Vertical Jigs + Wreck Fishing = Winning!

The slow hot days of August are upon us.  It’s literally roasting outside and the glare from slick calm seas makes the boat feel like a giant solar oven. The sailfish have mostly moved on, less a few stragglers, and we’ve started focusing our efforts on swordfish, mahi mahi, kingfish, and big amberjacks.  The calm weather affords us the opportunity to explore a few new spots and get a very solid read on bottom structure.

Today Greg Shaugnnesy (of fame), Tim, Vince, Walt and Scott joined us for a vertical jigging bonanza. Greg’s a dedicated vertical jigging enthusiast and has landed everything from wahoo to cobia – jigging the wrecks off Miami. His arsenal of neon colored prismatically reflective  jigs is unlike any i’ve seen before. He swears by them and has nothing short of mastered the technique. When you’re fishing a stella paired wth a cape cod jigging stick – the odds are surely in your favor.

The first wreck we hit produced solid action most of the morning.  We marked fish immediately on the first pass…and hooked up on the first drop. Greg was the first to connect, boating a “sport” sized amberjack.

Vertical Jigging for Amberjack on the Wrecks of Miami

Greg with the first jack of the day

In between bonita hits, we dialed in the fish more precisely with each pass over the wreck.  The fish were slamming our vertical jigs anywhere from 30′ to 50′ directly above the wreck.  We had them clearly marked on the screen – schooled up – and recognized they were holding into the current at the north side of the wreck. The next fish to come aboard slammed a glow jig just off the bottom.

Scott Davis with a big Amberjack caught on a vertical jig

Scott with an Amberjack caught on a vertical jig

It was only a matter of time before we honed in on the bigger fish working the wreck.  We could see the school on the sounder every other pass – so we knew they were cruising and on the prowl.  Patience paid and the donkey crushed the jig in 210′! While I find vertical jigging somewhat exhausting – nothing compares to that first crushing mid-water hit! The rod buckling is just insane – vertical jigging rods astound me with their flexibility.

Vertical Jigging for Amberjack

Putting the hurt on a big reef donkey

The fish made several blistering runs.  There’s just something awe inspiring about watching a rod completely doubled over while braid is ripping from the spool. Its so important to use high quality reels when doing this kind of fishing – weak drags just won’t get the job done. This was one Amberjack that just wouldn’t quit!

Amberjack fishing with vertical jigs

Reef Donkey of the Day

The fish certainly earned its freedom, and we rarely keep Amberjacks when they get this big because they are usually loaded with parasites. A few quick snapshots then back in the water to fight another day.

Since the school was still plenty stacked up on the wreck, we made another drift and WHAM! A quadruple header! All four anglers were hooked up within seconds – the first quadruple header vertical jig hookup on the Marauder.

Quadruple Header Amberjacks on Vertical Jigs

Quadruple Header Amberjacks on Vertical Jigs

One fish came off after a few minutes but three others stayed tight. The smallest of the group popped up first and was quickly released. The second and third fish duked it out for another few minutes before coming in the boat for a quick picture.

Vertical Jigging for Amberjack

Greg and Tim with a Fresh pair of Jacks

Bonitas grabbed the jigs frequently in between amberjack and almaco hookups.  I think we released 9 or 10 bonitas over the course of the day – some of which were pushing 15lbs. Chatter on the radio confirmed a bonita bonanza was erupting as far north as Ft. Lauderdale. In an effort to change our luck, we made 10 mile run south to work another shallower wreck off Elliott Key. On arrival the water was loaded with bait – marking from 60′ all the way up to the surface.  We could see the bait fish swirling beneath us at times…but it didn’t seem to help the bite.  The current was much weaker, the water dirtier, and the fish were much less cooperative.  We got cut off twice and lost a beefy yellow runner at the boat. After a few mildly productive drifts, we picked up and made our way back towards Fowey.  Along the way we stopped to work a few schools of busting skipjacks in hopes a few blackfins were mixed in…but no such luck. We took another stab at vertical jigging the spots which held fish earlier in the day…but only the bonitas wanted to play.  We called it quits and headed home.

Overall, I have to say i’m thoroughly impressed with the latest vertical jigging technology. It’s really simplistic but remarkably effective technique which i’m sure will start to spread like wildfire for fishermen with the biceps to manhandle amberjacks and other stubborn reef dwellers a few hundred feet off the bottom.  This kind of fishing is not for the faint of heart – or the out of shape – but i’m certainly sold on the techniques versatility. We’re thinking of running vertical jigging charters to wrecks off Miami in the near future.  If demand for vertical jigging trips picks up, we’ll likely start offering them on a weekly basis.

If you’re interested in picking up some vertical jigs for yourself, we recommend you try out the following brands:

Don’t go running out and grabbing just any rod and reel to attempt this kind of fishing on your own either.  You need specialized reels and the strength of a high quality rod blank. Without the stopping power of high-grade Penn or Shimano reel, you’ll get wrecked more than you can stand…and let me tell you! Those jigs aren’t cheap!

Amberjack fishing on the wrecks off Miami is consistent most of the year.  The majority of fish migrate through in the spring time, but deep water structure holds lots of bait, which keeps most Amberjacks and Almacos festively plump on any given day.

Thanks to Greg, Vince, and Tim for jigging their way to amberjack glory. Hopefully we’ll find a few wahoo mixed in there soon.

Tight Lines.

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Captain at Miami Fishing Charters LLC
Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL has 25 years experience fishing for big game species like Bluefin Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Sharks. Capt. Charlie is also an avid scuba diver, world traveler, writer, and entrepreneur.
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