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SBF Tips: Vertical Jigging with the Sonic BaitFish

SBF Tips: Vertical Jigging with the Sonic BaitFish

By Pete Rosko

Many anglers have no true idea of the effectiveness of a metal jig. If they did, jigging would far-outnumber all other techniques. Three critical steps to out-fishing the competition by vertically jigging the Sonic BaitFish (SBF):

    1. Locate the fish
    2. Fish the smallest SBF to reach your target
    3. Finesse-jig the SBF

Each of these techniques will be discussed in further detail, but first it's important to understand how the Sonic BaitFish was developed and why it's such an effective lure for vertical jigging.

The versatility of the Sonic BaitFish for vertical jigging

Most lure designers have a "horizontal and forward" design mentality. Prior to 1979, I was stuck in that mentality, too. Then, I decided to go in the opposite direction — vertical and backwards/downwards. That was the turn in the right direction for me after attaining a more comprehensive understanding of fish behavior as a guide and biologist.

The single most important action that causes a predator to attack any prey is a prey that does not appear to be normal. Instead, the prey shows signs of being injured, distressed or crippled. This applies to any predator, including fish. The most critical strike-triggering an injured baitfish action is an erratic downward flutter. Thus, the only type of lure that mimics this action is a well-balanced metal jig — and bonus points if it looks like a baitfish. Most strikes with the metal jig will occur on its downward fall.

Other lure types, including spinners, trolling spoons, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and jigheads lack the the downward flutter action. Instead, they focus on a more normal horizontal swimming movement and not that of an injured, vertically-falling baitfish. It's no coincidence that no other lure type is more versatile than a metal jig — and because of its three different line-snap attachments, the Sonic BaitFish exceeds the versatility and effectiveness of other metal jigs.

Important Sonic BaitFish tips for vertical jigging

For the benefit of the first-time reader, important tips will be repeated in future issues. All three SBF attachment inserts (nose-back-tail) have distinct functions and resultant actions. Here's several tips to get the most out of your SBF.

Always use the wide-bend snap included in the packaging

In order to maximize its action, never use a snap-swivel when vertical jigging the Sonic BaitFish, as its "hinging" effect may cause hook-to-line fouling. Instead, use the wide-bend snap included with the Sonic BaitFish and attach a swivel between the mainline and leader. However, a snap-swivel may be used with horizontal techniques, such as casting and trolling.

Best line options to prevent fouling when vertically jigging the SBF

Use braid and not monofilament line! Braided mainline is superior to monofilament for sensitivity, no stretch, better hooksets, fewer problems with line twist (almost no need for swivels) and getting the best feel of the lure when jigging smaller lures. Use the lightest line possible, which is especially true with the smaller Sonic BaitFish options.

As for leaders, you can prevent hook-to-line fouling with braided mainline (which is soft and tends to collapse on the lure) by always using clear monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, as it's stiffer and deflects the SBF away from the braided line.

Always match your rod to the size of the Sonic BaitFish you're jigging

Match you casting or spinning outfit to the size of your Sonic BaitFish. Error on the side of going lighter. A lightweight 6- or 6 1/2-foot spinning or casting rod with a good back bone and a fast-action tip (rod bends about 1/4 to 1/3 down from the tip) are good all-around choices for better control and hooksets.

The shorter the rod, the better the control, especially when vertical jigging. Bait-casting outfits work better for heavier lures when you're targeting suspended fish in deeper water or for fish that are on the bottom. Longer rods are generally used for greater casting distance and for trolling.

Selecting the best hook type for vertical jigging the Sonic BaitFish

First and foremost, it's always important to remember to keep your hook point needle-sharp with a fine tooth file. If your hook does not stick in your finger nail (not your skin), it's not sharp enough!

With that said, a siwash hook is best for hook sets and keeping fish hooked due to its deep throat and wide bend. Better yet, if it's barbless (barb pinched-in) to protect released fish and facilitate quick removal with accidentally-hooked human anatomy.

Here's how I attach hooks to my SBF that works perfectly:

I take two Sonic BaitFish of the same size that I intend to fish, whether cast, jigged or trolled. I then attach a siwash hook to the nose on the first SBF, then I attach a siwash hook to the tail of the second SBF. With these two SBF, you have all the vertical jigging techniques covered as follows

    • Hook on the nose. Attach the snap to the tail, which results in a fall that's more sideways darting than the attachment to the top of the back. Or, attach the snap to the top of the back for a tighter vertical fall (the most vertical of falls).

    • Hook on the tail. Attach the snap to the nose, which results in the most sideways darting on the fall. Or, attach the snap to the top of the back for the same fall as the "hook on the nose" option.

    • Important tip: attaching the line/snap to the top of the back (TOB) is only for vertical jigging and not for casting and trolling.

Because of the tenacity of fish attacking the SBF, I personally only use no more than one single hook for any technique. The hook can be directly attached to the SBF by tightly crimping its open eye to the lure or connecting the hook to the SBF via a split ring. Single hooks also snag suspended weed growth and bottom-structure far less than treble and multiple single or double hooks.

Each Sonic BaitFish includes an extra hook replacement in the packaging. When casting or trolling for larger fish, hook size can be increased beyond the basic recommended hook replacement sizes. When casting, increase up to one size larger. For trolling, increase up to two sizes larger.

Vertical jigging techniques with the Sonic BaitFish

Vertical jigging the Sonic BaitFish (SBF) to near-bottom fish

Whether near-bottom or suspended, always locate fish before fishing. Fishing blindly is a waste of valuable time and a main cause of going fishless. Use your fish locator (for marks and structure) and your yes (for working birds and working "boiling fish").

Fish the smallest Sonic BaitFish to reach your target when vertical jigging

As noted previously, always fish the smallest Sonic BaitFish to effectively reach your target when casting or vertical jigging. There are many reasons for this, but two of them are:

    • A smaller SBF will more enticingly swim, glide and flutter through the water column and through the structure, as opposed to heavier jigs that will snag, by diving and not gliding, on the bottom. It is easier to un-snag a smaller jig since it does not embed into the structure as a heavier lure.

    • A smaller SBF will re-ignite the bite when it goes dead. Fish refuse to eat a larger meal when the wind dies or the tide goes dead. However, fish, like humans, will always snack. The results from teasing fish with a tiny SBF versus actively jigging a larger lure (which spooks, instead of attracts negative or neutral fish) will amaze you.

Finesse-jig the smallest Sonic BaitFish when casting or vertical jigging

This could have been included in the previous section, however its importance needs to be separately addressed. Over my many years of fishing across the country, I almost never see this unbelievably effective technique used with a metal jig. The main reason for that is usually because the only way to achieve action is by over-jigging (jerking the rod). Here's my technique for finesse-jigging the Sonic BaitFish:

    • As soon as the tide, wind or bite dies, I immediately downsize all of my equipment to as light as possible. This includes my SBF (all the way down to 1/10 oz.), braided mainline (20-lb. down to 6-lb.), fluorocarbon leader (25-lb. down to 10-lb.) and my duo-lock snap.

    • I always attach my snap to my SBF to maximize its action (for action, wire-to-wire connection is best). Never reduce a lure's action by tying the leader directly to your lure, especially on smaller lures.

Vertical jigging the Sonic BaitFish (SBF) to suspended fish

Become more proficient by precision-locating your SBF to tthe fish mark on your electronic fish locator. Vertical jigging to suspended fish is technically the most demanding application in vertical jigging. It requires precision to be successful! Once you achieve this, you success can be remarkable with the SBF.

You electronic fish locator is critical in catching suspended fish

Once game fish are located on your fish finder, drop your SBF to the fish mark on the screen. Follow the zig-zag pattern of your SBF as it falls towards the mark on the screen. Stop the lure just above the mark as most game fish look upwards. This works best at anchor or on a slow drift versus fast-moving water.

Best attachment options for vertical jigging to suspended fish

Always remember, whether casting, jigging or trolling, it is the lure's backward flutter, caused by the drop-back of the rod, that causes most strikes. The SBF is loaded with action and only requires short rod lifts, especially in shallower water. Hard-jigging (jerking) often times will spook fish instead of attracting them.

    • By attaching the line/snap to the SBF, on the top of its back (TOB), a strong horizontal, side-to-side (resembling a fast-moving windshield wiper) vibrating action is created on its fall. This results in the slowest fall of the three line/snap attachments and is exclusively for vertical jigging.

    • By attaching the line-snap to the nose or tail, the SBF falls more vertically with a darting, fluttering action. This results in a faster fall and is most suitable in fast-moving water.

When your line starts angling off, retrieve and re-drop to maintain a vertical line. The greater the line angle, the lesser the action and control you have of your lure.

Best Sonic BaitFish colors for vertical jigging

My personal favorites are silver/blue (for sunny days) and glow chartreuse or glow white (any time, cloudy or sunny days). All painted finishes contain high-quality fluorescent, phosphorescent and ultraviolet pigments to enhance appearance and maximize attraction. The basic appearance of most baitfish is a blue/green back with a silver/white belly.

It is my sincere hope that this series of "Tips & Techniques" will be instrumental in increasing your enjoyment and success on the water. Thank you for your support and confidence in Mack's Lure products. — Capt. Pete

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