Late fall could be my favorite time to fish. The brisk wind and cold air really lets you know you're alive and the action is fast and furious. Whether you live on the North or South Shores, the use of diamond jigs is a clean, neat way to fish where you don't have worry about bait, it allows you to be very mobile and there's not much to carry either. A rod, reel, some diamond jigs and you're ready for dynamite, late fall action from the NY Bight to Montauk Point and along the entire North Shore of Long Island into Connecticut.
TACKLE. All my jigging is done with an Abu-Garcia Ambassadeur 7000 reel spooled with 25 to 40-pound Berkley Big Game line ONLY! This is one instance in fishing where the right line is of the utmost importance. Your jig will be falling through who knows how many fish, with strikes coming on the way down and on the way up. Your jig will be accosted by big bluefish dentures, slashing gill plates of cow bass and the abrasion factor of sliding over, on top of and through the rough scales of both as the jig falls to the depths of which your fishing.
This is not the place to use an inferior line or save a few cents with a cheaper line. Berkley Big Game is the only line I use and it's served me without fail for years now. I'm also using 30-pound Big Game as a backing and then loading the front 100 to 200 feet with a 30-pound Berkley FireLine with the diameter of about 12 pounds. This provides instant hook ups on strikes and I can get away with lighter jigs in fast currents. Make sure though, when you're going to handle the fish you DO NOT grab the FireLine. This can be painful, especially when your hands are wet because the line can cut you if you're not careful.
RIGGING & LEADERS. When rigging up to use diamond jigs, it is important to use a shock leader. The shock leader does a couple of things for you whether you're using mono or Fireline. It acts as the shock absorber when a big fish hits the jig against your reeling on the way up. Secondly, it allows you a "handle" to grab the line and control the fish. I use 60 to 80-pound test Berkley Big Game for the leader and tie it directly to the jig. I never use snaps or clips to the jig when fishing like this, you're asking for something to go wrong! Using a heavy shock leader like this also allows the jig to fall slower and gently without dropping like the lead weight it really is. You'll get more strikes on the way down if it falls "softer."
ROD CHOICES. The rods I use are the Seeker BA85-7 and the BA30-7 models. The combination of these rods with my Ambassadeur 7000 is perfect fit and extremely well balanced. These rods are perfect for jigging with the BA30-7 the stouter of the two. Either one is perfect as they both have a soft tip and plenty of backbone to handle any size fish. They are one piece, seven-foot rods and the BA85-7 handles line from 20 to 40-pound test and the BA30-7 handles lines of 25 to 50-pound test. I'll keep my smaller jigging rods on board as well for times when I can fish in shallower water. The Ambassadeur 6500UC spooled with 15 to 20-pound test Big Game or 20-pound test FireLine is a perfect match for my Fenwick, Inshore/Sea Hawk series rod, model 708M. This is a one-piece seven-foot rod that has great light tackle action, but plenty of backbone!
WHAT TO DROP. I use strictly local manufacturers whenever I can in fishing. Many of you who know me, or have followed my writing, radio or TV shows already know this. This jig fishing is a perfect scenario to allow you to do the same. I use the Sekora diamond jigs in my adventures on the water and now the FJ Neil Company in Lindenhurst has also gotten in the diamond jig business with a quality jig that should enable you to hook up with trophy bass and blues this fall.
When it comes to using tubes on my diamond jigs, I usually do not. I've found that diamond jigs without tubes will usually out produce those with tubes and many of the expert captains that diamond jig for a living will tell you the same thing. However, on the other hand I will always keep some diamond jigs on board with tubes because there are times when bass and blues can be pretty fussy. My favorite colors tend to be amber, dark green and white in that order. You should experiment and see what works for you.
Most of your jigging will begin in 20 to 30-foot mark and move deeper as the season progresses. Eventually, if your boat is in the water and you're fishing into December you'll end up in 50 to 60-foot of water. Start with 3 or 4-ounce jigs and work your way up in size depending on current and your speed of drift. I have found some bonanza days dropping jigs as heavy as 8 ounces! There's not much size difference between a 4 and 8-ounce jig as far as profile is concerned.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR. The easy way is to look for bird life. In November and December, as bass and the last of the big blues run down the beach, they slash bait from the surface to the bottom layers of the water column and that's usually an easy meal for any gulls or terns. These birds, including gannets will follow these schools of fish for miles and days as they feast on the scraps of flesh left floating, or feed on the herring and other live bait pushed to the surface by frenzied predators. These flocks of birds sometimes form a thick black cloud for hundreds of yards over the water and are unmistakable.
There is a certain way to read the birds however when they are not so thick. Over my years of fishing I have noticed a few things and while they are not gospel, do seem to play out to my way of thinking more often than not. For instance, I have found that following small terns often leads to smaller fish like cocktail blues on the feed. On the other hand, larger birds like herring and laughing gulls or gannets are a sign of larger fish feeding and sometimes a larger bait like herring. Birds circling high in the sky are what we call "lookers." That is, they spot bait down below and are patiently waiting for it to be pushed to the surface. It's usually worth looking into and you'll want to drop a diamond jigs or troll an umbrella rig to see if game fish are present or it's just a school of bait. Remember that there will be times when bait, on its own, is also on the migratory move and they too have lucky days where they are left alone.
This is one type of fishing where a high quality fish finder comes in very handy. Late fall jigging in November and December is really a "find the bait and you've found the fish" type of fishing. Don't waste your time aimlessly jigging over open bottom unless you're marking some type of bait or activity. Fish on the migration move with the bait. They push and follow bait to their next destination. If you see nothing on the fish finder, then that's probably what you'll find if you jig there...nothing!