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Spring Yellowtail Tackle

The Coronado Islands already kicked out a teaser late winter yellowtail bite this year, but the real bite has yet to happen. With spring rapidly approaching it’s time put new line on your reels and dust off those jigs because the yellowtail will be biting before you know it.

If you’re new to yellowtail fishing, or just looking to expand your arsenal, here is the tackle you’ll need to battle these hard fighting jacks.

There are three rod and reel combos that will cover every situation you’ll encounter while targeting springtime yellowtail regardless of where they’re biting. It’s important to note that the brands I recommend are not the only ones that will work; they’re just the ones I fish. So if you prefer another brand of reel, or different length of rod, just look for ones with similar ratings to those I’ve mentioned.

Light Jig / Live Bait Combo (far left and second from left in photo)

This is the combo that I use most when targeting yellowtail and as a result I’ll usually bring an additional combo with me on trips. I fish a Penn Fathom 25N, filled with 65 pound Stren Sonic Braid and mounted to either a Penn Carnage 800M or a Rainshadow RCLB-80M. Both of these rods are 8 foot and rated from 20-50 pound line. You can also use a 9-foot rod like a Calstar 900M for this application.

I’ll normally rig both rods with a 40 pound fluorocarbon leader and set one up with a 2/0 to 4/0 Owner Ringed Flyliner Hook (depending on bait size). The other rod will be used to throw any small jig, up to a Tady 45. This Includes Tady AA Light, Tady C and Salas J-Pot. You can also throw bigger jigs on this rod but they are better suited to the next combo.

Heavy Jig Combo (third from left in photo)

For throwing bigger jigs, like the Candy Bar 112, Salas 7X and the Salas 5X, I use a Penn Fathom 30 full of 80 pound Stren Sonic Braid (with a 60 pound fluoro leader) and matched to a Penn Carnage 800H or a Calstar Graphiter 800H. This is very contrary to the long rods that most fishermen prefer for this application but I’ve found that the tiny bit of casting distance I lose with the eight-foot rod is more than made up for by gains in accuracy and leverage. If you like fishing the long rod, an Ulua 93H would be a great choice for this combo.

Yo-Yo Jig / Dropper Loop Combo (Far right in photo)

This is the heaviest set up you’re going to need and you can get by without it by using your Heavy Jig Combo for this application. I fish a Penn Torque 30 full of 80 pound Stren Sonic Braid (with a 60 pound fluoro leader), mounted on a Calstar 700XH or Rainshadow RCJB84-XH. When dropper loop fishing, I’ll rig a spider hitch with a 2/0 to 4/0 Owner Flyliner Hook above an appropriate sized torpedo sinker. If fishing a jig, I’ll normally use a Tady 9 Heavy or a Tady 4/0 Heavy. Other popular choices are the Salas 6X and Salas 6X Jr, but I prefer the Tady jigs for this application.

The jig color I’ll choose on any given day is dependent upon bait, water color and visibility, but more often than not I find myself fishing with mint and white. Based on that, I’ll usually bring a mint and white version of each jig size that I bring on a trip and then match the size of the jig to the bait the fish are feeding on. Small bait, small jig. Large bait, large jig.

A great yo-yo jig color is scrambled egg (shown on far right), so you will definitely want to bring that color in a couple sizes to compliment your mint and white, or blue and white, yoyo jigs. Birdshit (second from the left) is also a popular color and I can guarantee you that just about every iron fisherman in San Diego has at least one Salas 7X that color in their tackle box. Other colors to bring are ones that look like squid (far right and center) as they’ll sometimes get bit when other colors won’t.

You don’t need to go crazy when buying jigs.

Just get a few colors in a couple of sizes to start and then buy more once you figure out what you like. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to jig colors and sizes. So find your confidence baits and then stock your tackle box with them.

More Yellowtail from Erik Landesfeind

Erik Landesfeind
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 an...