Although vertical jigging has become a mainstream and regularly practiced fishing method for so many species around the world over the last 20 years, vertical jigging is an underutilized technique by striper anglers up and down the coast. Although stripers tend to push bait to the surface when aggressively feeding, there are many instances when they are keyed in on baitfish that are holding deep, particularly in strong current, a pattern that is commonly associated with herring and sand eels. Vertical jigging is also ideal when striped bass move into deeper water in high light conditions or in warmer months. In many cases, vertical jigging is a “hands on” alternative to trolling. With good electronics, you can identify exactly where the fish are holding and drop a lure right on top of them, as opposed to motoring around in hopes of happening upon where they are.
Why Use Rods Specifically Designed for Vertical Jigging?
Your casting gear will work acceptably for vertical jigging in a pinch, but a good dedicated striper jigging rod will make it easier and more enjoyable when using this technique.
The very nature of vertical jigging makes selecting a rod designed for this technique a wise decision.
For example, a true vertical jigging rod is typically shorter and features a more parabolic action than a rod used for casting .
The shorter length allows for better control when vertical jigging since, as the name suggests, the goal is to keep contact with your lure when it is straight below you. A longer rod simply extends the distance you are away from the ideal vertical orientation, making it more cumbersome to control the jigging action and feel subtle pick-ups.
Vertical jigging rods not only have to feature sufficient backbone or power to control and bring a fish to the surface, often from significant depths, but their more moderate, parabolic action will handle a strike better. Rods that are too stiff will often result in popped hooks when a fish hits a lure that is being vertically jigged.
As mentioned above, vertical jigging is often practiced in deep water; I often use this technique in 80 or more feet of water that features heavy currents. The use of four to six-ounces jigs is common practice and a shorter rod handles that weight more efficiently, while also allowing an angler to scale back to lighter jigs when the current eases or slacks off.
- Short Length: Since the orientation of your lure is straight up and down, a longer outfit will make it more cumbersome to control your lures and feel subtle pick-ups from fish hitting from below. You’ll have far more control with a shorter rod.
- Parabolic Bend: AKA Moderate action. You obviously want a rod with some back-bone, but a steady parabolic bend will handle a strike better and result in better hook ups. Rods that tis too stiff on a vertical strike will often pop the hook and result in dropped fish.
- Heavy Jigs: Ability to fish heavy enough lures at target depths. I often jig in up to 80’ of water in heavy currents and regularly fish with 4 to 6oz jigs at peak tides and often as light as 2oz at slack.
Capt. Mike’s Striper Vertical Jigging Rods
I basically have two rods that I like to use when vertical jigging for striped bass, one of which I refer to as a “re purposed” rod because I also use it for casting and the other a “dedicated” vertical jigging.
The first will be familiar if you have read the section on casting outfits: the Shimano TZSW-70MH (seven-foot/heavy power/moderate action). I mentioned above that this rod has a very slow action… As you might gather from my videos, I am a big fan of slow vertical jigging with weighted soft plastics. This rod imparts a deadly action to a jig and it can also handle jigs up to four-ounces without overloading or over-stressing the blank. Unfortunately, this rod is no longer available via Shimano.
My dedicated jigging rod is the St. Croix Mojo Jigging MJJS66MMF (6.5-foot/I bought this rod on a whim after seeing it at the 2016 ICAST show. It has a relatively moderate action, but it is not overly “slow” and sloppy. I would call this rod more of a hybrid in terms of length because it is a little shorter than average for casting and a little longer than average for jigging. It handles vertical jigging with heavier Epoxy Jigs and soft plastics such as the Pro Tail Paddles and Eels, but it can also cast them if necessary.