Vertical Jigging for Wahoo

Charlie and Todd with a big Miami Wahoo

Welcome Home Wahoo!

It’s been a long time coming but im finally stoked that a bit of good vertical jigging karma has come our way.  When I think about all the hours I’ve spent jigging with no luck, the sore arms, the $15 cut offs, hooking bruiser fish only to lose them into structure on the bottom…it’s just downright frustrating.  Vertical jigging is definitely one of the more effective techniques for deep water fishing here in Miami, FL, but it’s certainly an exercise in patience, strength, financial stamina, and endurance.

Todd and I just returned from an extended trip to the Philippines which is why our blog content has waned a bit in the last three weeks.  My apologies for that.  Now that we’re back in the good ol’ US of A we’re full steam ahead on fishing and testing new gear. While we were overseas, we had a limited opportunity to get some fishing done in the remote island of Siargao.  While it’s considered a surfing paradise for the famous cloud 9 break, it’s also a fertile fishing ground.  We gave it two days of diligence trying to track down some pelagics, but with only two bites to show for our 8 hours of trolling, we decided to call it in. We needed a victory to get our fishing karma back on track…why I ever leave Miami for fishing in the first place is beyond me.  We truly live in the sport fishing capital of the world.

Our first venture out on the Marauder following our return from the Philippines was chock full of pelagic ROI. The bait has basically moved on from bug light and we’ve started to turn our attention to the strenuous art of vertical jigging for amberjacks, wahoo, kingfish, and other reef/wreck dwellers. Working several of the wrecks south of Fowey is the name of the game this time of year and we certainly haven’t come up short so far.

Once we hit the bluewater, Todd spotted three frigates working low in about 300′. We had only made one or two drifts on our target wreck with no luck, so my instinct was to keep jigging since I could see the fish on the screen. I knew it was a matter of time/effort before we had them dialed in.  Todd’s persistence to abandon the wreck and chase the birds was dead-on…as soon as we pulled away from the wreck in pursuit of the frigates…the water began to boil and erupt.  What happened next was nothing short of spectacular – a full scale surface blitz of epic proportions.  The schools exploded across the surface all around the boat – bonitas, skipjacks, and blackfins busting all around us.

Vertical jigging for tuna off Miami, FL

Skipjacks, Bonitas, and Blackfins Busting the Surface

The fish were going wild and the sea was literally frothing with bait shearing the surface. The skipjacks and bonitas pounded the schools until the bait began to disappear. Todd was quick with a smaller jig and hooked up with a nice Skipjack tuna which Rochelle battled to the boat in just a few minutes.

Todd Malicaot with a nice Skipjack Tuna

Skipjack caught during a Tuna Blitz off Miami, FL

Once the frenzy subsided we returned to the wreck and began making drops.  The first two passes produced nothing but the third brought a huge hit on a shimano vertical jig. I fought the fish all the way to the surface and finally got a glimpse – a hefty amberjack pulling for its life. I guess I put just a bit too much pressure on that reef donkey because the hook pulled within 20 feet of the boat.  Frustrating, but at least I got the fight out of him. We made another pass and Todd hookedup almost immediately after hitting the bottom and working the jig up the column maybe 30 or 40 feet. About two minutes into the fight the line went slack – a cut off.  Something toothy had the jig.

We reset again, but this time I put on the biggest jig we had on board (basspro special).  I dropped down and began working the wreck.  Nothing.  Dropped down again and BOOM!  Massive strike which buckled my rod in half. I couldn’t believe the weight of this fish.  It was ripping line with the drag nearly locked up (impressive on a penn battle 7000!) and I just couldn’t stop the fish.  After he slowed a bit, I began working him to the surface but damn was he heavy.  At that point I was thinking big. fat. amberjack. A few headshakes here and there, which were unchracteristic of amberjacks, got me thinking this was something else. About ten minutes into the fight (after the fish pulled me around the stern in a big circle) the hooked pulled and my heart sank.  I was miserable but I could feel the weight of the jig and began fluttering it to the surface.  Not five seconds after the jig pulled – WHAM! ANOTHER vicious strike and I was on.  This fish wasn’t as big but was screaming line.  Heavy as hell and staying down.  The new Okuma jig rods we’re fishing are lightweight and awesome…but have no spine.  I pulled and pulled and pulled but just couldn’t get enough leverage to really work the fish.  15 minutes into the fight we’re prepping to release a big amberjack when up pops the leader and…OH S#$%! HUGE WAHOO! Todd and I both freak out because the fish is barely hooked in the tip of the nose and the lanyard for the hook is freyed to all hell!  And we’re missing a hook from the jig!  Todd grabs the gaff and BOOM! Over the side and we just about do a backflip from the adrenaline! Massive wahoo on a vertical jig!?!? Ya gotta be kidding me!

Captain Charlie Ellis with a huge wahoo caught while vertical jigging

Capt. Charlie Ellis with a Wahoo caught while Vertical Jigging

The size of this fish was just staggering to me considering I caught it using a 60lb flourocarbon leader and a vertical jig with one hook attached by a freyed piece of 300lb braid. The fish was hardly hooked!

A wahoo caught while vertical jigging hardly hooked in the top of the mouth

Hardly Hooked! Can't believe it!

That picture is straight up shocking no matter how you look at it.  Centimeters from razor sharp teeth and the rigging for the hook shredded to nothing.  Just to really drive home the point, after we pulled the hook out of the fish’s mouth, I pulled just hard enough to snap the remaining line.  It was like breaking dental floss.

My personal theory is that I had another wahoo hooked.  The fish I lost fought exactly like the one we boated and one of the hooks from the jig was missing, but a small shred of line was still tied on. While i’ll never know for sure, i’m convinced I had a bigger wahoo hooked which sawed through the braid and this fish was trailing it the entire time.  When the jig came loose, this fish smacked it and was just a little less lucky. 😉

What can I say, back in the states 24 hours and I land my personal best wahoo on a vertical jig. I guess the sea gods are smiling on us and sending us a reminder to stay in our home waters. We’ve got some awesome trips lined up for the month ahead including swordfishing with Nick Stanczyk, the Miami Swordfish Tournament, and a few jigging trips in between.



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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