By Larry Brown
There are five styles of yellowtail jigs every serious angler needs to have in his/her tackle box. These are my favorites for each style of yellowtail jig fishing.
- Surface iron
JRI DW-1 Light and the JRI-4 share my top billing when the yellows are boiling on the surface. Surface irons require a skilled, long, accurate cast to target boiling fish and a technically perfect retrieve speed to produce a sharp right or left kick in the action, which is what will provoke the yellowtail to bite.
- Large yo-yo style or heavy iron
JRI-66 and the JRI DW-1 Heavy are my two go to jigs if the yellowtail are biting bigger baits, we are fishing in deeper water or I need the additional weight to get down rapidly if the current is strong or the wind drift is swift. A super-fast retrieve will normally get you bit.
- Small yo-yo or heavy iron
My favorite small yo-yo jig for yellows is the JRI secondary brand, previously named the KO-6, and now called the ST-6. Use the smaller yo-yo jigs in shallower water and when there is very little current or wind drift. Again, a super-fast retrieve is often the key to getting bit.
- Flat-Fall-style jigs
The Nomad Buffalo in the 120- to 230-gram sizes can also be deadly for yellowtail. Be on high alert, as most of the bites are on the drop. Easier and less tiring than yo-yo style jigs because a Mach 5 speed retrieve is not necessary.
- Knife-style jigs
The Nomad Streaker can also drive yellowtail crazy. Like the Flat-Fall-style jigs, most of the bites on knife jigs are on the sink.
What are the best colors?
Captain Sam Moore on the Intrepid tells us the best color is speed. The Mach 5 retrieve of a heavy yo-yo iron is what provokes a reaction strike. We are fishing yo-yo jigs in deep water, frequently at 200 feet where there is very limited light. Light diminishes in the depths of the water column. So does color. Take a jig into a dark closet and test it yourself.
A surface iron retrieved at the perfect speed for that jig is what will provoke a strike on a surface jig. The yellowtail will be attacking from the depths and will only see a silhouette against the sky. Put on a mask and snorkel, descend 20 feet and watch a surface iron retrieved between you and the surface. You will not see color, only silhouette.
Yellowtail, like all game and baitfish, have a vital organ called the “lateral line.” The lateral line detects vibration and movement and the precise presence and location of prey and predators. It is key for survival helping them eat and avoid being eaten. Gamefish never collide during a feeding frenzy on a bait ball because of their lateral line. Yellowtail feed in the total darkness of night and depth, when and where there is no color at all, and they are very effective night feeders. They don’t need no stinking specific color. So maybe Captain Sam Moore is correct? The best jig color out there is “speed.”
Of course, there are contrarian views. Several of my buddies who are world class jig anglers say “CLM,” or “Colors of Lures Matter.” To see colors, eyes need and use cones. Human eyes have three cones — many fish have eyes with four cones, which should theoretically allow them to see more colors than humans. As fish and human ophthalmologists have not yet compared notes, we anglers are still in the dark over the question of which colors are best. The jig manufacturers are convinced color matters and highly recommend we a have a large assortment of all their colors, models and sizes.
The other reason to have a good inventory of each of the above jig styles is the inevitable losses we endure from sharp rocks and reef structure, lobster pots, saw-offs and of course, our cute loving sea lions and sharks who share our environment and appreciate us subduing a nice yellowtail so they can minimize their energy and enjoy a relatively easy high protein meal.