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Diamond Mining for Fall Saltwater Hook-Ups

Where, when and how to use diamond jigs to maximize your saltwater fishing success during the fall bait run.

Diamond Mining for Fall Saltwater Hook-Ups

Predators like striped bass gorge on baitfish during the fall run, making diamond jigs highly effective. (Photo by Capt. Tom Migalski)

Diamond jigs are one of the most effective weapons for catching sportfish—they're simple, clean, fast and tooth-proof. Using diamonds means no rebaiting, no mauled plugs to discard and no soft plastics to replace.

Unlike a jerkbait with multiple dangling treble hooks, a diamond jig's body offers a sturdy and safe handle for lifting and unhooking feisty fish. During hot action, like when working a school of blitzing bluefish or schoolie striped bass, jigs offer a speedy turnaround time.

The simplicity of this set-up allows the anglers to release the fish and have the jig back in the water within seconds.

Diamond jigs are especially effective during the fall run because of the abundance of baitfish like squid, herring, butterfish and juvenile menhaden that jigs imitate. Predators including bluefish, striped bass, black sea bass and weakfish gorge on those baits to fatten for migration.

Shiny metal jigs are particularly appealing because they can plummet in a strong current or flutter downward like wounded prey yet wobble irresistibly like fleeing baitfish when retrieved.

Below we'll cover three common scenarios anglers encounter during the fall run and how best to fish them with diamond jigs.

The tackle is the same for each. Use a high-quality 2/0 conventional reel like a Shimano Tekota 500. Load it with 30-pound Dacron or mono backing and top-shot it with 150 yards of 20- to 30-pound braided line. Match the reel to a conventional 6 1/2- to 7-foot, 12- to 25-pound or 15- to 30-pound, medium-fast-action rod rated for 1- to 4-ounce lures.


Target Species: Bluefish, striped bass and weakfish

Location: Nearshore rips of 20 to 90 feet deep

How to Fish Them: Rips form when a current sweeps over a reef, and most rips hold predators through late October. Some reefs are marked by navigational aids and are easy to find while others require some searching.

Once you arrive at a promising structure, motor up-tide of the rip line while watching your depthfinder. At the point where the hump levels off, stop the boat and let the current pull you back toward the prominence. Immediately drop your jig overboard and start working it. Continue until you enter the rip line.

The primary way to fish a diamond jig is known as "squidding." To do this, release a jig to the bottom and then rapidly retrieve it through the water column with 8 to 10 reel turns. Then, immediately free-spool it to bump bottom again and repeat the process.

Use the smallest jig possible given the conditions. A 4-ounce diamond is a perfect choice for sheltered inshore waters like a large bay or sound because it weighs enough to reach bottom in up to 100 feet of water, and its smaller size resembles forage species like squid or herring. For large, deep or swift rips, you many need to fish 8-ounce jigs to effectively work bottom in depths of up to 180 feet. Many strikes occur on the lure’s erratic drop. Anglers who don’t provide enough slack for their jigs to flutter down might miss those additional opportunities.


Target Species: Bluefish and striped bass

Location: Bays and sounds over flat bottom of 15 to 80 feet deep

How to Fish Them: Besides rips, diamond jigging is also effective for schools of blues and stripers marauding migrating bait balls, like young menhaden or bay anchovies, roaming over a flat bottom with no structure to hold them in place. Find such action within 1 to 4 miles of shore while scanning for working birds and surface frenzies.

When you spot such a blitz, motor to the edge of the activity and cut the engine. Don’t plow into the school because you’ll drive down the fish. Calculate the wind or current and let it sweep you into the action while squidding beneath the busting fish. These schools are like icebergs—most of their mass is below the surface, and that’s where your lure needs to work. But unlike plying a reef, you may need to continue your retrieve to the surface to cover the active territory.

Diamond jigs, such as the Marathon Diamond Jig, are simple and effective.


Target Species: Black sea bass

Location: Inshore structures of 25 to 130 feet deep

How to Fish Them: Black sea bass love structure and feed among reefs, wrecks, boulder fields and shoals. Sea bass migrate into the shallows in May and June, stage nearshore through the summer and then gradually move to deeper structures throughout fall. Unmarked and lesser-known reefs are often more productive because they receive less fishing pressure. A fleet of boats can pick a reef clean of large sea bass in just a few days. Target different structures and progressively move deeper as the season progresses.

Like the scenario with blues and stripers, when you arrive at a likely hump, run up-tide of the reef or shoal while watching your fishfinder. When the rugged area levels off, stop the boat and let the current or wind whisk you back to the structure. Free-spool your lure to the bottom and start jigging it. Continue fishing until you pass the structure on the backside and reach a flat bottom again.


The primary method of fishing a diamond for sea bass is by jigging. Jigging, as opposed to squidding, entails releasing the lure to the bottom and then raising the lure vertically by rhythmically lifting the rod tip up and down—no reeling is involved. If you get into striped bass, use long, full-rod sweeps of 6 to 8 feet; for targeting black sea bass, work your rod tip only so the lure stays within 18 inches of the bottom.

As you drift, you may need to periodically release more line to stay in contact with the structure. It’s important to dip your rod tip fast enough to create slack line on drop, thus creating an enticing lure flutter. Strike zones are typically small, so work jigs rhythmically and bounce them off the bottom where sea bass are staging. Then hang on tight for rapid-fire action.

A thick leader of 50- to 80-pound mono will help prevent against cutoffs by toothy blues and jagged bottom structure. (Photo by Capt. Tom Migalski)

Rig a Jig: Dial in your diamond presentation

Carry jigs ranging from 3 to 6 ounces or more, depending on conditions. Several styles and makes of diamonds come factory-rigged with treble hooks. Replace trebles with high-quality 6/0 to 8/0 singles, depending on jig and target-species size. Single hooks snag structure less often, reduce harm to the fish and make catch-and-release easier and safer.

To rig a jig, tie 30 to 40 inches of 50- to 80-pound mono abrasion leader to the lure. A long, thick leader resists cutoffs from bluefish, protects from rugged bottoms and is easier on your hands when taking a wrap to lift a fish aboard. Connect the leader to the jig with a loop knot to enhance lure movement. Wire leader isn’t necessary and may turn away keened-eyed predators.

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