Large – G

When packing my tackle box, I try and include at least a couple of jigs from each size group. The reasoning behind this is that fish will not always be keyed in on medium sized sardines (which the medium group matches). Sometimes they will want anchovies (small group) or big sardines and mackerel (large group). But since the majority of the time the fish will eat a medium sized sardine, the majority of the jigs I’ll bring will fall into the medium category.

Since I’m bringing limited tackle on this trip, I am only going to bring one size of small jig, the Tady A1. I chose this one because it’s a little heavier and easier to cast than the Tady AA and it’s significantly smaller than the Tady C, so if the fish are keyed in on small bait, they won’t have any problem biting the A1. I never bring only one of any jig because I don’t want to have to face loosing the only jig they’ll bite on any given day, so I’ll likely include three of these (in mint and white color) in the box.

The next step is choosing some medium sized jigs. Any of the jigs pictured will work for catching yellowtail, but each of them has a specific scenario where they excel. If you know how to pick a good one, the Tady 45 is one of the best swimming surface irons on the market. Find one with offset hips, a concave back and sharp edges and that jig will swim incredibly on a slow to medium retrieve.

When the fish want something a little faster, the Tady Starman 112 is a great choice. These jigs aren’t as finicky as the Tady 45 (I’ve never seen one that didn’t swim well), so you can just grab one off the rack and trust that it will work. If you’re inexperienced in picking good swimmers, I would recommend this jig over the Tady 45. While this jig doesn’t swim quite as well as the Tady 45 at slow speeds, it will continue to swim well at faster speeds.

The last of the medium sized jigs is the fabled Salas 7X. This jig is the workhorse of the San Diego fleet and accounts for the vast majority of the yellowtail caught on the surface iron each year. In my opinion, the jig doesn’t swim worth a damn when wound slow and while it swims pretty well on a medium retrieve, it is the absolute best jig for fishing the fast retrieve. yellowtail tackle

I’ll probably be leaving my Tady 45’s at home this trip and instead bring a selection of Tady Starman 112’s and Salas 7X’s.

When it comes to large jigs, the only one that I fish is the Salas 5X. Although this jig swims well at almost any speed, the vast majority of the bites I’ve gotten have come when fishing it at an erratic slow to medium retrieve. This jig takes up a lot of room in the box, so I’m only going to bring a couple along.

Next week I’ll be taking a look at some of the different surface iron techniques that I use when targeting yellowtail in a variety of conditions and hopefully I’ll have a good fishing report from Monday’s trip…

Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal...