Late spring can be a tough time for jiggers, as many of the Chesapeake's striped bass are in small, highly mobile pods that haven’t yet joined up to form big schools. They’re often in open water, they’re often suspended, and they’re often here today and gone tomorrow. So, how will you ensure success with these suspended open-water rockfish? You can’t — hey, this is fishing, people! But you can up the odds of bending your rods by using these tactics.
- Focus on areas with structure, contours, or live bottom in the 20- to 30-foot range. You might find fish shallower and you might find fish deeper, but at this time of year this is often the sweet spot. As you do so, look for thermoclines on your fishfinder (which look like faint but consistent returns that create a line along a relatively consistent depth). When you find an area where the thermocline intersects with drop-offs, shelves, and other structure in the appropriate depth range, you’ve found a spot with good potential.
- Remain highly mobile. If you’re not catching fish don’t be afraid to run to a different location. If you find a pod or two and enjoy limited success, look for similar types of areas (considering depth, current, geographic orientation, etc.), point the bow for ‘em, and open up the throttles.
- Cast out and retrieve as opposed to jigging vertically. Let your jig hit bottom before beginning a retrieve and/or use the countdown method; for whatever reason vertical jigging rarely works as well on rockfish in this scenario.
Many anglers would say that suspended fish are some of the toughest to catch, and we've covered how to catch them in the past. If jigging for suspended fish has you flummoxed, also be sure to check out:
How to Target Suspended Striped Bass - This article covers tactics beyond jigging and doesn't focus on seasonality, but does also include a lot of intel covering the tactics.
Jigging for Suspended Fish - This article is noted kayak angler Alan Battista's take on how to effectively target suspended fish. It also includes some excellent illustrations that he provides, which make the mission clear. Note that the tactics he covers aren't just for kayak fishing but work across the board.