No Clam Needed… Sea Bass Report

Three weeks ago I started catching keeper size sea bass on the inshore wrecks on crab baits. It was the end of blackfish season and I knew they’d be primed and ready for the NJ Sea Bass Opener on May 15th.

Black Sea Bass are arguably one of the most beautiful fish in the sea!
Black Sea Bass are arguably one of the most beautiful fish in the sea!

My cousins just purchased a brand new 28′ Cobia. He outfitted the boat at Fisherman’s Headquarters and I asked me to break it in with them this weekend. We took the maiden voyage on Sunday out of Barnegat Light looking for sea bass.  With the season just opening I knew it was going to be good so we left the classic essentials at home. We didn’t carry a single clam, mackerel, sinker or rig on board.

Why is that you might ask? Well, I’m a jig fisherman through and through. Whether it’s fluke, tog, striped bass, cod, tuna or sea bass… There’s nothing better than catching fish jigging!

AVA Diamond Jigs are great for sea bass, striped bass, bluefish and so many other species.
AVA Diamond Jigs are great for sea bass, striped bass, bluefish and so many other species.

We set out with AVA 17’s and 27’s Diamond Jigs, Magictail Round Ball Jigs and some 4-5″ Gulp baits. We hit a piece if structure in 70′ of water. The sea bass were there and picking at them was easy. We found a lump of fish that came off the bottom about 15′. We got our drift figured out and positioned the boat to make short drifts over that patch of fish. We had a 4 man boat limit by 9:30 am.

We didn’t find any jumbos inshore as the fish we kept were all between 13-16″. There were plenty of fish to be had and a nice quick easy trip (and easy cleanup with out the clams). Cooler was full and the cousins were happy with a successful first trip.

I had some friends head out a bit deeper with clam baits in tow and had a mixed bag with a limit of bigger fish and ling and cod as well.

If we can get another weather window I will probably head out again before I start beating up the back bays in search of flatfish. Fluke season opens this Friday May 22nd.

Start Catching Blackfish on Jigs With These Helpful Tips

Start Catching Blackfish On Jigs! Here are some tips on how to make the transition super successful.

Catching blackfish on jigs is an absolute game changer when fishing for tautog. The lighter tackle used for this type of fishing drastically contrasts more standard methods of catching these fish. Experienced anglers who attempt catching blackfish on jigs will find there is quite the learning curve. Often, I see guys who’ve been catching blackfish for years, but on heavier equipment, finding a great deal of trouble trying to make the switch. So this often leads to folks quitting before they can master the new technique. Start catching blackfish on jigs with these helpful tips!

Here’s a few tips I’ve gathered over the years. I’m sharing because I’d like to help you catch blackfish on jigs. However first read my comprehensive fishing article, Catching Black Fish With Jigs.

Catching Blackfish on Jigs
Author Matt Sorrentino with a nice early fall blackfish. Matt caught this white chin on a 1.5 oz Magictail Game Changer Tog Jig.

Start with a heavier jig and work down from there.

If you’ve been blackfishing for a while, you’re most likely using at least an 8 ounce weight regularly. It’s very easy to feel the bottom because these heavier weights add more tension to your line. It is easier to decipher what type of structure you’re on because of this and easier to find the holes you want to be fishing. When you attempt to throw a 1-2 oz jig down for the first time, everything is going to feel extremely off because of the weight difference. Start with a heavier weighted jig, get used to the feel and work your way down. The ideal weight is the lightest possible which will still get down and hold bottom.

Light Braided Line Is A Must

You’re fishing a light jig and anything that helps the jig get to the bottom faster and stay there is going to maximize your opportunities. Do you know the difference in abrasion resistance between 50# braid and 40# braid? How about 30-20 or 15-10#? Me neither! But I can promise you it’s insignificant. What is significant is the ability of the thinner lines to through providing the least water resistance. I use 15# Cortland Master Braid on my tog jigging fishing reels. The line is super strong and allows me to fish a locked up drag which is needed to hoist out and up double digit blackfish.

Please understand, my abrasion concern is countered by fishing extra long fluorocarbon leaders (commonly 5-8′ of 30/40/50# either Seaguar Blue Label Fluoro or Diamond Fluoro). Using an FG Knot the line to line connection is super strong and the knot has a very thing profile. This system is proven and I highly suggest you rig up this way too.

Don’t Swing!

Here’s where it’s going to get tough for seasoned vets. You’ve been dialed in for years. You know what the right bite feels like and you know when to swing. Well, now that you have a jig on, you’re wrong. Fishing tog jigs is a different game than rigs. You’ll need to re-learn the feel, the best advice I can give you is to let your first few baits get completely stolen. Let them eat it, just try to dial in the feel for the different type of bites. Everything is more sensitive now. This is the reason catching blackfish on jigs is so effective!

In the end, rely on what you know.

It’s still important when catching blackfish on jigs to fish in a similar fashion. You want the bait on the bottom. Don’t jig it! Ideally you’ll find piece of hard structure, ledges, caves, rock/concrete piles, wooden debris and obviously shipwrecks. Keep the bait still. When you get the right bite, or when your line goes slack (sometimes the fish will just pick up your jig and swim away) swing for the fences! Cross his eyes, reel quickly and get that fish up and away from that structure. It is crucial you react quickly here. If you fail to move the fish quickly I can assure you a broken heart and a few minutes in the penalty box retying.

A spring limit of nice Blackfish caught on Magictail Tog Jigs

The equipment I use for catching blackfish on jigs.

Rod – Daiwa Proteus

Reel – Daiwa Low Profile Baitcaster

Line – Cortland Master Braid

Leader – Diamond Pink Fluorocarbon

Jigs – Magictail Gamechanger Tog Jig

If you’d like to learn more and Start Catching Blackfish on Jigs…

I invite you to join me on a fishing trip. I frequently set up charters on New Jersey’s top boats at the season’s best dates. On the trips you will learn from myself and other experts in the field, the different tactics employed to catch blackfish on jigs. The all inclusive trip includes your fare and gratuity and some even have a rod and reel demos as well as free gifts and giveaways. For more info stay tuned to my Instagram Page better yet give me a follow and send a direct message introducing yourself.

LBI Fishing Report Sunday August 4th, 2019

Fish Head Greg is out of town but the fish are definitely not. Fishing on all fronts is pretty hot right now.

I’ve been hitting the fluke pretty hard and I’ve been able to find a limit every time. This week I fished down south and caught a limit to 20″ in Little Egg Inlet. Out front with some friends yesterday we boated a limit+ (ORL) to 5 pounds. Gulp and bucktails are the ticket for me, however the boat that won the tournament was dragging bait and had some bigger fish up to 7 pounds. Fluke are being caught daily from the jetty and beaches as well.

Customers have been dropping in and reporting king mackeral up to 30″ north and south of the inlet 15-20 miles. There are Mahi in the area as well.

Store Staffer Michael Frezza went offshore with Captain Dan Rossetto this week on the Sushi Grade. They had both an over and an under bluefin. Both fish were caught on a Moonriser 150.

There have been reports of both keeper and short blackfish at the jetty, with the occasional trigger fish mixed in. The shop will have green crabs in stock tomorrow.

Best Inshore Saltwater Fishing Reel At The $100 Range?… The Daiwa BG!

By @swagmattic (Matt Sorrentino)

The Daiwa BG is the one piece of equipment I’m confident recommending to all inshore saltwater anglers. It’s built tough and there’s a size to handle just about any species you want to catch. Best of all the series is priced right starting at $99.99.

The Daiwa BG Reel Does It All

If you’re like me, you want to fish for everything NJ has to offer; striped bass, blackfish, bluefish, fluke and sea bass. All of these game fish fall victim to my Daiwa BG Fishing Reels.

Here’s Swagmattic with an early season striped bass he caught on March 30, 2019 fishing the late night tide on the Island’s bayside with his Daiwa BG spinning reel.

I own a couple BG Reels. Each size for different purposes. If you’re on a budget and can only pick one reel, my recommendation is to go with the 3500 size. It can handle it all. It’s small enough to match up on a 7′ M-MH rod finessing small stripers and banging fluke on bucktails. On a 7′-7’6″ H-XH it’s powerful enough to play with a larger class striper and gator bluefish. Mated with a Hanta or Tsunami Slow Pitch Jigging stick it has enough drag to winch that lunker away from it’s sticky home jigging blackfish. (more on rods below) It can even handle the fast powerful runs of red fish, snook, mahi mahi and false albacore.

This quality striped bass was caught on a Daiwa BG3500. Jigging a large rubber swim shad Matt caught this fish on his go to reel a Daiwa BG3500.

Because of its versatility, the Daiwa BG is an essential tool in my arsenal. It should be in yours too.

Want to learn more about the specific internals that make up the Daiwa BG Fishing Reels? Read on below.

The Perfect Match – Rod & Reel

Your outfit isn’t complete with out finishing off with a beautiful rod to match. An epic combo is the BG3500 on a $59.99 Tsunami 7′ Classic Series Spinning Rod. You will not find another better performing quality inshore fishing outfit than this. At $179.98 (Reel: $119.99, Rod: $59.99) it offers the ultimate value too. Once the rod is set only spool up with the best, Cortland Master Braid Spectra Fishing Line. I prefer 20#. Now you are ready for battle.

If looking for the best in blank performance and components upgrade to he Tsunami Carbon Shield Rods, $109.99 are very nice as well as the G.Loomis E6X Inshore Rods $189-219.99.

Performance Upgrade – Daiwa Saltist Reel

The Daiwa BG is a great value, but if it is in the budget the Daiwa Saltist offers a performance tuned saltwater fishing reel. This series from Daiwa also has a specialty Daiwa Saltist Back Bay too.

Daiwa BG VS Daiwa Saltist

Let’s dive in and quick and dirty run down of their similarities and differences the the Daiwa BG and Saltist reels.

First and foremost, both reels are great for saltwater anglers in the mid level price range. The BG Series starts out at $99.99 with ten sizes (Models:1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, 4000, 4500, 5000, 6500, 8000) The Saltist is a jump up starting at $199.99 with seven sizes (Models: 2500, 3000, 4000, 4500, 5000, 6500, 8000).

The Saltist & BG Are Similar In The Way They Both Have…

  • Machined aluminum body and side cover with a solid screw in machined handle. Once installed tight it surely gives angler confidence and control with zero play.
  • Digigear – Oversized gearing offers increased power and durability by using larger size gears that have greater gear tooth contact surface area. More torque and cranking power!
  • Air Rotor – Daiwa’s design weighs almost 15% less that ordinary rotors. It’s unique shape reduces unnecessary weight while providing maximum strength.
  • Extra Big Fish Insurance – The 4500 sizes and larger (both BG & Saltist) have dual anti reverse systems and also manual bail.

Unique Features Belonging Only To The Daiwa Saltist Series…

  • Magseal – Daiwa’s proprietary “new age” nano fluid magnetic oil technology which allows for a sealed bearing with nearly zero added friction for smooth performance. The Daiwa Saltist Series has Magsealed Bearings in the line roller and mainshaft, two of the most problem some areas of all spinning reels in the saltwater market. Magsealed bearings block out water and the elements expending the durability and longevity of the reel.
  • Corrosion resistant bearings last 10+ times longer than standard stainless ball bearings
  • Upgraded bail and line roller bearing (Magsealed)
  • Waterproof Drag

The Daiwa Saltist Back Bay LT…

The Daiwa Back Bay is a specialty series which is parts of the Saltist family, known as the Saltist Bay Bay. Available in two sizes the 3000 (9.9oz) & 4000 (10.6oz) the Daiwa Saltist Back Bay is in the LT Series, Light Tough. For inshore light tackle angles looking for maximum strength yet in a light weight package, these are some of the lightest and strongest spinning reels on the saltwater market. They feature the LT’s light and rigid aluminum construction as well as Daiwa’s Magseal technology for high performance.

Recap & Closing

The Daiwa BG is a great choice for entry level anglers looking for a quality reel. A huge step above entry level reels, the BG is also a great choice for anglers who do not get out on the water that much. These no need to invest an arm and a leg for a good saltwater fishing reel.

For anglers that want to upgrade, fish hard and demand the most rugged reel to withstand the elements, the Daiwa Saltist Series is for you. Plain and simple, the Saltist Series is a performance tuned BG offering the best corrosion resistance for the best durability.

If lightweight and compact size best fits your light tackle approach go for the Daiwa Saltsit Back Bay. It’s the perfect spinning reel for a light tackle approach to the bay and backwaters!

Keep Warm When Winter Fishing NJ

Keep Warm When Winter Fishing NJ

by Matt Sorrentino, (@swagmattic)

There’s no doubt, it takes a special breed to be eager for fishing in the cold. However, for those that are dedicated to fishing the rewards are often bountiful. Striped bass, Blackfish, Jumbo Sea Bass, Cod and plenty of other species are waiting for courageous anglers in the winter. 

Keeping warm is easy…  Layer up folks! 

Your parents were right! Although your dad still looks goofy in those old white long johns, the old adage remains true… Layer Up! Be sure to lean heavily on that wisdom in the colder months.

Start with a moisture wicking base layers. Ditch the old cotton waffle thermals for performance fabric underwear like the Grundies Long Sleeve Shirt and Grundies Pants. These are a best seller go to choice! Another great option is Guy Cotten’s Denali Pant and Denali Crew Shirt.

Then a mid layer is key to warmth via insulation. The Guy Cotten Polar Pants and the Arctic Hoodie are impossible to beat!

These two layers are worthless without an outer shell that is waterproof and windproof because staying dry is the real challenge. Frigid winds and sea spray can easily turn an epic day of fishing into a horrid nightmare.  Your shell is something that you do not want to cheap out on.  

More than once, I found myself fishing in wind, rain and snow! It was cold, but because I prepared and dressed appropriately I was warm enough to stay at the rail and keep on fishing.

Here’s what I use to keep dry and warm winter fishing in New Jersey.

We’ll start from the feet and work our way up. 

My feet are warm and dry thanks to my Xtratuf Tall Insulated Boots.  Designed for commercial fishing in Alaska, they’re flexible, warm and comfortable for an all day, everyday wear. 

Grundens… Seriously… You do not own a pair of Grundens Bibs?  Eat fish, Wear Grundens.  It’s an actual rule.  There are plenty of bibs options and anyone will make your day much better.  Bib pants (sometimes called waterproof overalls or  slicker plants) block the wind, they are waterproof so stay dry. When you take them off at the end of the day, you are clean and don’t smell. The Grundens Hercules Bib Pants are a  classic choice but I wear the Grundens Neptune Bib Pant. They are durable, lightweight, have a little bit of stretch for comfort and they are only $69.99. The cargo pocket and interior chest pocket are also very helpful. 

I finish my top layer with a Stormr Strykr Series Jacket.  They are heavy but nothing offers the warmth of a Stormr neoprene jacket. It’s a fantastic choice that you’ll appreciate in the early spring and late fall/winter. The company might not be the best at spelling, but they’re experts in keeping you warm and dry! Knowing some are allergic to neoprene another great choice is the Grundens Balder Jacket or the fleece lined Grundens Neptune Thermo Pullover.

When it comes to gloves, it’s more of a different strokes for different folks kind of thing.  There are plenty of gloves that will keep you warm. Some like ultimate warmth and the easy on and easy off of waterproof Atlas Freezer Gloves. These are great when you need to keep your hands dry but they are difficult to fish with. When fishing, I can’t lose “touch” with the line. Maintaining that “feel” is key for me.  So I go with a flip-mitt glove like the Glacier Glove Cold River Flip Mitts. I also like the Glacier Stripper/Fighting Glove fingerless glove but a whole you’ll need a lot of hand warmers in your pockets.

Don’t forget the sunscreen either folks.. that sun can still do some damage in December! I hope this helps you stay warm! Good luck fishing.

Catching Blackfish With Jigs

by Matt Sorrentino (@swagmattic)

Whether you’re new to the game or an old salty dog with decades of experience dropping rigs on wrecks, there’s a lot to learn if you want to catch blackfish with jigs.

Have you tried to catch blackfish with jigs? You should! Why? At times they out fish rigs and produce really big catches. I must ask… How did anglers target summer flounder 10, 15, 20+ years ago? The majority now target them with jigs because it’s more effective. The migration to the jig occurred in the fluke, sea bass and tuna game years ago. Guess what… The tog game too!

Tog Jigs Offer The Most Natural Presentation Of Bait

Light tackle jigging for tautog is still a relatively new technique. The concept is simple.  Lighter line, small reels and lighter rods all directly contrast conventional tog fishing wisdom. But! Lighter tackle allows small jigs to get to the bottom faster and entice more bites. Also the jig’s stealth approach gives the fish a sense of security so they take the bait. Unlike heavy blackfish rig fishing (typically use 6+ ounce sinkers) the tog can pick up the jigs and swim away without feeling the tug of the line and weight as they crunch and munch the bait. Light tackle jigging for tog allows anglers the most natural presentation of baits. This directly results in more bites and more opportunities to catch.

Catching a limit of Blackfish takes skill and the right fishing tackle.  Here, fisherman Matt caught Tautog using Magictail and Tog jigs with crab.
December 6th with a limit+ of blackfish/tautog using a 2oz MagicTail Tog Jig.

Tog Jig Options

The obvious first step to catching blackfish with jigs is to pick out the jig. There are a variety of tog jigs options on the market. With all of the brand names,  at some point you’ll ask, “What type of tog jig should I use?” Or “What is the best blackfish jig?  In my book, the answer is simple. It’s in the name of the jig…  The Magictail “Game Changer” Tog Jig is the best jig. Whether targeting blackfish from the boat on reefs and wrecks or land based fishing. Magictail Tog Jigs outproduce!

The 3 Classic Types of Jigs For Blackfishing

In order to make a lead head jig it all starts with a mold and a hook. The lead is the easy part. In the early days, there were really only a few styles of tog jigs due to the lack of molds. The three styles that made the most sense for making blackfish jigs were…

  • The Bean Jig – Resembles an oversized lima bean with flat sides. When sitting, it lies on its side with the hook facing sideways.
  • The Football Jig– Resembles a football shaped lead head that is perpendicular to the hook. When sitting, the hook points upright.
  • The Banana Jig – Features a snag resistant design; eye tie forward, slender width, curved like lead head belly (hence the name). Similar to the football jig, the hook points upright when sitting.

It has been said that some shapes fall faster than others. This can be the case when dropping a naked jig; however, tog jigs are always fished baited with crab. All three shapes listed above will get down and stay down about the same. There’s more important characteristics to focus on.

The Magictail Game Changer Tog Jig Series was developed after years of fishing experience catching black fish on jigs. Building on the features top tog anglers demand and evolving from its predecessors, Magictail made a custom mold to offer the most innovative tog jig to date!

Magictail Tautog Jig used to catch Tog.
This photo shows the unique design of the Magictail Tog Jig.

So what sets the MagicTail Game Changer Tog Jig apart from the Football and the Banana Jig? 

It’s all in the intricate design, the Magictail Game Changer Tog Jigs have a unique shape which offers benefits. Like the football and banana style tog jigs the hook point always faces up. The flat curved bottom (banana jig trait) ensures the jig is always on the bottom correctly. It lays flat and doesn’t roll. The jig is center weighted and its shape is very snag resistant.

The Magictail Tog Jig Secrets That Sets Them Apart From The Rest

The most important characteristic however, is how the lead belly sits with the hook standing tall. This keeps the bait slightly raised off the bottom with open space between the hook and the bottom structure. This allows the fish to swim in and take a clean swipe at the whole hook. It makes the elaborately timed hook set process a whole lot easier and increase your hookup percentage.

Choosing The Right Jig With The Right Hook

Just like selecting an all purpose hook, the same rules apply. Match the hook to the bait or the bait to the hook. The hook choice in a tog jig is important. It must be strong and sharp. Moreover, the shank length matters! Short shank vs long shark is personal preference and it changes depending on the size of bait. A tog jig with a long shank hook (such as the Magic Tail Game Changer Tog Jig) allows for hooking of bigger bait, a must when fishing large pieces of crab, half crabs and whole crabs. Tog jigs with short shank hooks (such as the Magictail Back Bay Tog Jig) are best when fishing smaller baits. These are best when using Asian Crabs and Fiddler Crabs. It’s also common for anglers to bury these short shank tog jigs inside of a medium crab section.

Does Color Matter?

In my experiences I have not found one color to outperform another in every circumstance. Everyday can be different so it’s best to have a spread of colors to cover your bases.

You can’t go wrong matching the jig color to the bait. For example when fishing green crabs, pair the bait with the green/orange “Green Crab” jig color. When fishing white crabs go for the white “White Crab” jig. Magictail does a really good job offering these natural color patterns.

I’ve also done good using the high visibility colors like the chart/orange and the metallic green coined “First Drop” as well as the glow on cloudy days and when the water is dirty. Just a heads up… glow always catches!

How do Blackfish feed?

Tautog pick at their food.  They’re typically chewing on mussels, barnacles and other crustaceans clinging to rocks and structure.  When feeding off the bottom they come at the bait from above and pluck at it.  That is why you get those small taps when you first feel the fish.  Setting the hook on a tog is a process that gets refined only with practice and experience. But as common sense would point out, if the fish’s point of attack is from above the jig, you would ideally want the hook pointing in that direction.  When you swing that hook is more likely to land and set in the fish mouth then with a side facing jig. 

Looking for more info on targeting tautog with jigs? Check out my other blog post, Start Catching Blackfish on Jigs With These Helpful Tips!

Tog Fishing Informative Videos 

Check out the video links below to learn more about catching blackfish with jigs more specifically the the Magictail Game Changer Tog Jig advantage!