Slow Jigging for Yellowtail off St Francis Bay

Slow Jigging has become a big game changer when targeting fish and none more so than for our mighty yellowtail. 

It’s a beautiful winter morning in the Eastern Cape. No wind forecasted for the day. While getting the boat ready with fuel we discuss our plan of action for the day. Should we head of into the bay or should we look around the point to the Seal Point Light house. Over the past 3 years we have noted a few facts about slow jigging for yellowtail. 

Where to look for them

In the winter months, we have constant west winds blowing and this pushes warm water in from the current that normally sits 20 miles out. This results in fish mostly feeding in deeper water from 40m to 60m, this is the best time to pursue a Yellowtail with jigs. Initially, it takes a lot of effort to find the reefs that they congregate on and we had to search out a lot of the area to find consistent marks. Amazingly once you have found a mark (area off about 20m x 20m) you will catch them on that mark time and again. The best thing to do is to start sounding a reef until you find lots of fish mostly Carpenters and then to jig that area to see if it holds Yellowtail. If the specific spot holds a Yellowtail, you will catch 3 or more very quickly. Mark the area and return to it in a day or 2 and see if it is recurring, if it is you – have a mark, this is where you will get them every year. It must be noted that in our summer months we have Easterlies blowing which causes cold thermoclines that push baitfish to the surface. Under these conditions, we would not target Yellowtail at these deeper marks.

The action and gear

The modern slow jig rod is normally 1.85 m long with a PE (thickness of braid) rating on the rod as well as the jig weight range. We use PE3 to PE4 rods, these rods are amazingly light and strong and make jigging effortless. We normally would let the jig sink to the bottom then slow jig it up to about 20m from the bottom. Most strikes will occur in the first 5 m off the bottom. We have found that pulling the jig up and suddenly stopping it for 3 seconds can result in more strikes than just simply jigging all the way up. When Yellowtail takes the jig you will know, everything stops and then the headshaking starts. Big fish will dive for the reef to cut you off so set the drag as full as possible.

Jigs

As we are normally fishing in 50m and deeper we use 80g to 250g jigs depending on the current. The lighter jigs have a better action but need no current. Yellowtail seems to prefer the longer thin jigs, but we have had success on rounder flutter jigs. Colour does matter, the best is to start with a pink jig then green then blue. This is the order of catch. Most on pink then green then blue. If you persist you will be awarded good catches.

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