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Secrets of a Jig Master

Effort and thoroughness catch fish

Jigging around the Bay Bridge, Jamie Avedon nets a good catch.

The northwest wind pushed up some unpleasant seas, forcing us to shift our efforts from the Eastern Shore to the calmer waters on the leeward, western side of the Bay Bridge. That turned out to be good fortune.
    That side of the structure abuts Sandy Point State Park and gets a tremendous amount of fishing pressure.
    Still, by 11am, Jamie Avedon and I had released over a dozen nice stripers and kept three. Jamie did most of the catching as I had my hands full jockeying the skiff around. That had been my plan. My friend had been having great success working a soft jig around the pilings of the bridge supports, and I wanted to observe his technique.
    Jamie had armed himself with a six-and-one-half-foot medium-action spin rod and spooled his reel with 15-pound Power Pro braid. Onto the end of the braided line he spliced a 12- to 18-inch section of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon that he then tied to his soft-bodied jig with a Palomar knot.
    For lures, we used five-inch Bass Assassins in the Opening Night pattern: lavender over a clear, soft plastic belly, with half-ounce jig heads with silver glitter. BKD lures (Bass Kandy Delight) and Tsunamis of similar size, weight and color should do as well.
    As we methodically worked along the Bay Bridge, I admired Jamie’s retrieval style. He would cast his lure out, let it sink (for varied counts), impart sharp, whipping actions, then pause momentarily to let the lure drop, feeling and watching his line to detect any subtle interference during the jig’s fall. At the slightest sign of a bump, or hesitation — and sometimes just on instinct — he set the hook.
    The violent jigging during the retrieve attracts the fish, but the commitment or strike on the soft-bodied lure usually occurs at the pause, as the bait falls. The bite is difficult to detect as the line tends to slack on the drop. Experience and a deft touch, plus maintaining just the slightest bit of tension with the falling bait, are key.
    Also edifying as we fished the bridge were the sequence and targets of his casts. We started from about 40 feet away with Jamie fan-casting around the concrete piers and at varying depths. As we moved in closer, he targeted each component of the support, then between the supports, while continuing to vary the depth of casts.
    Next I moved directly into the current, closing on the pier, as he laid his casts up past the structure so that he could retrieve the lure just a little faster than the water was moving toward us but close to the structure where he guessed fish might be holding.
    Finally, I moved the skiff to within 10 feet of the structure, and Jamie flipped his jig directly into and around all of the sweet spots, sometimes called dead-water areas, as I circled the structure. Those sweet spots were typically up-current and down-current of each piling, the areas where a fish can hold with little swimming effort.
    That day there was no particular pattern to the hookups. Sometimes the fish were holding off the structure, other times close in or in the middle of the pier legs. Yet other times they were tight in the sweet spots. The only constant seemed to be that it usually took a couple dozen targeted casts before a rockfish hit.
    On a difficult day of fishing, consistent, intense effort and thoroughly fishing each support resulted in a pretty good score. We caught no lunkers, but one rockfish of about 36 inches followed a retrieve almost to the boat. We’ll be back for him later.