Quick Guide to Vertical Jigging in South Florida

A quick Guide to  Vertical Jigging in South Florida

I hope this helps somebody. Let’s read some, this small guide is intended for those who are starting in vertical jigging in the waters in South Florida. It may work as well in other areas.
I sometimes hear people asking about vertical Jigging or asking me about it. So about 2 years ago I put this small guide together. It’s based from my experience and the input of others that enjoy Vertical Jigging in Florida like I do. I am not a pro, I simply like this style of fishing. In regards to my opinions others may think differently or may add to it. There are many styles of fishing and some fit a person, area, or boat and some don’t. The information below is considering that I fish in South Florida and not in areas where big Bluefin or Yellowfin tunas are commonly caught vertical jigging. I have read similar posts from other countries or states, but they all seem geared to big tuna and some just for Amberjacks. The information below is fits for the type of fish we catch here in South Florida. We mostly catch Amberjacks, small Black Fin Tunas, Dolphin(Mahi Mahi), Almaco jacks, Kingfish, Barracudas, Wahoo, Snapper, Grouper, and other smaller species.

BE AWARE! The writer is NOT responsible for any injuries, bankruptcies, or divorces that may occur while being addicted to this type of fishing.

If Vertical  Jigging from party boats

Reward Won partyboat

On the way to the grounds getting ready to jig on a South Florida Party boat “Reward Won” of Miami

When doing so make sure you are away from the other anglers since many party boats still don’t like people using

braid. But as the years have passed many party boats have regulars that only do jigging and no other style of fishing, there are some that do mix it up. In South Florida the Reward Fleet, the Kelley Fleet, The Flamingo,and the Sealegs do have regulars that jig on their trips. Most jigging is done while daytime fishing and drifting.


With jigging a specialized jigging rod is best. These rods are small yet strong and are created to work vertical jigs with specific weights. Parabolic action is desired but many others like a fast moderate tapered rod in case the fish goes under the boat. It is a matter of choice, what you feel comfortable with is the best rod for you.

Rod size
It’s your choice but rods that are 6 feet long work great on party boats here in South Florida. You will find that you can only use shorter rods when fishing at the stern of a boat or where the railing of the boat isn’t wide, arched, or high. A 6 foot rod will give you the flexibility to fish anywhere on the party boats.

Your own boat?
If you have you own boat then a shorter rod is preferred as it will gives less fatigue on your end. Many prefer rods as small as 5 feet long. These rods are incredibly strong. Look for line rating, jig rating, and maximum drag pressure that can be used on the rod at 45 degree and 90 degree angle. More than likely the only information given will be for the 45 degree angle drag the rod can take. Keep in mind that more than likely you will not be using more than 18 pounds of drag on your reel.

Having a heavy rod and a light rod is best. This way you can fish heavy jigs and lighter jigs while giving the jigs the desired action.

-A heavy rod to South Florida standards would be in the 300 gram range. Normally you can use from 250 gram to 350 gram jigs on a 300 gram rod.
-A light rod would be in the 200 gram range. Normally you can use 150 gram jigs to 250 gram jigs with a 200 gram rod.
-If you like no nonsense get them in the boat quick type fishing then a 400 to 500 gram rod would be the one. Just wish you good luck jigging with that all trip long.

If you can afford it a custom rod is the way to go since it will be made to your specifications and likings. If not then there are some under $100 affordable ones out there like the Hopper rods, Star rods, and Ugly Sticks.

Top of the line:

If you spend $1,000 on a fishing rod is because you can afford it. Even $1000 rods will break when the load or drag is not set correctly. If the line digs into the spool because it was not filled properly tight, any rod will break. So make sure you are careful with your rods. I know one broke on me already.

  • Synit
  • Carpenter
  • Espinoza
  • MC Works
  • Ripple Fisher
  • Salty Water Tackle Rods– 2014 edit: now above $500.

In the mid ( $200 to $400) All proven Light rods:

  • Smith Ltd.
  • Black Hole Cape Cod Special Rods (up to 5’6”) Around $380
  • Jigging Master Power Spell Rods (normally 5 foot) Around $320 to $400
  • Ocean Tackle International (normally 6 foot rods) Around $200 to $300
  • Spinal Rods (5’4” to 5’6”) Around $300and up- No factory rods anymore only custom rods
  • Phoenix Titan Hybrid Blanks- get a custom rod and keep it on your budget
  • Hopper rods (5’8” to 6’) Around $179 to $300.00

In the lower end ($70 to $199) I just want to try jigging every now and then rods. These rods WILL do the job but are much heavier than others mentioned above:

  • Shimano jigging rods
  • Star Stellar Lite Jigging Rods (5’9” to 6’4”) Around $100 to $200—proven ok
  • Ugly stick Tiger Lite jigging rods (5’8” to 6’6”) Around $70 —proven ok

Keep in mind that new rods come out every year and in many cases the rods listed above will show up on many forums as used rods with great minimal price tags.


The weight and shape of the jigs needed depends a lot on the current you are fishing. I have from 80 grams (for football size blackfins, but blue runners love them too) to 300 grams. Most of my jigs are 150 to 300 grams. Longer slim jigs will get to the bottom quicker. Rounder and wide flat sided jigs will take longer to get to the bottom but may have better fluttering action. Usually longer jigs have side to side action or an up then horizontal side move.  It is always recommended to have different shape jigs since the different action will trigger the bites.

Here are the most popular sizes. As a rule of thumb one can say 1 gram per foot of water depth. But the current at the time of fishing overrules that rule. It is always good to have several shapes and sizes. Below are some examples on the size used here in South Florida.

80 g = 2.82191 oz
100 g = 3.52739 oz
120 g = 4.23287 oz
150 g = 5.29109 oz
200 g = 7.05479 oz
240 g = 8.46575 oz
250 g = 8.81849 oz
300 g = 10.5821 oz
400 g = 14.1095 oz —– Rarely used, if you buy one you will find out why

You can also make your own jigs, like the ones I made from butter knives. I used a 3/16″ drill bit for drilling metal on drill with slow torque so the bit won’t spin and will drill correctly. I used reflective tape. You can buy it online but I got mines from an Art Outlet store.Below is an example of the reflective tape. You will not need special glue just use the tape. Also  if you are planing on releasing fish then grind the sharper edge of the butter knives.

Herbert HansMuller knife jigs home made vertical jig

And yes the butter knives do work:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enLG5kK2xsg&feature

Jig colors: It is always good to have a variety of colors. At times blue will be a hot color, then it will be pink, or chrome, etc… It is always a good idea to get jigs that have some kind of glow in them. Jigs with flash will get the attention of toothy critters faster. Most people I know will keep a selection of about 4 colors of their choice and have one of each in two different sizes.

Some good old diamond jigs is always a great thing to have, the hammered ones work best and are way cheaper than vertical jigs. Another good choice for versatile jigs is the Crippled Herrings in the 2 to 5 ounce sizes. Like the Diamond jigs you can cast them and vertical jig with them.

A good trick to do is to have a solid ring and split ring on your mono that you can constantly be used to swap from jig to jig. Buy or make assist hooks that can be interchanged as needed.


An 8k or 10k class reel is the best for fishing our South Florida waters because they are light and have the power to get the type of fish we go for in the boat while having tons of fun and not end up tired at the end of the trip. The gear ratio can be your choice; Lower gear to fight big fish better or high speed to retrieve the jigs faster and play the fish longer. Here are some examples:

Top of the line:


  • Stella 8000SW
  • Stella 10000SW
  • Saltiga 6000
  • Saltiga 4500
  • Penn Torque TRQS5-B


  • Shimano Ocea Jigger
  • Jigging Master PE
  • Accurate Narrow Narrow

In the mid:


  • Saragosa 8000
  • Saragosa 10000
  • Saltist 4500H
  • Saltist 5000H


  • Maxel Ocean Master Lever Drag Jigging Reel
  • JW Hercules
  • Avet Narrow reels

In the lower end (these reels are not meant for jigging):


  • Baitrunner 4500
  • Baitrunner 6500
  • Spheros 10000
  • Cedros CJ-55S
  • Penn Battle
  • Penn Battle 6000


  • Penn Baja Special

There are other reels that can be used, the ones above are just the ones that come to mind. For conventional reels always look for narrow or NN (narrow narrow). Accurates and Jigging Masters are great conventional reels.

Fishing line

To jig braid or spectra is preferred. Most people I know here in South Florida use 50lb or 65lb. Many love a brand or two. The new metered line is great since it allows you to calculate where in the water column your jig is. Here are some examples of brands:

  • Jerry Brown solid
  • Diamond 2nd generation
  • Tuffline XP
  • Diawa Boat Braid–Have had some problems with small fish picking at the line


In South Florida most people use 40 to 60lbs mono-filament leaders any where from 4 feet to 22 feet. Keep in mind that Braid has only around 3% stretch. The shorter the leader the more risk to brake the line (specially at the knot). For this same reason many would recommend to stay away from fluorocarbon because it doesn’t stretch like mono. If going for groupers then you can go up to 80lb test.

Stay away from wire, you will get less hits to no hits and the wire kinks and gets tangled while jigging. There is a very flexible wire called Tygerleader, it’s a coated wire that is ok for jigging and you can make knots with it. I have tried it and is ok, so far only a Little Tuny (normally called bonito) caught on it.

Assist Hooks
Most jigs come with assist hooks. With time you will find that they include cheap ones just to make it look like a complete to sell. Some come with good hollow braid and good hooks. I started making my own since these are so easy to do and no complicated knots are necessary. The hooks need to be wider that the jigs you are using or they will tangle on the jigs a lot making you miss the hook ups. The assist hook should be 1/4 of the length of the jig or to the mid section of the jig if targeting king mackerels (as you gain experience you will notice why). For the hooks you can use Live Bait hooks. Don’t have to be snell hooks but it would be better for your hookup.

I like this way of doing assist hooks. I do let the super glue dry out and don’t really use the shrink tube. A shrink tube will aid in less cutoffs. This is a matter of choice. It works with and without.

Below is the easy way of tying an assist cord to the hook and works great.

What knots?

I like the Bob Sands Knot since it is easy to tie anywhere. I also like a small bimini on my main line and using a wind-on leader with a loop to loop connection. It is very simple and you can swap to another wind-on any time.

There are other great but more complicated knots like the PR knot and Sebile knot. Extremely good knots.

What action do I give my jigs?

Let it drop reel in the slack and jig away! Slow jigging action at the bottom (yo-yo style) works for bottom feeders like snapper and groupers. Bring the jig half way in the water column and drop again. If you do not get hit on second or third try continue jigging towards the boat in a faster motion to get the pelagic fish. Within the first trip you will more than likely figure out what works best so just give it time.

Video on jigging, featuring Jose Wejebe, may he rest in peace.

Mutton snapper below was caught using the Yo-Yo action close to the bottom

Mutton Snapper On Vertical Jig

Amberjack below was caught jigging faster (but normally just about any action will get them).

Amber jack on vertical jig

Tuna below was caught jigging at night with glow jig, faster jigging in the top water column.

Blackfin Tuna on vertical jig at night

Red Snapper I caught with butter knife turned into a vertical jig

American Red Snapper on home made vertical jig

Thank you for reading and May The Fishing Force be With You. Tight lines!

© 2013 http://www.cudamanadventures.com


15 thoughts on “Quick Guide to Vertical Jigging in South Florida

  1. I talked with few guys that are jigging demons in Fort Lauderdale area and they go jigging all around Florida and what they use is 30 lb braid with 40 lb momoi leader. I use a custom jigging rod 30-50 made by connley in west palm and a stella800 sw black. Hope soon i ll come in a trip down to Tortugas with Rick from Anglers Bait and Tackle. Good job on the article it has all the basics for jiggers.

  2. Hello, I noticed that nice blackfin was caught at night with a vertical jig. I’ve never tried vertical jigging at night, thought maybe it just wasn’t productive. Would it be worth the workout dropping the vertical? Can anyone share their experiences as to what types of fish you hooked(if any)?

    • The trick to blackfins at night is fishing on a New Moon. When it’s very dark the boat lights atrack them as well as kingfish and other fish. You’ll need to be over 150′ of water or so.But 200′ and up is best.

      • Thank you Mr. Cudaman, thought perhaps it was the Full Moon with the ocean lit up and all, but that you wrote makes perfect sense, since the boat lights aren’t overshadowed by a stronger light cast over such a large area. You really did a great job on the site, especially with regards to vertical jigging, it’s very authoritative , especially with regards to detail.

  3. Wow Man, Thanks a lot for the Article! i use to fish with the “Mucho K” crew, but never tried Jigging, now i’m going to Kayak fishing offshore with my friends so i’m gonna give it a try, your article really clarify a lot, Gracias!

  4. Great article. Looking to get started jigging off of Miami. Trying to put together my first jigging combo, great suggestions ! Learning a ton. Thanks so much for all the details. Maybe I’ll see you out there, amigo

  5. Would a Penn Spinfisher V be a good jigging spinning reel? I don’t quite understand what makes the difference in a spinning reel designed for jigging and a regular one.

    • It will work just fine for slow jigging and for speed jigging small to medium size fish in the 1 to 35 pounds. Anything after that and you will have trouble turning the handle. Since the reel has up to 25 lbs of drag you can use it to your advantage and slowly pump the fish to help you turn the handle. Usually speed jigging for big game fish can involve using a power gear reel with gear ratio between 4:1 to less than 5:1 gear ratio. Having more torque helps fight the bigger fish. Hope that helps.

      • That does help out. It wasn’t clicking before that even tho it’s a lower gear ratio you still get 40ish inches of line in per handle turn. I did look and see that the 8500 spinfisher has a 4.7:1 ratio and 10500 has a 4.2:1 but they are heavier than other options you listed

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