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Vertical Jigging Sea Bass

It was August 2013 when Dennis MacDonald (Daddy Mac) and I were chasing birds in Vineyard Sound. We were hoping for some Bonito or False Albacore, but honestly it was one of those carefree days where what we caught didn’t really matter. I hooked into the first fish and it took me for a long first run, that unmistakable run that lets you know you’ve hooked a False Albacore or Bonito.  As I walked around my sport cabin fighting what turned out to be a nice Bonito, I heard Dennis yell out, “Fish On!”  It was in that moment, on the bow of the boat, that I saw hundreds of jumbo Sea Bass darting all over the place actively feeding. I looked back at Dennis to find him pulling a five-pound Sea Bass over the gunwale. That day in August that forever changed the way we target Sea Bass, and the result has been a considerable increase in our Sea Bass catch. Sea Bass are not lazy bottom fish, so why do we fish for them that way?

The success of vertical jigging versus bottom fishing bait was never more evident than it was on July 19th, 2015. Dennis and I were “mothershipping” Tim Moore (of Tim Moore Outdoors) and his kayak into the middle of Vineyard Sound to record an episode for Tim Moore Outdoors TV. Tim knows his Sea Bass, and also holds the New Hampshire State Sea Bass Record. We started early, at first light.  My experience has been that Sea Bass are most active at that time. Vineyard Sound happens to be home to many ship wrecks, all of which provide great starting points to find fish. As we approached the first wreck, we saw a common sight which was a charter boat fishing on top of the wreck fishing bait on the bottom. They appeared to be leaving as we approached, but decided to stay, presumably to see if we’d have any luck finding the fish. We dropped our jigs to the bottom and started to fish them up in the water column and bam!   We doubled up right under the surface. This continued with every drift. The charter captain, probably tired of his clients seeing our success, moved on. We ran into the same charter later in the day only to have the same thing happen. Before the days end, I asked Tim Moore for a tip on sea bass fishing in New Hampshire and he said, “Sometimes you will have to increase the size of your jig when the current picks up.  For instance,  I use a lighter jig during slack tide, but as the current increases, so does the size and weight of my jig.” I also inquired about Tim’s favorite Sea Bass lure.  His response was “Daddy Mac Elite Deluxe 1.4oz. Sand Eel Green, the exact lure I used to catch the New Hampshire State Record fish!”

We no longer carry bait on our Daddy Mac boat. Our success now comes from fishing the entire water column with Daddy Mac Lures vertical jigs. Here are some tips we’d like to share:

  1. Get out early!  Fish first light.
  2. When catching smaller fish, increase your jig size. The size of your catch will increase too. For Sea Bass, fish jigs from .5 ounces to 4 ounces.
  3. Recommended setup for Vertical Jigging Sea Bass: Shimano Trevala Rod with a Shimano Stradic 5000 reel, spooled with 30 to 50 lb. braid (there are always bluefish and stripers in the area) and a shot of 20 to 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader (Seaguar is recommended).
  4. Lower the jig to the bottom and increase the action of the jig as you get higher in the water column. The higher fish are more aggressive and like more action.
  5. Fish the lure all the way to the boat. Sometimes you can see the Sea Bass hit right under the boat.
  6. When bite slows, fan cast away from the boat and jig as you reel. Locate the fish and then move the boat.
  7. Leave the bait at home.  Bait is a small fish and “other fish” magnet (scup/dogfish).
  8. Wrecks are great to fish, but are usually overfished. Don’t be afraid to find little humps and bumps on the chart. They hold fish too.
  9. Be aggressive with your hook set. The fish will quickly realize that the lure is metal and will spit the lure, so as soon as they hit, be sure to quickly set the hook.
  10. Recommended Daddy Mac Lures: 1.4 Elite Deluxe Sand Eel Green, 1.4 Elite Sand Eel Green, 2.8 Elite Sand Eel Green, 3.5 Trophy Sand Eel, 4.0 Diamond Sand Eel Green. Notice that green is preferred. Pink is a close second.

Daddy Mac Lures on New England Fishing which aired on NESN in 2017:

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