Yo-Yo Iron Techniques
If you take it down to it’s basics, fishing the yo-yo iron is about as simple as presenting an artificial lure can get. Just drop it to the bottom, wind like hell until the lure is back on the surface and repeat until you catch a fish or your arm cramps up. But like with every technique, there are variations to this basic presentation and they will often be the determining factor in whether you end up with a cramped up arm or a bent rod.
Like with any fishing technique, the first and most important step is to choose the right tackle. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with different rod, reel and line configurations for Yo-Yo jigging over the years and I’ve finally settled on a combination that I’m very pleased with. I use a Penn Torque 30 star drag reel full of 80# Spectra mounted on a heavy seven-foot jig stick like a Rainshadow RCJB 84H (which is rated for 40 to 60-pound line).
This 500-sized reel is a departure from the 4/0-sized reels that have always been associated with fishing the yo-yo. But reels like the Torque 30 make up for their smaller size by offering a higher gear ratio than the Penn Baja Special or the Shimano Trinidad 40. In fact, the Torque takes in 40 inches of line per crank, while the Baja Special only gets 34 inches. The Trinidad 40 takes 4 inches per crank more than the Torque but the minor gain in speed isn’t worth the extra weight of the reel.
With the rod and reel taken care of, the next step is to choose the right jigs for the job.
There are several brands of Yo-Yo jigs on the market and all of them work, but my favorites are the Tady 9, the Salas Christy II and the Tady 4/0. All three of these jigs are in the heavy style (if you’re confused about that, just ask someone at the tackle store to show you the difference), but their different shapes give them each a distinct swimming pattern. Regarding color, I like to keep it simple and fish mint and white or blue and white when the fish are keyed in on fin bait and I’ll fish scrambled egg when the fish are feeding on squid. Another thing to remember is that the deeper you’re fishing, the larger the jig you’ll want to use.
Now let’s take a look at some of those technique variations and how you can use them to your advantage. If you’re fishing on a sport boat, you’re going to be fishing alongside 30 or 40 other anglers doing the same thing.
So the first trick is to figure out how to make your jig stand out from the rest.
If the boat is drifting on schools of yellowtail, I will always position myself in the bow and fish with the wind at my back (the side where my line drifts under the boat). By positioning myself in that way, my jig is the first one that any fish off the bow of the boat will see and it’s also the first one that any fish down swell of the boat will see. This doesn’t always translate into me being the first one to get bit, but it does help.
The next tip (wherever you’re positioned on the boat) is to get your jig away from the rest of the fishermen by casting it out. You don’t need to make a super long cast, just get your jig out there twenty or thirty feet and then let it sink to the bottom before retrieving it. If you’re doing it right, this should result in your jig coming up at an angle and the more angle you have in your line, the more of the water column you’ll be covering on your retrieve. This variation also works well when fishing on a private boat because it gives you the ability to cover more water without having to reposition the boat.
Another thing that will improve your odds of getting bit is to vary your retrieve.
Sometimes fish want a stop and go wind, other times they want it sped up and slowed down intermittently. If you’re on a sport boat, watch how the guys that are getting bit are fishing. If you’re on your own boat, try different retrieves until you find one that works.
The final trick is to stop wasting time by winding your jig through dead water. If there are yellows in the area they are going to show up on the fish finder and once you see at what depth they are holding (or hear the captain announce it over the PA on a sport boat) you can adjust your technique to cover only the water that is holding fish. For example, if the boat is in 200-feet of water and the fish are holding between 120-feet and the bottom, you don’t need to wind your jig through the top 120-feet of the water column as it will not likely result in getting bit.
Since your reel doesn’t have a line counter, it’s up to you to figure out when to stop winding and drop back down.
What I’ll usually do to figure that out is drop my jig to the bottom and then wind it back at the speed I’m going to fish it and count in my head (one, two, three…). Let’s say that the boat is in 200-feet of water and I’ve counted to twenty by the time my jig gets to the surface. That means that if I only count to ten on the next drop, my jig will be at 100 feet. After you’ve done the counting for a few drops, you’ll be able to get a feel for the timing of it (it doesn’t need to be exact) and you’ll know how deep your jig is when you get a bite and you’ll be able to further fine tune your presentation.