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Capt. Domenic Petrarca

Capt. Dom Petrarca runs Coastal Charters Sportfishing, specializing in light tackle jigging and popping for bluefin tuna in Southern New England.

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March 26, 2013

Advanced Jigging and Popping, Part 3

by Capt. Dom Petrarca

For those of you who have been reading the first two parts of this blog series, you now have almost the entire system starting with the angler themselves up to the leader system employed on the light tackle spin or conventional combo. For those of you who haven't....go back and read it now! I will complete the series by detailing the terminal tackle I employ in my system, including the artificial lures and jigs along with how I set them up. There are so many different types and brands available now, I would need a whole other series dealing with just these however there are a handful of lures that I will relate which should greatly up your odds at fooling that fish of a lifetime on light gear. If you have been waiting or hoping that I might get into where and when to find them, I will make it easy on you right now and give it to you straight away. I start my charter fishing trips in mid-May for bluefin with early season scouting combo trips dedicated to tuna with a bunch of huge striped bass on light gear as a bonus. As soon as June rolls around, I concentrate on one thing, tuna,and go after them hard until the end of November, right here in beautiful southern New England aboard my Dusky center console... I just couldn't resist a shameless plug for myself, and the amazing light tackle fishery we have here. Anyone knows that the best way actually is to get out as often as possible whenever time and weather allow, nothing replaces time and experience both hunting and fishing for elusive gamefish.


Close-up of Coastal Charters Sportfishing's rigging system, with a Siren lure ready to hunt.


Terminal Tackle


I use a very simple, straightforward, quick-change system comprising of a barrel swivel and heavy duty split rings to connect to all of my artificial topwater offerings. This same connection process also serves for all my jigging outfits, with the addition of a solid ring to attach an assist rigged stinger hook. This system allows for an easy, extremely quick changing of lures and jigs, and the same split rings also serve to connect the many different hook configurations I employ for various lures to the plug itself. I use only Spro power swivels(non-ball bearing style) in size 2 and 4, along with the Spro power split rings in sizes 6, 7, and 8. This configuration is not only super strong, it has a very small profile and because they are made to be rigged together, the rings slide all the way through the gap in the eyes of the swivels. I have found that this is extremely important for proper lure movement, and also prevents any leverage after hook-up. By minimizing the gear at the business end and going with the smallest yet strongest possible connection, you also decrease the visibility in the water making fish less shy around your offerings. I connect my swivels via one knot, good for leader up to 100 pound test strength, and that is the Palomar. Any time I need to use any leader above 100# test I will crimp. That is another topic I could spend a whole article devoted to, but the simplest way to view this is that there is only one way to crimp, the right way. This takes all the knots completely out of the system when dealing with fish that will expose any weakness in your joins. All of your terminal tackle should be readily accessible, and you will need quality crimping pliers or hand swage, dykes to cut leaders, scissors for braid, and a good set of split ring pliers that will open a variety of sizes.


Having all your tools and terminal gear organized is key.


Topwater Lures


I pay very close attention to rigging of all my artificial lures, as often times different hook combinations or styles will produce either favorable or negative results. I keep all my terminal rigging items in one handy case on my boat, as it gets accessed quite often in this fishery. Any lure that is to be brought into play needs to be super-engineered just like the rest of the gear to withstand the punishment these fish dole out. Heavy duty through-wire and the same Spro split rings attach my hooks, and I look for ways to rig as many as possible with single hooks. This helps get a much better hook set, even if it decreases the chance of finding a purchase, it holds when they penetrate much better than a treble hook would. It is much easier to deal with the fish boat side for release and safer for all involved as well when avoiding trebles. Many lures are designed to run with particular hooks, the challenge becomes creating a well balanced lure with the preferential hooks without making the lure ineffective in it's action. I use a style developed by the Nomad charter fishing outfit, taping or tying two single hooks shank to shank, as well as using different size and color dressed single hooks, predominantly Gamakatsu HD live bait 7/0 through 11/0 sizes. Use only tinned or similar finish hooks that will rust out quickly, never stainless steel, as lures are commonly broken off still attached to fish.


A good selection of different hooks, including dressed stinger hooks with lots of color


The most common question I get aboard my charters is hands-down "How do I work this plug, Cap?" and my tongue in cheek response is always the same, "There isn't really any wrong way to work any artificial, but there is definitely a right way, which may be different on any given day." Probably a more sarcastic and cryptic answer than they were looking for, but my charm aside the point of the statement is that you will need to play with a lure boat side before getting it into play to see how it swims, then watch your lure as you work it back to the boat, varying your retrieval rate from fast to slow, stopping and starting, as well as outright burning it across the surface sometimes. The fish will let you know when you have found the right action, by rewarding you with a visual, often violent display of aggression. Whenever you are targeting fish with hard mouths and good survival instincts, you need to drive the hook home with a solid hook-set, often several times, to be sure you get a good connection. There are too many effective lures specifically geared towards this style of fishing available today to go into too many, but I definitely have a short list of must-have lures that I never leave the dock without. In no particular order, the top 5 on my vessel over the past few seasons have been the Diawa dorado slider 187S, the Tattoo's Tackle Sea Dog and Sea Pup, in addition to the line-up available from Ocean Lures, Strategic Angler Custom, and Siren lures; all but the Diawa are handmade right here in the USA.


Just a small example of the many lures needed to chase big fish with light tackle.


Jigs


Jigging has been around for a long time, only the styles and designs have developed to accommodate modern techniques like speed jigging and bigger quarry is now targeted on a regular basis. There may be even more options when it comes to jigs, with various shapes and sizes, with different descent rates, flash, flutter or wobble. I prefer mainly 180-300 gram jigs of 4-8 inches, and rig all of them with a single assist style hook to a solid 400# solid ring. I tie my own using 500 pound Kevlar Cord in various lengths being sure to choose the right hook size that will not foul on the the body. These assist-style jig hooks are very easily handled DIY, and will allow you to have a number of different sizes and lengths without breaking the bank. I use the same single hooks as I rig the top water lures with, having a high hook-up to bite ratio, and usually getting them buttoned in the corner of the mouth. Because the jig swings free and the fish is attached to only the hook via the cord and rings, it helps avoid any leverage situations, cuts a very small hole usually right in the latch or upper jaw, and keeps them on the line more often then any other rigging method I have tried. I have seen so many different brands catch fish here and there, but I have found another local manufacturer with a winner for the tuna I chase, Pt. Jude Deep Force jigs. These have such great action on both the drop and the retrieve that they will get bit over other jigs in most situations. The jig bite is one that relies on the predatory instincts of gamefish, and by following the same principles as topwater fishing by finding the right depth, speed, and rhythm needed to induce that strike.


Close-up of a Pt. Jude Deep Force jig attached via a solid ring to split ring configuration, with assist rigged Gamakatsu 9/0 HD live bait hook.


I would be remiss without mentioning one of the top ways to get a bite on my boat; throwing soft plastics. Both unweighted as well as on a sinking jig-head, the natural look and feel of a poured plastic is irresistible and can mimic a number of natural bait sources. The RonZ system accounts for a good majority of my fish each year when worked in a variety of ways subsurface. This method along with Got Stryper Pintails with longer shanked HD hooks worked on top will get bit in most situations, but especially when the fish are finicky or spooky. Color does seem to matter in many instances here in cape Cod, and I am sure to always have blues, pinks, whites, and mackerel patterns of almost all my lures. I check the hooks and inspect for dulled or folded tips often, either sharpening or discarding to help combat hard jaws, gill plates, and nasty head shakes so often experienced. Once a fish grabs an offering, I encourage a few solid snaps of the rod to seat the hooks, and then a few more for good measure after the initial run. Keeping the rod squared up to your center line is crucial, and gaining the head of the fish by applying good pressure at all times while not exerting too much energy is key. There are definitely tricks and tips that one will pick up after fighting a few fish, but by remembering to allow the drag and bend of the rod to tire the fish out instead of pulling on the fish at inopportune or ineffective moments will go a long way in getting you better at handling a fish once you are good enough to fool one. Again, nothing will make you a better angler than getting time on the water, and time on the rod. By preparing your body, mind, and gear ahead of time, you will greatly improve your catch rate, while enjoying your time more in a productive and successful manner each and every time you are fortunate enough to get your line wet in a hopefully productive area.


A nice bluefin hooked on a RonZ soft bait landed aboard Coastal Charters Sportfishing.


I hope you found the series insightful and helpful, and as always thank you for checking out my content. If you would like to see firsthand the latest and greatest gear and have a shot at what I feel is the baddest fish that swims, in one of the best places on earth to tangle with one on light tackle, please look further at www.coastalcharterssportfishing.com for fishing reports, charter information, and some amazing photos.

Comments (6)

tunafever wrote 4 years ago

Nobody more I recommend than Dom! He wants to be on the fish more than you!
Angelo

Capt. Dom Petrarca wrote 4 years ago

Thanks Angelo! Hope to see you up here this season.

JMetaxas wrote 4 years ago

Excellent articles Dom!

Capt. Dom Petrarca wrote 4 years ago

Thanks John, Glad you enjoyed it. Looking forward to having you aboard this season!

Restoman wrote 4 years ago

once again thanks Capt of the great info...

Capt. Dom Petrarca wrote 4 years ago

Glad you liked the series, thanks as always for checking out my content. Looking forward to more bluefin mayhem in just about a month and half or so....stay tuned.

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