Jigging for Halibut: The Jig Life
By Marcus Weiner
Jigging for halibut is one of my favorite things to do. I’m that guy on the halibut boat that rarely puts his rod down, except when traveling from spot to spot, or when taking fish pictures. Yo-ho-ho, it’s the jig life for me.
Most anglers have the sense to bait a circle hook, drop it to the bottom, reel up a few turns and put it in the rod holder. They enjoy the fruits of interesting conversation, spotting marine mammals, enjoying the epic scenery and enjoying a relaxing day on the water. Some even take a nap and wait for a bent rod before waking.
There’s something utterly satisfying in thumping a jig off the bottom of the ocean. I can envision the sound wave traveling far and drawing halibut from distance. Often, especially with big, lead-head jigs with magnum grub tails, I’ll add a chunk of herring and disperse some scent. Slather the jig in sauce, and my choice is Pro Cure’s Butt Juice Super Gel, drop that bad boy to the bottom, and begin to call in the flatfish.
Once the work of bringing them to the scent has ended and there are ‘butts under the boat, then the jig really shows off. Magnum grub tails ripple in the current and truly look alive. Try fishing one once the tail has been bitten off and you won’t scratch a fish. Add a fresh tail and hold on tight. On the upstroke or downstroke, halibut often display apex predator tendencies with the intent of eating that live critter that just happens to be your jig.
Having the rod in your hands, working your lure to make it look alive, feeling the bite, missing and nailing some, fighting fish of all sizes and occasionally losing them when the hook wallows a hole or you momentarily lose tension, is all part of the jig addiction. And in my experience, jig rods in the hands of focused jiggers will usually catch more fish than bait rods.
I just spent five days jigging for bottomfish at Yakutat Lodge and got home 13 hours ago. I brought a Santiam two-piece halibut travel rod, Okuma Metalloid 5 reel spooled with 300 yards of KastKing KastPro 80-pound-test braided line, a box of jigs including 8-ounce Ahi USA Live Deception and 10-ounce Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jigs, some Eagle Claw Trokar Pro V Octopus 8/0 hooks, split rings, Sampo swivels, split ring pliers, KastKing braid scissors and Pro-Cure Super Gels (Octopus, Saltwater Formula, Butt Juice and Herring). I mixed in a 12-ounce leadhead jig with green, motor oil or glow grub tails, and the game was on!
Jigging for Halibut with Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jigs were the star of the show. I landed the biggest fish of the trip, scaling around 90 pounds, on a 10-ounce with a white and blue hootchie skirt. The next day, this same jig was on my rod, sitting in the rod holder a few cranks off the bottom while I was taking pictures of a big, bruiser lingcod that Brian landed. The motion of the boat moved the jig, my rod buckled over with the force of a big halibut, and Kraig had his hands full for the next 15 minutes until the rowdy brute broke the line. That might have been the biggest fish of the trip.
The most memorable was the last. Brian had brought a solid 35-pounder to the surface and was taking underwater pictures of it with his Osmo Pocket in a waterproof case. Instead of reeling in and clearing the deck, I kept jigging. Two minutes later the rod bent and a 70-pounder emerged from the depths on a 10-ounce Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jig with a pink hootchie skirt. We ended the trip with a great fish and underwater pics of the two halibut together.
If you like to jigging for halibut and want to catch some lingcod, rockfish and salmon, pack your bags and head to Yakutat Lodge. The season is ramping up to an epic conclusion as silvers begin to flood into Yakutat Bay and add to the bounty of bottomfish waiting for jiggers to stick. Come out in mid August and you’ll find me in my usual spot, one of the back corners on the stern, bouncing bottom and living the jig life.