Local Expert: Bill Boyce
Fishery: Favorite West Coast methods of fishing the “iron” involve both surface fishing and bottomfishing. The winter fishery dictates deep jigging for rockfish with heavy jigs (3 to 8 ounces), which are yo-yoed over rocky bottom structure. As spring water temps increase, the surface bite gets going, with barracuda, calico bass and yellowtail eating light surface jigs (1 to 2 ounces) cast and retrieved near kelp beds. As summer progresses, tuna and yellowtail are caught offshore in schools and around kelp paddy flotsam, which is fished with deep jigs retrieved at high speed. If the fish are responding to chum dispersion, light jigs can also be cast into the boiling fish with excellent results.
Primary Species: Albacore, yellowfin and bluefin tuna, yellowtail, white seabass, dorado, calico bass and barracuda.
Favorite Depths: We jig from the surface to about 400 feet. Winter bites often dictate fishing deep, while warmer summer surface temperatures often produce excellent action in the upper 50 feet of the water column.
Favorite Jig Design/Type: Most surface fishing is done primarily with lightweight aluminum jigs. When fish are suspended, heavier midrange metal jigs are used; when targeting deep waters with bottom structure, heavy metal jigs are the way to go.
Preferred Rigging: West Coast anglers generally tie their jigs straight to the main line, be it mono or braid. Many jigs come with a treble hook attached with a welded ring, but a large number of anglers here prefer a large single hook (also connected to the bottom jig eye) when fishing lighter lines and more heavily structured bottoms.
Tackle: We use 8-foot conventional jigging rods that allow us to throw jigs a great distance, as well as short parabolic jigging rods (both conventional and spinning), which offer power and deepwater hook-setting ability.
Deployment Tricks: When fishing surface iron, one of the most effective retrieves is a slow one, which produces a tantalizing swagger. If fish are really boiling, a surface-skipping technique can be deadly. Midwater jigging usually involves a blistering, high-speed retrieve, while jigging deep structure involves a yo-yo technique that keeps the jig dancing right in the fish’s face.
Extra Nugget: One of the most unorthodox methods of fishing a jig in California is to attach a live mackerel on the hook and fish it 10 feet off the bottom alongside kelp forests. Doing so consistently drives large white seabass nuts.
About the Expert: Bill Boyce (www.boyceimage.com) has been an “iron man” all his life and has used these jigging techniques all over the world. Photo by Fernando Almada