We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Tyler Nonn to discuss jigging for winter Cobia in the Florida Keys with the Hogy HDUV Jiggin' Eel Tail series. Here's what we learned...
Location: Florida Keys
Tides: When tides start to slow and slack the fish will move up to the surface, investigating and looking for bait. When tides are moving fish will be holding closer to the bottom and generally out of sight.
Approach: Look for numbers wintering cobia on structure, ledges, wrecks, channels and flats on the Gulf edge or in the Gulf of Mexico. Cobia can be found in the Atlantic, and sometimes larger, but not a frequently. When coming up to some kind of structure be ready to cast especially on slowing or slack tides. When the tide is cranking look for fish to be holding around structure on your sonar. Often times, vertical jigging baits can be extremely effective. Always be ready with a second jig rod as a fish comes to the surface; he may have a few other cobia with him. It’s common to double and even triple up with cobia in these winter spots.
Rigging Selection: Whether targeting cobia on the surface or vertical jigging I often use the same 9” HDUV Jiggin' Eel Tail or the 7” HDUV Paddle Tails on a 1- or 2-ounce Barbarian lead head. I use the heavier lead heads even when fish are on the surface because you want to be able to make a long cast and pop and jig the bait quickly by the fish to grab its attention. Once you have that fish following your bait keep up the same pace or speed up, and it will generally run it down and eat it. When sight fishing make, sure you select a color that you will be able to see in the water column. The angler being able to see the jig in relation to the fish is often the most important part of getting the fish to bite. When you see the fish it’s important to create a intersect point, cross the jigs path with the fish’s and watch how the fish reacts. If the fish is moving fast move the jig fast and vice versa. When vertical jigging the 2-ounce leadheads in moderate currents should be effective in 45 feet or less.
Why This Bait? The erratic jigging action forces the cobia to react even if they are not actively feeding. Cobia are opportunistic hunters and Hogys look like much of the prey they seek throughout the year.
Colors: Bubble Gum, Green Sexy, Tinker Mac, black and bone are all great colors. When sight fishing make sure the angler can see the jig. I prefer Bubble Gum in most water conditions.
Retrieve: Vertical jigging these baits you ideally want to keep the jig in the lower third of the water column. When fish are holding on structure in hard currents they generally show up on sonar in schools of tightly pack fish just off the bottom. When sight fishing create a intersect point with your cast and move the jig quickly through the fish’s field of vision. If he doesn’t react make your next cast closer and jig the bait more aggressively. Once the fish is coming keep its attention and they will usually eat it quickly.
Rod: 7’ Heavy St. Croix Inshore Mojo series rods
Reel: Shimano Sustain 10000
Line: 50-pound test Power Pro Slick
Leader: 60-pound test mono. If bull sharks are a problem I will fish heavier leads and tighter drags.