Mackinaw Jigging 101

Mack Limits.jpg

Wireline trolling with heavy tackle has long been the staple for mackinaw anglers in deep water lakes like Tahoe, and while it’s extremely effective, the technique isn’t always the most exciting way to catch fish. I much prefer jigging on light bass gear.

Not only do you get to feel the grab, but you also get a lot more spot out of the fish.

Rigging Up

Another cool thing about jigging is you don’t need a lot of sophisticated gear (besides good electronics). I like to fish with 6 1/2- to 7-foot rods rated for 10- to 17-pound line. You need enough backbone to be able to set the hook in deep water, but a sensitive tip so you can feel the bite — which, by the way, often come as the lure is falling. My favorite sticks are GLoomis’ MBR 843 or MBR 783, paired up with a Shimano Curado 200 DHSV reel, which has a 7:1 retrieve rate, which makes cranking up from 100+ feet all the faster.

I run 20-pound Power Pro on my reels — braid is a must when fishing deep because of its sensitivity and lack of stretch. Of course, you need a leader between the braided line and the lure like a 4-foot section of 14-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.

As far as jigs go, 2-ounce Hopkins, Gibbs Minnows, Crippled Herring, etc. all work well in silver, white or chartreuse.


Jigging Motion

Drop your lure down to the bottom (or just above suspended fish, if you see any) and then use your wrist to impart subtle hops — avoid jerking the rod towards the heavens.

All you need is a quick snap of the tip and it should only travel about 1 foot up. Be sure to keep some tension on the line on the drop so you can feel those bites. Like I said before, most fish eat the lure as it falls… and if you drop too quickly, you’ll miss out on a ton of grabs.

Fish on!

Fish on!

Finding Fish

A good graph is your best friend is this department. Look for macks to hang on or near the bottom most of the time. They’ll key in on structure: points, flats, rock piles and, most often, break lines where shelves drop off into deeper water. I start out in 50 feet of water early on and then progressively work out deeper as the sun comes up. You can get macks as deep as 400+ feet, but I rarely go below 140.

In this shot, you can see a jig falling towards a school of macks...and then one rises up to grab it

In this shot, you can see a jig falling towards a school of macks…and then one rises up to grab it

Prime Time

It’s been my experience that mack jigging is typically best from first light until about 9 a.m. There are days that they bite better midday – especially during full moon periods. If you mark a bunch of fish but can’t get bit in the a.m., give ‘er a rest and try again just before dark. I’ve had some great evenings of mack fishing on days when the morning bite was as dead.

Tahoe Laker


    • DVSshort says

      I fish for browns…..but with a camping trip coming up this weekend with some great people, was doing a bit of research on jigging for macks since I thought it might be fun for for them and the lake holds them. I found your site to be the most informative and relating strongly to my previous experience when others brought me out to mack fish.

  1. Jeff says

    Mac’s luv anything dropped on their snouts, they remind me of a pike girthing up before winter and they are more notoriously predator Spring to early fall. WInter I love to drop shot anything feeded with fingerling size cut bait and fluttered. I have told people the reasoning behind why these species usually hit on the drop is a result of their vertical ability to ambush prey. Even with a spoon, they will set on the drop and do a roll dance into the net.

  2. mike arntson says

    I use a 4’8″ ugly stick with 10ish pound braid. if i use a leader its 6 pound mono. thats light-gear laker fishing



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