FishingFishing GearFishing LuresFishing ReelsFishing RodsFishing TackleHow to Fish

Catching Yellows on the Yo-Yo Jig

The Coronado Islands are starting to kick out consistent yellowtail fishing for private boaters as well as the D-day boats running out of San Diego landings. As is always the case with these early season yellows, the fish haven’t settled in on spots, so the most effective way to target them is to run and gun on sonar schools. While some of these schools have been coming to the surface in response to chum, the majority of them are staying deep, making them prime targets for Yo-Yo jigging.

This is a good thing for fishermen because, when it comes to fishing for yellowtail with artificial lures, Yo-Yo jigging is about as easy as it gets. As the name implies, the basic technique is to drop a heavy jig straight down to the bottom, wind it quickly back to the surface and repeat the process until you hook a fish. While you’ll need strong arms to fish the Yo-Yo all day, the simplicity of the technique takes a lot of the skill out of the equation and allows rookie fishermen to catch fish right alongside the most experienced anglers on the boat. But there are some variations to the Yo-Yo jigging basics that will allow you to spend less time winding your jig and more time fighting fish.


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 Seeker 6470H (which is rated for 40 to 60 pound line).

I’m sure that some of you readers are probably shaking your heads and wondering why I’d recommend a 500 sized reel for fishing the Yo-Yo, when all of the good fishermen use big reels like the Penn Baja Special or the Shimano Trinidad 40. Well, before you write me off as a kook, please consider the following. The 30 Torque holds 440 yards of 80-pound spectra, offers 27-pounds of drag and takes in 40-inches of line per crank. For comparison, the Baja Special only gets 34-inches of line per crank and while the Trinidad 40 gets an additional 4-inches of line per crank, it weighs half a pound more than the Torque. Regardless of which brand you prefer, you’ll want to choose a reel that gets at least 30-inches of per crank and holds enough line that you’ll still have a relatively full spool once you drop your jig to the bottom.

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.

Now let’s take a look at some of those technique variations and how you can use them to your advantage.

When the yellows are biting at the Coronado Islands, the sport boats usually get out with heavy loads, which during a Yo-Yo bite can translate into 30 to 40 people fishing the jig at the same time. 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.

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 100 feet of water and the fish are holding between sixty feet and the bottom, you don’t need to wind your jig through the top fifty feet of the water column as it will not likely result in getting bit.

yo yo yellowtails

But 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 100 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 fifty 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.

yellowtail west coast

Like with everything else that I’ve covered in my columns, there is a lot more to advanced Yo-Yo jigging than I have room for here, but hopefully you can use some of my ideas and suggestions to creatively advance your own angling abilities –and if you come up with something that works, please let me know because I’m always up for learning new tricks.

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...