Jigging For Rockfish | Rockfish Jig Setup

After two seasons of ridiculous, almost non-stop exotic action that we’ve had, fishing for rockfish now may seem boring. Bait and wait on a double dropper seems so pedestrian when compared to throwing surface iron for yellows or poppers for tuna. Yet here we are in November and for most of SoCal (with the exception of San Diego), that is where us salty anglers find ourselves.

rockfish jigs
Left-Right: Salas 6X, Sumo Jr., Lingcod jigs, P-Line

I’m not much into the double dropper either. Rather than put away my gear though, I’m still out on the water. I’m putting in my time because in just over month, we won’t even have rockfishing as an option. Thankfully, I’ve got some really cool trips lined up for January and February. I also really enjoy eating these tasty bottom fish. Lingcod may be my favorite fish in the ocean to eat. And who doesn’t enjoy a rockfish taco? So for the last month of 2015, I’ll entertain myself throwing jigs for rockfish. If you are unfamiliar, here are some basics to get you started.

rockfish gear - Jigging
Shimano Tranx 500 with 65-pound Power Pro Braid

Gearing Up For Rockfish

The days of fishing 10 hook gagnions on a 9/0 Penn filled with Dacron attached to a stiff, stubby pole with a rail plate are over. Braided line or spectra has long since changed the game.

In the context of rockfishing, braid has two distinct advantages.

  1. The sensitivity of the line allows you to feel everything happening at the business end of your line…even in 300+ feet of water.
  2. Braid sinks. That second attribute is critical when talking about throwing jigs for rockfishing.

Since the maximum depth we are allowed to fish is only 60-fathoms (360-feet), you don’t need to dump your spool and refill it with straight braid. Most of my reels already have a braid backing, so all I do is just strip off the mono topshot and I’m ready to go. If you don’t have already have a braid backing, then a small 150-yard spool (450-feet) will more than suffice and will set you back less than $20. For a rod and reel, just use whatever you use now for your yoyo setup…something that can handle throwing a 2-5-ounce lure. I run 65-pound braid to a short 40 or sometimes 30-pound topshot. Because it gives me a casting advantage, I actually use my 9-foot surface iron stick (Shimano Teramar 90XH) and replace my fast Tranx with the lower geared one for this application.

Getting Rigged

Now that you’ve stripped off your topshot, make it easy on yourself and just tie a swivel to the end of the braid. Don’t use a snap swivel, unless you like losing jigs. Now tie on your mono. Give yourself about 2 feet from the swivel and tie a dropper loop, and then about another 2 feet to tie your jig. I like using a double San Diego knot on the jig so I need the extra line. When done, you want to end up with your jig about a foot below the dropper. On the dropper loop, I will often deploy a shrimp fly. With the jig below it, from the fish’s perspective, it looks like the fly is being chased by the jig. This is what is called the “Jig and Fly” rig.

Getting Jiggy

Here’s the fun part. Lots of stuff will work…flatfalls, Megabaits, P-Line diamond jigs, Lingcodjigs, large swimbaits on a heavier leadhead. I’ve used them all and had success with each. You can also skip the fly. If you are at a point in the day where all you want to do is target lingcod, the fly isn’t a must have.

rockfish tips - Jigging
Jig caught lingcod aboard the Pacific Islander

In terms of fishing it, you want to cast it out, then let it sink all the way to the bottom. When it touches bottom, reel it up a few quick turns and then let it sink back down. Repeat the process all the way back to the boat. If you are on the anchor, it doesn’t matter which way you cast. If you are on a drift, cast into the drift, or opposite the direction of the double dropper people. If your line angles under the boat, it’s time to reel up and start over. That’s it. Give it a try. If you haven’t done this before, I guarantee it will add a new dimension to rockfishing for you.

Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing boats of Southern California. In addition to writing his blog, Joe's writing has appeared in Western Outdoor News, The Log and Griffin Media. Joe is ...