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Fall Jiggin' Party Boat Style!
by Allen Gonzalez

he months of October to January offer some great Fall fishing for bass and blues for those that don't like the sand, or those that don't have their own boats.. Many anglers get into some hot striped bass and bluefish action once the weather cools and the bait balls up off our beaches by simply jumping on one of the many party boats that target bass and blues in the fall!

Starting in October, many captains decide to switch over to jigging/eeling bass and blues.. By the month of November, the crowds tend to grow because many private boaters, like myself, put their craft up on blocks, and winterize their engines for a long, cold six months ahead. This time is a perfect opportunity to get in on this action!

If you want to get in on this action, there are some tips and pointers you need to know if you're new at this type of Fall fishing.

The Wardrobe
Always dress warm! Dress in layers! T-shirts, sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, thermal shirts, etc. Make sure you are comfortable yet warm! Make sure you also have a pair of deck boots, and if possible slickers are a must as you're going to get "slimed" by the lively bluefish and bass you're going to catch! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses, and of course rain gear with you in case mother nature decides to get angry

Rods/Reels
I usually bring four rods when going on a bass boat in the Fall. One for eeling, two for jigging and one for throwing plugs

My eeling rod consists of a Newell 235-5 spooled with 50 pound test PowerPro, joined to a leader of four feet of 40 pound test leader material with an Alberto knot down to the terminal rig.. The Rig: a # 5 live eel hook snelled to a 50 pound test piece of leader, tied onto a 100 pound test live bait barrel swivel.. The swivel is attached to the 40 pound test monofilament leader from the braid, and on that 40 pound test monofilament I attach a slider (fish-finder) for the sinker.

My two jigging rods are heavy action seven foot and seven foot six inch conventionals (rated for 15 to 40 pound test line and up to 8 ounces of weight). On those are Penn International® 975's spooled with 20 pound test Ande© or Berkley© Big Gamemono - I NEVER, EVER use braid when jigging! To the 20 pound test mono I use the same 40 pound test leader material right down to the jig - I always use a Palomar or Trilene© knot to secure the jig to the leader! Internationals are my choice mostly because they are so smooth and cast incredibly well! The drag is also top-notch!

The fourth rod is a spinning outfit spooled with 15 pound test monofilament. Rod is seven foot and the reel is a medium action spinning reel (I use a Fin-Nor© Ahab 8A). From the mono I tie a three foot leader of 30 pound test fluorocarbon NOTE, and on that terminal end goes the plug or shad body.

Tackle Stuff
Always bring enough jigs! I always have at least a half dozen:

  • AVA© 27
  • AVA© 47
  • AVA© 67
  • 3 to 6 ounce Crippled Herring© (silver)
  • 2 to 8 ounce. Hopkins© Shorties (in silver)

These jigs DO NOT have tails on them, at all! In my opinion, you should ONLY use tails on these lures when sand eels are present - and that won't be until later on in December, depending on the water temperature. All of these jigs feature a plain silver hook, nothing fancy! And remember, don't use treble hooks! Why? Its a pain in the arse to unhook a 10 pound bluefish or bass with all three trebles embedded in its mouth in the middle of an all-out blitz! Use single hooks!

Other lures to bring:

  • white Bucktails 1-2 oz.
  • 5-8 oz. Krocodile© spoons in any color
  • MegaBait® slab jigs 2 to 6 ounces in varying colors
  • MegaBait® Live Jig
  • White Crippled Herrings© or Kroc's
  • other different "colored" jigs
  • Storm Shads© in the 5" variety in various colors
  • Pencil poppers (only use these when crowds are light!
  • Atom© poppers (only use these when crowds are light!)

Also bring:

  • Leader material (40-50 pound test)
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Cutting pliers
  • Hook sharpeners
  • 8 to 16 ounce bank sinkers

Working the jigs
If fish are on the bottom, make sure your jig is on the bottom! Work the lure by letting out your line until the jig hits bottom, engage the reel, and then swiftly and smartly raise that rod tip so you get good action.. As a rule, most jigging sharpies always work the bottom first! If fish are on top, work the surface by casting the jig out, and retrieving it at a rapid pace! Give the jig action by jigging the rod as you reel your jig in.. Most times though, bass will be caught on the bottom, so make sure your jig is close to the bottom!

When using plugs, only use plugs on days when the crowd is LIGHT! Cast it out, and work it across the surface for some incredibly cool strikes! Simply popping the rod and the plug across the top will almost always draw a strike on a day when you see the fish up top!

Always impart action on your lures!! Work them hard - it'll be a workout, but it'll pay off!

The fish!
If a strike occurs, you'll feel it! If you're working your jig along the bottom, you will feel either the tap as the fish hits it on the drop, or you'll feel the strike when you lift up - it'll feel, for a second or two, like you're snagged but then you will have a fight on your hands!

Most bass hit it on the drop - you'll feel a subtle tap, but when you go to jig your jig again, you'll feel the fish.. Set the hook hard!

Other things you need to know!
On some days, bird life will be absolutely non-existent, so the captain might decide to try eeling or try drifting clams - that's when your bait rod will come in handy. Follow the mate's directions with this type of fishing - as it is very similar to fluking.. Just drop the bait down and let it drift along the bottom - but make sure you are ON the bottom!

Most days you will find bird life after the middle of October.. When there is a predominant West or Northwest wind, its almost guaranteed! Blues, bass, and even Albacore will be busting inside the pods of bait, and you gotta present your jig to these fish so they wanna eat it!

If you plan your trips correctly, pick a trip when there is a West, Northwest, or even North wind.. Usually on days like this the bait is up and the birds are working, and jigging will be the fare of the day. Try to avoid days when you have an Easterly or southerly blow, it'll be nasty and fishing won't be as good!

Get to the boat EARLY! Get a spot in the bow, and try to avoid the stern or amidships at all costs! When you're in a blitz, the captain will nudge the boat's bow into the melee of birds, bait, and gamefish first.. By being positioned in the bow, you'll get into the fish first! Also always try to cast out wherever you see the action on top, but keep in mind the boat's drift.. If you're on the leeward side of the boat (when the wind's at your back) try to cast out and work your jig either along the bottom or somewhere up in the water column (depending on where the fish are). If you're on the windward side (wind in face) drop it down and work the bottom!

For the umpteenth time, and if you want bass - Try to work the bottom! Bass are typically on the bottom when blues or Albies are up top, so make sure you feel the bottom on the downswing!

If you feel like your jig got heavy, or it just feels funny, reel it up! Sometimes the jig snags the line, and impedes its action! Make sure the jig is hanging straight off the knot so that the presentation is semi-perfect

If the jig isn't drawing strikes and others are catching bass - CHANGE YOUR JIG! Notice what's going on around you - look at how people are catching whether its their retrieve, their jigging motion, or their jig! Don't be afraid to change your approach!

Always make sure your leader is in good shape.. If there are nicks or cuts in your leader, you might break a fish off.. Also check your knots - and re-tie often! Make sure your hooks are sharp too!

If you ever have any other questions, ask the mates! They will help you! New Jersey Party boat fleets are located in Atlantic Highlands, Belmar, Point Pleasant Beach, Barnegat Light. Boats also sail from Sheepshead Bay, NY

All boats have everything you need. The only boats you're ever going to do any eeling on are the Flamingo (NY) or the Sea Hunter (NJ), while other boats jig almost one hundred percent of the time but at times drift clams.

Hopefully some of you will join some of us on the headboats to catch some bass this Fall - its a ton of fun and the action at times can be absolutely non-stop! Always be prepared, and pick the days where the weather will cooperate!

Now go catch some bass!

Trophy Rigs