Ground Fishing for Multiple Species Using the Hogy Utility Rig
The Hogy Utility Bait Rig is a simple, high quality made rig with premium mono loops; ready to quickly loop connect hooks and teasers we recommend for various ground fish. When purchase as a kit, you’ll have a selection with all oft he components required to configure any of the rigs listed below.
The Hogy Utility Bait Rig is constructed with premium 60lb mono and has the durability for a number of outings. We understand that these rigs are not the fanciest or flashiest rigs on the market, but they are designed to attract fish, not fishermen. They are guaranteed to be adaptable to any ground fishing situation you may encounter, from scup to tautog.
Hogy Utility Bait Rig with 2 x 1/0 Hooks
If you are targeting scup in a known area, I recommend using 2 x 1/0 live bait hooks on the Hogy Utility Bait Rig. High quality live bait hooks may seem a little over kill for scup but the heavy gauge wire makes it difficult to set the hook with an undersized fish, which will reduce the risk of injury to small, fragile fish and reduce the time spent catching undesirable fish and not those that can be kept for dinner! I recommend facing one hook up and one hook down, as scup approach baits from different directions. This configuration will minimize lost bait and fish!
LURES: Scup are surprisingly aggressive when it comes to lures. I ALWAYS do well with a 2oz Hogy Heavy Minnow Jig, or something similar, in pink or green as the top color choices. You’ll want to drop the jig to the bottom and target the bottom 10-feet of the water column. You’ll find the best success with short and slow jigging motions; scup have small mouths and you want to give them the time to get the hook. Sometimes, I will re-rig with an inline 1/0 Live Bait hook. If I’m fishing with kids, I’ll top the hook with a piece of squid but this method is totally unnecessary when the rod is in the hands of a relatively experienced angler.
STRATEGY: Using your fish finder, look for a rocky bottom with deep holes, ledges or drop offs. You can count on finding scup or pogies around most structure in 100-feet or less. Squid is the top choice when targeting scup, which is ideal as quid is cheap, durable and easily accessible in a pinch. If you can’t get your hands on some fresh or frozen squid, clams, sea worms and cut up fish scraps will also work.
Like most other salt-water species, they’ll be moving with the current on both the incoming or outgoing tides. Some shore boats do better on either side of high tide as water may get to shallow at the bottom stages.
Gear: I’ll use my standard 7’ medium heavy striper outfit capable of casting 1.75oz when scup fishing. A rod this size will handle a 3.5oz jig or weights without overloading the rod too much. Nothing fancy.
TABLE: I think scup are among the better tasting fish in the Northeast. Scup are in the same family as snapper and their diet consists primarily on bottom crustations, so it is no surprise to me that they are fantastic fare. Many people will cook scup whole, drawing inspiration from Asian or Latin American styles; on the grill, fried or steamed. I will fillet my scup and cut the fillet in half, horizontally leaving out the line of bones that run down the middle. Scup is also fantastic cooked “New England Style,” in a casserole dish, much the same way you would cook crusted cod with Ritz cracker crumbs. This is great dish for an early season outing with cool nights, a roaring fire and a good IPA.
When targeting sea bass, I upsize my hooks to 3.0, as sea bass are aggressive feeders and have huge mouths in comparison to their body size. I also like to attach a teaser, paired with a spacer bead and a little chafe gear, before looping on my hook. This will add fish-catching characteristics to the hook when it is bait-less or the bait has been stolen. This will also greatly extend the life of the rig, as the chafe gear is designed to keep the line from fraying due to their sandpaper-like mouths. Fresh squid is often the “bait of choice” when targeting sea bass on Cape Cod, but crabs spit up on deck are well worth the effort to put on your hook.
LURES: Sea bass are very aggressive fish and respond well, even better than scup, to jigs. I recommend fishing the Hogy Sand Eel Jigs or the Hogy Heavy Minnow Jigs in pink, green or olive – each color is equally as effective. Often, I will convert my pre-rigged jigs and set them up to target sea bass, using VMC incline single hooks for the sake of easy hook removal. I also like to use a wider hook gap for landing particularly big sea bass. Retrieve speeds will vary from fast to slow.
STRATEGY: Sea bass love wrecks; any wreck you see on your chart would be a good place to start. Otherwise, similarly to scup, any bottom structure such as rocks, live bottom, drop offs, holes and ledges are also tell-tale, fishing hot spots when targeting sea bass.
Gear: I’ll use my standard 7’ medium heavy striper outfit capable of casting 1.75oz when scup fishing. A rod this size will handle a 3.5oz jig or weights without overloading the rod too much.Nothing fancy.
TABLE: Sea bass have a mild, yet nuanced flavor and a delicate texture. I don’t like to season them too much to avoid hiding their natural beauty. While great in fish chowder, another way I like to cook sea bass is by pan roasting them in reserved or clarified butter, mixed 50/50 with canola oil. I preheat the buttery, oily blend in a cast iron skillet before placing the fillets skin side down in the pan. Before placement, the filets should be towel dried and lightly salted. I sear them for about three minutes, lading some melted butter of the fillets, before popping the entire skillet into the over for another five minutes, give or take. Try not to peak as they cook; if you don’t, the result will be a golden crusted fish that is begging for a fruit or grilled corn with mint salsa side and a lager to wash it down.
Tautog have funny mouths with thick skin that can be difficult to hook. For that reason, I like needle sharp, live bait hooks for fast penetration. When tautog fishing, you never know what size you may run into so I rig my Hogy Utility Rig with two different sized hooks, a 1/0 and a 3/0. Green crabs are the bait of choice; cut them in half with simple kitchen scissors and remove the hard top shell to increase hook up rations. Use the lightest weight as necessary to hold bottom – this will help reduce snags.
STRATEGY: It’s all about the rocks with Tautog. I love rock piles in 15 to 25 feet of water, particularly those that are near other rock piles so I can easily bounce between spots until I find them. Tautog are very lazy fish meaning they will not swim very far to eat. Therefore, you want your bait to be right in front of their nose. Rather than drifting, you’ll want to anchor directly over the structure you intend to fish. Moving tide is recommended but I have had a number of good outings at slack tide in low light. Because of their funny mouths and laziness, they can be tricky to hook. I recommend using a long musky rod with moderate action, which is good for quick hook sets – the longer span of the 8-foot rod will drive the hook faster but the softness of the moderate action will not whip the hook of the tautogs mouth.
Gear: I like to use a longer 8’ moderate action musky rod for Tautog. The extra length of the rod will drive more power quickly on a hook set which is helpful on tough tog mouth skin. The softer touch of a moderate power will cushion some of the shock at hook set, so the hook doesn’t get snatched out of the Tautog’s mouth.
TABLE: Most people think of tautog as a chowder fish and I have to agree. I also think they are delicious when pan roasted, fried or baked in Ritz crackers. These are fantastic cooking methods and I am constantly amazed by how many people have not tried them. From my experience, I think tautog is best in a milk-based chowder, the same as I would use for all New England fish chowders. To start, I’ll fry some high-quality, thick-cut bacon to a crisp and put it off to the side for later. Then, I will soften onion and sliced fingerling potatoes, or daikon radishes, for a few minutes until ready. I’ll add some chicken stock to the potatoes and onions, simmer it for a few more minutes (up to 10 minutes), before adding a 50/50 blend comprised of 2 cups of skim milk and heavy cream. I’ll bring to temperature and float in the chunks of fish to cook for another 5 minutes or so, depending on how big the pieces are or how cold the fish is. Before serving, I’ll crumble up bits of bacon on top of the chowder. Sometimes, I add a combination of thyme, small amounts of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, grilled corn and old bay.
There are probably hundreds of different styles of fluke rigs on the market, each of which is very effective, and often come rigged with a series of spinners, floats and teasers that are designed to attract fluke off the bottom. While I agree that these rigs are effective, I prefer a simpler rig with fewer tangles.
For fluke, I rig the Hogy Utility Bait Rig with two 3/0 live bait hooks and 3.5-inch squid teasers, the same set-up I use for sea bass. Sometimes, I will modify the rig by cutting the top, which would extend the teaser line to about 14-inches. By doing so, the top teaser would extend 7-inches further than the bottom teaser. I find that cutting the top loop over the bottom loop will result in fewer tangles when dropping to the bottom. I fish with one small piece of squid on the short line and one long piece on the top line. The beauty of this rig is that the mini shell squid teasers will swim naturally in the water and will continue to be fishing, even when your bait is stolen.
LURES: You can up your game by swapping out the sinker at the base of your rig with a bucktail jig or metal jig. I like to use the Hogy Sand Eel Jig, rigged with a 3/0 inline, live-bait hook that I will top with squid.
STRATEGY: I typically find fluke around shoals and deep drop offs. Fluke are aggressive feeders and spread out into areas where distracted baitfish are likely to be swept down with the tidal currents. While some spots are better than others, textbooks suggest that a shallow shoal nearby a deep drop-off very close by will likely have fluke in season. Fluke are active fish and move around a lot so drifting with the current is best. I break down a fluke spot into two plays: the deep side of the rip and the rip itself, caused by tide running over the shoal. I usually start in the shallow area and make a few drifts over the shoal. Sometimes you’ll find more action in the rip but sometimes the fish tend to be smaller. The rip is a good place to start when fishing with kids to get your bearings straight and get comfortable holding bottom in easier, more shallow water. If there is a need to do so, move off to the deeper water nearby.
Pay attention to where you are getting bites and refine your drifts to stay in the zone for maximum effectiveness. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and have the pleasure of low maintenance, long drifts. Other times you’ll find they are tightly grouped and you’ll need to make a series of very short drifts.
GEAR: I like to use a longer 8-foot moderate action musky rod for Fluke. The extra length of the rod will drive more power quickly on a hook set which is helpful on tough tog mouth skin. The softer touch of a moderate power will cushion some of the shock at hook set, so the hook doesn’t get snatched out of the Tautog’s mouth.
TABLE: Like most groundfish in the Northeast, there is no bad way to cook fluke. Personally, I find their long, firm, but thin, fillets are very well suited for fish tacos. Your accompaniment and seasoning options are unlimited – from fruit salsas to Asian slaws, fluke tacos will be delicious. I like the “chicken finger” effect of dredging the fluke strips in flour before a drop in simple pancake batter. They blow right up and look incredible in a fish taco. Sometimes I’ll mix soy, Old Bay seasoning or cajun spices into the batter for a more flavorful approach.
At Hogy, we are lucky to be headquartered on Cape Cod, home to some of the best fishing in the world. The Cape is known for it’s fantastic striper, bluefish, tuna and marlin and even fluke and sea bass fishing. Unfortunately, despite it’s namesake, Cod fishing is an infrequent subject amongst recreational fishing circles even though the cod fishing is quite good on the South side of the Cape. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me after posting a couple of cod fishing videos saying they had no idea they were so easy to catch.
Codfish are found in many of the same spots anglers fish for Bluefin tuna. Those who know anything about the high-stakes nature of Bluefin tuna fishing know that there are many days when tuna isn’t scene, let alone caught. To me, it’s unfortunate that so few anglers have cod on their “plan B” list for a tough day of tuna fishing. With just a few simple rigs and jigs stashed on the boat and a few moments searching for good bottom, you can save the day with awesome fishing and great tasting cod.
Here’s a brief rundown on how I successfully cod fish with minimal preparation:
LURES: For starters, I stash the components to rig up a half dozen of these basic rigs on the two simple rigs on my boat.
Two Rigs and Two Jigs:
- Hogy Utility Rig with Teasers
- Hogy Drop Shot Rig with Large Paddle Soft Baits
- 12oz and 16oz Diamond Jigs with Uber Teasers
I’ll have one of each rig sent down to the bottom until we determine which rig is hot. The rig can matter very much. Over the years, I have caught hundreds of cod with full bellies filled with bait ranging from small crabs to shrimp to sand eels to herring and even lobster.
HOGY UTILITY RIG WITH TEASERS: When cod are keyed in on small baits, the Hogy Utility Rig rigged with 3.5-inch squid teasers is a dynamite combination. Cod can be so keyed in on small bait that they often will only hit the teasers. Therefore, you’re basically using the diamond jig as a weight, with the added benefit of flash and commotion. Color can sometimes matter and for that reason, I always fish with at least two different colors on the teasers. The 3/0 hooks are big and strong enough for cod and will penetrate their tough mouths.
HOGY DROP SHOT RIG WITH LARGE PADDLE SOFT BAITS: The second rig I deploy is the Hogy Drop Shot Rig with a larger paddle tail softbait – I like the Hogy HDUV 8-inch Paddle Tail. The UV plastic really seems to make a difference – it has a large teaser that mimics a full size herring so you have the added profile to pair with the jig. Another benefit of the paddle tail includes being able to slow your jig speed down to a crawl as the paddle tail will create plenty of commotion. Sometimes, a slow jigging motion is what does the trick.
JIGS: In water over 200-feet with a strong current, I usually start with a 12oz jig and move up to a 16oz jig in heavy current. I like fishing with the Ultra Sharp Hogy Uber Teaser – the hook is incredibly sharp and you’ll rarely miss a hit. The long, slender tail also resembles a sand eel, so your bet on presentation is really hedged.
STRATEGY: I look for two things when searching for cod; a plateau, such as ledges, that you can spot on a chart or a live bottom that looks “furry” on the fish finder. I start by locating a circular, topographical elevation or recess.
In stating with the topography, I’ll try the shallowest point first and drift over the deep side. Once I’m in the area of where I think will be a good place to drop, I’ll invest some time into looking for a live bottom, which shows up as an alternate color. From my understanding, a live bottom consists of sponges, growths, crabs, crustations, etc. In other words, a habitat in a big, open ocean that is capable of holding a flourishing food chain.
Ideally, you might mark a few fish. But more often than not, you don’t. At least I don’t anyway. I’ll play around with drops if the area looks really good. Sometimes, on the first drop, I’ll pick up a few dogfish right away. If this happens, I’ll make a move to the next spot. It’s amazing to me how short of a move it can take to completely change the fishing. Where I am fishing, East of Chatham on Cape Cod, there are so many topographical changes that you’ll have plenty of spots to work.
MACKEREL: Coming Soon
HADDOCK: Coming Soon